AAUW National Convention Opening CeremonyJune 28, 2009
AAUW’s 2009 National Convention opening session started out on a high note with a video welcome message from White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett. Jarrett extended a special greeting from President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama and applauded AAUW’s commitment to gender equity, work-life balance, and education.
After a brief introduction from AAUW Public Policy Director Lisa Maatz, keynote speaker Lilly Ledbetter took the stage and received a standing ovation. Ledbetter exclaimed, “Wow, posters with my name on it!”
Ledbetter said she was a simple Alabama girl, whose plan for life consisted of working hard, raising a family, and playing by the rules. “I held up my end of the bargain, but my employer, Goodyear, did not play by the rules,” she said. Ledbetter began her career in 1979 at Goodyear. After 19 years, she was given anonymous information that she was paid less than her male co-workers for virtually her entire career. She filed suit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and her case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In January 2009, Lilly Ledbetter was vindicated when she stood in the East Room of the White House as President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. However, our work is not over; AAUW is still leading the charge on the Paycheck Fairness Act, which has passed in the House but not in the Senate.
Ledbetter said, “I tell my story to try to make it better for women and girls. I recently spoke to 130 fourth graders. During my presentation, a little girl raised her hand and asked me ‘How did you feel when you found out the men were paid more?’ Now, if fourth graders get it, what is going on with the Senate? The true test of a person is not what happens to them, but how we address the issue. Each of us each day breaks through barriers.”
The session ended with a call to action from Maatz. She urged all members to engage in an act of “polite civil disobedience.” Attendees were charged to flood their senators’ e-mail and voice mail until all senators sign on to this landmark bill. AAUW gave every attendee the e-mail and phone numbers of the senators who have not yet signed on to the Paycheck Fairness Act.
This is not a threat; it is a promise. Senators, beware!