Wednesday, November 9, 2011

President Obama At National Women's Law Center Dinner: GOP Harmful For Women

President says Republicans want to turn back the clock on women's rights...
President Obama
on Wednesday night hailed his Administration's achievements for women's rights as he made the keynote address at the National Women’s Law Center’s Annual Awards dinner, held at the Washington Hilton. The speech was broadcast as a livestream at, and the President used his time at the podium to both blast the GOP for blocking his jobs bill, and warn that Republicans are intent on "turning back the clock" for women's rights. (Above, during his remarks)

The predominately female audience filled the hotel's main ballroom, the largest in the Capitol, as the President told his own story of being raised by a single mother as well as a grandmother who was passed over for promotions at work due to her gender. He praised First Lady Michelle Obama as a strong role model, and said he is looking forward to a brighter future for daughters Malia, 13, and Sasha, ten, who are now "these strong, smart, remarkable young women."

But that bright future is in danger because Republicans, he said, are more focused on dividing America than in strengthening the national economy, and they are working to overturn the advances in women's rights achieved by his Administration.

"They're more focused on turning back the clock," President Obama said.

Republicans want to repeal his Administration's health care law, which would prevent millions of women from getting medical screenings including pap smears and breast exams, the President said, and they also want to allow health insurance companies to once again charge higher premiums for women. He pointed to the defeat of a recent piece of legislation that would have protected teachers against layoffs, noting that three-quarters of the teachers are women.

Women make up half the work force but still make just 77 cents on the dollar, and "in recent years" have suffered more than men from the ongoing economic downturn, the President said.

"Lifting up women lifts up our economy and our country. Unfortunately, not everybody in Washington seems to feel the same way."

In the weeks ahead, the GOP will be tested again. "We're not done yet," Mr. Obama said, as he pointed out that Congress will face another vote that would benefit women.

"They’re going to get a chance to vote on whether we give a tax cut to virtually every small business owner in America --including 900,000 women," he said.

The President ticked off the many achievements of his Administration, pointing to three women Supreme Court Justices, tax credits, poverty initiatives, the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and his health care bill, which mandates women's medical screenings such as pap smears and breast exams as a regular part of insurance coverage.

The evening's honorees were women Freedom Riders who had worked for civil rights in the summer of 1961, riding buses across the Southern states in response to a Supreme Court decision on segregated interstate transportation. Mr. Obama lauded their work, but pointed out that he was hardly aware of the Freedom Riders; he was born in August of that year.

"When I had a chance to see them backstage, I gave them all a kiss and a hug," he said, to laughter. "And I told them that even though I was in diapers at the time, I knew something important was going on."

"The Freedom Riders had faith that America could still be perfected. And it is only because they did that I am able to stand here as President of the United States.''

The President last addressed the organization in 2005, when still a Senator from Illinois.

"I was brand new to Washington," he said. "I think it’s fair to say that a few things have changed since then."

He encouraged the group to work for his re-election in 2012, and left the stage to a standing ovation. The transcript of the President's remarks is here.

The President was introduced by the organization's co-presidents and founders, Nancy Duff Campbell and Marcia D. Greenberger, longtime activists for women's issues. (Above: The President greets Campbell, at left, and Greenberger)

He arrived at the event at 8:14 PM and departed at 8:59 PM, without dining, as is usual for his dinner speeches. The event was the President's fifth speech at a gala dinner since September.

*Photos by AP/Pool

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