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Obama on the Record: White House Council on Women and Girls

the legislation they support. It’s not enough to only have individual women’s offices at individual agencies, or only have one office in the White House. Rather, as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once said, in our government, “¼responsibility for the advancement of women is not the job of any one agency, it’s the job of all of them.” (Applause.) And she should know — she helped lead an interagency women’s initiative during the Clinton administration.

At the same time, given the critical importance of its work, this Council must have strong leadership from the White House, and direct accountability to me. And that’s why I’m appointing Valerie Jarrett, one of my closest advisors and most senior members of my administration, to lead it. Tina Tchen, another senior member of my White House staff, will serve as the Council’s Executive Director.

In the end, while many of the challenges women and girls face are new, the work of this Council is not — it’s been with us for generations. Frances Perkins, who was President Franklin Roosevelt’s Secretary of Labor, and the first woman to serve in the Cabinet — a great hero of the New Deal — described it well when she said, “¼I had a kind of duty to other women to walk in and sit down on the chair that was offered, and so establish the rights of others long hence and far distant in geography to sit in the high seats.” To sit in the high seats.

That is why I’m standing here today, because of what my mother and grandmother did for me, because of their hard work and sacrifice and unflagging love. That’s what Michelle is doing right now, thinking every day about making sure that Malia and Sasha have the same opportunities as anybody’s sons do. That’s why so many of us are here today, because of the women who came before us, who were determined to see us sit in the high seats: women who reached for the ballot, and raised families, and traveled long, lonely roads to be the first in the boardroom or in the courtroom or on the battlefield and in the factory floor; women who cracked and shattered those glass ceilings, so that my daughters — and all of our sons and daughters — could dream a little bigger and reach a little higher.

So now it’s up to us to carry that work forward, to ensure that our daughters and granddaughters have no limits on their dreams, no obstacles to their achievements — and that they have opportunities their mothers and grandmothers and great grandmothers never dreamed of. That’s the purpose of this Council. Those are the priorities of my presidency. And I look forward to working with all of you to fulfill them in the months and years to come.

All right, so I’m going to go sign this thing. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

(The executive order is signed.) (Applause.)

END 1:39 P.M. EDT

Attendees

United States Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA)

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)

United States Representative Tammy Baldwin


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