At the White House for International Women’s DayMarch 09, 2010
I had the honor of representing AAUW at the International Women’s Day reception at the White House yesterday, along with my colleague Kate Farrar. A beautiful, sunny day, we walked to the southeastern gate and chatted with amazing women as about 250 of us waited in line.
The Marine Band met us as we entered the reception room, and I watched with awe at the women who entered after us: leaders and representatives of a force to be reckoned with, strong, determined women who are bent on changing the world for the betterment of not just our sex, but of all children, families, and humanity as a whole. I caught sight of Madeleine Albright, Dorothy Height, and Eleanor Holmes Norton — just at first glance.
Michelle Obama opened the event with warmth and a sense of humor. She had invited students from various high schools and Girl Scouts in uniform, and she had them stand up and be recognized as our future. President Obama then spoke, focusing on the work that still needs to be done on behalf of women and girls (read their remarks here). I especially cheered when he talked about Lilly Ledbetter and the fact that the Paycheck Fairness Act still needs action.
Fortunately, the media were there in mass, and here is a great short video of the Obamas’ speeches and of Madeleine Albright and the entertainers, worth the watch to catch the essence of this event. The reception was emceed by actress Kerry Washington and featured performances by Afghan singer Mozhdah Jamalzadah and American Idol runner-up Katharine McPhee (the students cheered). Kate and I are both in the video — watch out for the back of our heads. I am holding my BlackBerry and my camera, as I tweeted throughout the event (@christytj).
After the speeches, we were ushered out into the East Wing, where we were allowed to wander around! I found myself in the Red Room, in the Blue Room, in front of those famous paintings you see whenever the White House tours are shown on TV or in magazines. I stood in front of John F. Kennedy’s portrait and that of his wife, Jacqueline. Then there was Eleanor Roosevelt; her portrait gives a good sense of the dynamic woman she was. There were hors d’oeuvres and refreshments to be had, and yes, I tucked a few cocktail napkins in my purse to bring back — they have the presidential seal on them after all.
After meeting and talking with this wonderful group of women and students, Kate and I left the White House. We took a left instead of a right turn, and before I knew it, we were walking on a path through the gardens. We found a side exit gate, and the security guards were kind enough to let us out. If we had tried to enter by this method, I don’t think we would have had such luck. We walked back to the office, and I had to get myself settled down (heart still pumping from all of the excitement) in order to sound calm, cool, and informed as I then held the membership training session for AAUW’s Leadership Corps. They told me later I sounded just fine.