Posted: March 9, 2010
No matter how you observed International Women's Day this year, Mount Holyoke President Joanne Creighton's day was likely a bit more memorable. On March 8 she had the honor of joining other women leaders to celebrate the day and Women's History Month with President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House.
Although there were many invitees in attendance at the event, President Creighton and former acting Mount Holyoke president Beverly Daniel Tatum, now president of Spelman College, were seated together in the third row of the audience and had the opportunity to shake hands with the President.
First Lady Michelle Obama and President Obama both spoke, as did Madeleine Albright, the former Secretary of State. Attendees spanned the spectrum of ages, and included Girl Scouts and high school students.
Michelle Obama opened the event, noting, "We're here today not just to pay tribute to leaders and icons and household names. During Women’s History Month we’re also here to honor the quiet heroes who’ve shaped this country from the very beginning. We honor the women who traveled those lonely roads to be the first ones in those courtrooms, to be the first ones in those boardrooms, to be the first ones on those playing fields, and to be the first ones on those battlefields."
In his remarks, President Obama reviewed the progress of women through United States history, saying, " The story of America’s women, like the story of America itself, has had its peaks and valleys. But as one of our great American educators once said, if you drew a line through all the valleys and all the peaks, that line would be drawn with an upward curve. That upward curve–-what we call progress–-didn’t happen by accident."
"There was a great esprit at the gathering," Creighton recounted. "It was wonderful to see notable women from many different sectors, along with school girls of various ages, coming together to celebrate women's history and achievement. I was encouraged by the President's strongly voiced commitment to continuing to press for women's equality and opportunity."
During a reception afterwards, Creighton was able to briefly renew her acquaintance with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who gave the commencement address at Mount Holyoke in 1997. Among the many women leaders at the event were at least two other presidents of Seven Sisters colleges: Kim Bottomly of Wellesley and Jane McAullife of Bryn Mawr.
The President also issued a proclamation at the event, hailing Women's History Month, which reaffirmed a national commitment to advancing women both here and internationally. A copy of the proclamation was given to all attendees. In part it read:
"Our Nation's commitment to women's rights must not end at our own borders, and my Administration is making global women's empowerment a core pillar of our foreign policy. My Administration created the first Office for Global Women's Issues and appointed an Ambassador at Large to head it. We are working with the United Nations and other international institutions to support women's equality and to curtail violence against women and girls, especially in situations of war and conflict. We are partnering internationally to improve women's welfare through targeted investments in agriculture, nutrition, and health, as well as programs that empower women to contribute to economic and social progress in their communities. And we are following through on the commitments I made in Cairo to promote access to education, improve literacy, and expand employment opportunities for women and girls."