Paul Ryan greets the new Congress: ‘This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’

House Speaker Paul Ryan delivered an optimistic and enthusiastic speech Tuesday to representatives — suggesting that they are uniquely positioned to help the American people.

With newly elected men and women in attendance, Ryan, 46, said it’s easy to question the durability of the republic when caught in tempestuous, hard-fought elections, like those the U.S. witnessed mere months ago.

“Will the system still hold? Does our old, rich tradition still have that magic? Well, it turns out it does,” Ryan said. “The clash of opinions, the hue and cry of campaigns, the rancor and the dissension, in the end, they all dissolve in the silent and peaceful transfer of power.”

His speech did not address the flap over his fellow House Republicans seeking to eviscerate an independent ethics panel. That surprise Monday vote led to a storm of criticism from both Democrats and Republicans, including a swipe over the vote’s “timing” from President-elect Donald Trump. GOP lawmakers reversed course Tuesday and scuttled the measure.

But despite their differences, Trump’s election is set to pave the way for much of Ryan’s agenda: Both houses of Congress and the White House will be controlled by Republicans after Jan. 20, ending a decade in which Democrats could at least partly thwart GOP plans.

According to Ryan, Trump’s inauguration will give Americans a new chance to work toward “a more perfect union.” Now, he continued, is not a time for the House of Representatives to rest on its laurels but to redouble its efforts to serve the American people, particularly those who recently “gave out a great roar” after suffering quietly for a long time.

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) raises the gavel during the opening session of the new Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 3, 2017. (Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
House Speaker Paul Ryan raises the gavel during the opening session of the new Congress on Tuesday. (Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
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“Now we, their elected representatives, must listen,” he said. “I just want to say to the American people: We hear you, we will do right by you and we will deliver.”

Ryan, who was formally reelected to his leadership post earlier Tuesday, told the Democrats that he does not expect anyone to shy away from disagreements.

“Agreement whenever possible, but at all times respect,” Ryan said, before turning his attention to the Republicans, especially returning members of Congress.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This is the kind of thing that most of us only dreamed about. I know because I used to dream about this a lot,” he said, chuckling.

“The people have given us unified government, and it’s not because they were feeling generous. It was because they want results. How could we live with ourselves if we let them down?”

Ryan closed out his speech with a quote from “Cato, a Tragedy,” an 18th century play written by Joseph Addison. It was reportedly a favorite of former President George Washington, whose portrait adorns the chamber.

“‘Tis not in mortals to command success; but we’ll do more, we will deserve it,” Ryan said.