"The arts of politics are bred in her bones: the ability to get people to like you, to build coalitions, to reach agreements," says Jack Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif. "It's what she grew up with, with her father and her brother. And those are the things that don't come easily to a lot of people."
In the D'Alesandro household, Democratic Party politics and family were inseparable. Pelosi and her five older brothers took turns manning the table near the front door, where constituents came for help or something to eat. "It was an unusual situation, as I look back on it, but it was the life we led," she says. "People would come and they would ask how they could get a bed in the city hospital, a place to live in housing projects, food, a job, and our family was always there to help."
Her mother, Annunciata or Nancy, kept records of all the favors asked and granted on slips of paper to use as a contact list for others needing help. These habits were reinforced by Roman Catholic social teaching, a steady influence in Pelosi's life since childhood. Her mother wanted her to become a nun. "[T]hat was not going to happen," she wrote in her 2008 autobiography, "Know Your Power: A Message to America's Daughters." Pelosi typically still attends mass at least once a week and maintains strong ties with Catholic communities. She describes church teachings as central to her life and the inspiration for "our responsibility to each other," but she also sees a role for public policy to make such promises practical.