THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the First Lady
For Immediate Release March 8, 2011
REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY
AT INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY RECEPTION
5:32 P.M. EST
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, well. I’m done. I don’t have to do anything else. (Laughter.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you!
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, my goodness. I love you all. This is an exciting, exciting day — exciting. We had a fabulous morning at the State Department. And I hope you all are having just a lot of fun here this evening.
We are just honored and delighted to have you here to celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month here at the White House. Yes. (Applause.)
I have to start by thanking Aissatou for that beautiful, beautiful introduction and for all her hard work. C’est trs bien. Merci. (Laughter.) We have to give her another round of applause. (Applause.)
And also Shannon for her inspiring way of being, and for introducing our choir and for her extraordinary achievements. So let’s give her a round of applause as well. (Applause.)
And I got to hear a little bit of that fabulous choir, the Washington Performing Arts Society. (Applause.) We have to thank them for that inspirational performance as well.
And I know that we have so many wonderful people here. We have some members of Congress who are here — I see some faces scattered around. And I want to thank all of you for all the work that you do, the leadership that you provide, the time that you have taken out in your lives to fight for the issues that mean so much, not just for women and girls here in this country but around the world. We are proud of you. I am proud of you. Thank you so much.
And finally, I want to recognize all of the extraordinary women who are gathered here tonight, because there are so many sprinkled about, including our wonderful Women of Courage Award recipients, all of whom I got to spend time with earlier today. (Applause.) These are women who work tirelessly, all of you, every day, to make not just countries more fair, more equal and more free, but often many of these women risk themselves and their families to get this work done.
We have young women here like Shannon and Aissatou who are serving as peacemakers and ambassadors and community leaders here in America and around the world. And I see so many activists and advocates, pioneers who have devoted their careers to improving the lives of women. We are celebrating you all today.
And tonight, I just want to say to all of you that your journeys, that your achievements and your very presence in this room are a perfect illustration of the progress that we’ve made since this day was first celebrated 100 years ago. We’ve come a long way, ladies! (Applause.)
And we are celebrating those accomplishments here in America. Women are now the majority of graduates of colleges and universities. We make up nearly half of America’s workforce. We got to get paid more for it. (Applause.) But we do. Women are thriving in every sector of our society. We are leading businesses. We’re serving at the highest levels of government and the armed forces. We’re breaking barriers and succeeding in careers that our mothers and grandmothers never could have imagined.
And as more opportunities have become open to women, that hasn’t just enriched our own lives. As we all know, it’s enriched the life of this nation. And that’s one of the reasons why we have to do this, because we need to remind ourselves and our country that we’re here because of us. Because we as a nation benefit from every girl whose potential is fulfilled; from every woman whose talent is tapped. We benefit as a nation. We as a nation benefit from their intelligence, from their hard work, from their creativity, from their leadership.
And that’s not just true here in America. Time and again, we have seen that countries across the globe are more prosperous, they’re more peaceful when women are more equal and have the rights and opportunities they deserve. (Applause.)
And that is why women and girls are a core focus of America’s engagement with the world, including our diplomatic and development work, and our work to prevent and respond to conflict. And that’s why here at home we continue our work to close the pay gap once and for all, to get that done. That’s why we continue our work here at home to bring women into fields like math and science. Keep studying your math. (Laughter.) We’re still under-represented. So we still have work to do.
We continue our work to promote entrepreneurship and workplace flexibility so that women can contribute as fully as possible to our economy. And while we’ve made some important strides, all of you in this room know better than anyone else that this work is far from finished. We have so, so much more to do. You all know better than just about anyone that change is hard, and change is slow. Many of you might not win the battles you’re fighting or see the progress you’re fighting for in your lifetimes. You know that. But I’m thinking tonight of a quote from the author Alice Walker, who once wrote, “So our mothers and grandmothers have more often than not anonymously handed on the creative spark, the seed of the flower they themselves never hoped to see.”
And that is why all of you keep on fighting. That’s why all of you keep on leading and working toward a better day for all of us. You do it so that our daughters and granddaughters and, just as importantly, our sons and grandsons can have the opportunities that many of us only dreamed of. You do it because you know that your work could be the spark or that seed for the dreams and aspirations of girls like Aissatou and Shannon generations from now. This is why we do this work. We do it for you. We do it for you.
So I want to close tonight by simply saying thank you. This is a small — very small way for me, for my husband, for this administration to let you know just how proud we are of all that you do for women and girls. Our work is so far from done. But 100 years ago, we would have never imagined that we’d be standing here in the East Room of the White House — (laughter) — celebrating this day with this administration. So we have reason to celebrate. (Applause.)
So thank you all for your commitment. Thank you for your passion. I am so honored to have you here tonight. Enjoy. Eat. Drink. Dance. I am only standing on your shoulders. So please enjoy, and God bless. We have more work to do. Thanks so much. (Applause.)
END 5:40 P.M. EST