Remarks at an Equal Pay Day Event Celebrating Women's History Month
The President. Well, hello, everyone. Welcome to the White House. This is the biggest crowd we've had since we got here. I'm Joe Biden. I'm Jill Biden's husband. And proud of it. Welcome to Women's History Month celebration. We're honored to have what may well be the most inspiring event we've had at the White House so far.
I've often said that America's strength is not just the example of our power, but the power of our example. And I mean that. Look at—I was going to say: Look at this stage, but that's enough too. Look at this stage. [Laughter] But there's been a little change in the arrangement of who's on the stage because of the First Lady's husband contracting COVID. But look at this room and what you see.
The First Lady. [Inaudible]
The President. Pardon?
The First Lady. You said the First—anyways. [Laughter]
The President. That's right. She's fine. [Laughter] It's me that's not together.
The Second Lady—the First Gentleman. [Laughter] How about that. Anyway, an incredible group of Members of Congress, led by Nancy Pelosi, the first woman Speaker, who I believe will be considered one of the greatest Speakers in our history. And I mean that. And she knows I mean it. I've been saying it for years. And members of the most diverse Cabinet in the history of this country. And the first to have an equal number of women and men in the Cabinet.
I'm enormously proud of this team. One person I'm particularly proud of is—was going to be introducing me—is Kamala Harris. But Kamala—as I said, Kamala chose not to take a chance since her husband had contracted COVID, although he's feeling very well, I'm told. By the way, when he tested—he's fine, but out of an abundance of caution, she decided she wasn't going to join us today. But let's send her our love because she's something else.
And I know how proud she is of our team: Avril Haines, the first woman to lead our intelligence community as Director of National Intelligence. Stand up, Avril. Come on. Stand up. She does everything in secret. That's why she doesn't want to stand up.
Former Governor Jennifer Granholm, the Energy Department. I often kid her—and I wasn't kidding early on when I seeking the nomination. Had she been born in America, she'd be standing here, and I'd be sitting there. [Laughter] She's the former Governor of the State of Michigan. Michigan. Wrong. She was a former State—she was a Governor. [Laughter] No, I'm teasing. But we often kidded about it.
And Isabel Guzman, the Small Business Administration. Where are you? Katherine Tai, U.S. Trade Representative. And she knows how to cut a deal. And Cece Rouse, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers.
A number of members are not here today because they're out traveling on behalf of the administration: Janet Yellen, the first female Secretary of the Treasury. Deb Haaland, the first Native American person in the Cabinet as Interior Secretary. Gina Raimondo, former Governor, leading the Commerce Department. Marcia Fudge, Housing and Urban Development.
If I stole any more Members of Congress, I would've been in real trouble with Nancy. [Laughter]
And Shalanda Young, newly confirmed, just minutes ago. Where is she? Shalanda, stand up. Where is Shalanda? Where—where are you? She—where is she? I guess she's not—okay. Lead the Office of Management and Budget. And Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenhouse—Greenfield, excuse me—who is at the United Nations and does an incredible job for us.
And it's not just the Cabinet. We have women in senior roles in every level here at the White House, across the administration, many of whom are here today.
And something I'm very proud of: I kept my commitment to be—nominate the first Black woman to the Supreme Court. And she's really good. And that's not all. We have confirmed more Black women to the Circuit Court of Appeals than every previous administration combined. As a matter of fact, 75 percent of my judicial nominees are women. It matters. It matters. Above all, we see the power of each and every one of you in the example that they, in fact, give the whole country.
You know, I want to thank you all for being here—at home and all those who are helping me around—helping the administration around the world. It—that includes a special guest of the First Lady—and the First Lady of Iceland, Eliza Reid. Eliza, where are you? Stand up. [Laughter]
[At this point, Eliza Jean Reid, wife of President Gudni Thorlacius Johannesson of Iceland, approached the dais and turned to face the audience. She then shook the President's hand, came up onto the stage, and stood next to the President briefly.]
Give her a big hand. [Laughter] She is a real champion for gender equality. We had a nice long talk.
Women's History Month is an opportunity to honor the legacy, the vision, and the achievements of trailblazing women and girls who've built, shaped, and strengthened the character—the very character—of this Nation. And despite hardships and exclusion and discrimination, women run the right—won the right to vote, campaigned against injustice, shattered countless barriers, and expanded the possibilities for all Americans. I think you underestimate all you've done.
They came before us, and they're all here today from all across the country as well, especially everyone who has gotten through this pandemic—frontline workers and service members, researchers and teachers, caregivers, leaders in their communities. And today I'm honored to be with some of the world's greatest soccer players who happen to be women—the U.S. Women's National Team, both past and present. Please—if I can ask you, come up on the stage.
[U.S. Women's National Soccer Team defender Kelley O'Hara and forward Margaret "Midge" Purce, former midfielder Julie Foudy and former goalkeeper Briana Scurry, and former midfielder and U.S. Soccer Federation President Cindy Parlow joined the President on stage.]
I was going to have them stand, but if they stood, you couldn't seem them anyway because everyone else is standing. This is—they've won World Cups, the Olympics Gold Medal—Gold Medals, and you know, for—after much, much too long, equal pay. Equal pay.
Today is Equal Pay Day. And they just came from an event that discussed our administration's effort to close the pay gap. So thank you so much. And by the way, you're not only helping yourself, you're helping us get it done for other women.
Ms. Cone. Thank you. Yes. And that's—[inaudible].
The President. All right. Thank you.
And look, we're doing so by expanding access to good-paying jobs, lower costs for childcare and eldercare so women can get back to work and their families can have economic security. And earlier today, I signed an Executive order to promote efforts to achieve pay equality and pay equity for employees of Federal contractors. And it's my hope that this sets an example for all private companies to follow as well. That's the purpose of what I did.
Let me just close with this: Gender equality is not a woman's issue alone; it benefits everybody. And that's a fact. It benefits everyone: our society, our economy, and our country.
And I hope you're able to walk through the wonderful exhibit we have downstairs celebrating Women's History Month and the history of the journey of America.
Back in February, I was in Lorain, Ohio, outside of Cleveland, to talk about a new infrastructure law that was going to transform our Nation. It was the day before the birthday of Lorain's most famous—one of her most famous daughters, Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, Nobel Prize winner, Pulitzer Prize winner, and one of Jill's favorite authors, Toni Morrison. Toni is also—was also the mother-in-law of Dr. Rouse, one of our Nation's top economic thinkers.
Ms. Morrison left us words to live by. She said, "We've got more yesterdays than anybody. We need some kind of tomorrow." "We need some kind of tomorrow." Downstairs is a display honoring Toni Morrison and that singular belief in tomorrow—that singular belief that America—in America, anything is possible.
I was once asked by Xi Jinping in China how—could I define America. I said, "Yes. In one word." God's truth—one word: "Possibilities." We believe anything is possible in this country. And that singular power of example shows our daughters, our granddaughters there's not a single thing a man can do that a woman can't do as well or better.
And by the way, I can honestly say without fear of contradiction: From the time my daughter was born—our daughter was born—until the time our four granddaughters were born—I've told them every day they could listen that there's not a single thing they can't do. And I mean that from the bottom of my heart. And they are living proof of that truth.
I want to start talking about my granddaughters now, if I can. But—[laughter]. You know, especially the women I'm honored to introduce and who has more influence on them and has set an example that I think I'm just fortunate and they're fortunate to have witnessed and be part of.
And with that, let me introduce the First Lady of the United States. Before she comes up, I want you to know: Everybody knows I love her more than she loves me. [Laughter] I'm going to tell the story, Jill.
The First Lady. No. [Laughter]
The President. I'm going to tell the story.
When we first got to the Vice President's office, as those of you who are from Washington know, you walk down the steps of the Eisenhower Building, and you're looking right into the Vice President's office. And the windows, I think, are 16 feet high, and they have 12 big panes of glass, and four of them going across the office. I think it's four.
And so Jill's favorite day is—of the year is Valentine's Day. And so she had gotten, as a professor—a teacher—she's still teaching full time—a teacher, she got that erasable paint you can, you know, use. And she, on every window—every window—she got the maintenance guy to bring up a ladder. And on every window, she put a big heart, and she said, "Joe loves Jill." [Laughter] Swear to God. In every single window. [Laughter]
Well, my press person came to me—because she did it in the evening, and she—the night before Valentine's Day. And he said, "Look, they want you to go on CBS tomorrow morning and talk about Valentine's Day. We think you should do it." Now, her name—the interviewer is Juju Chang. And Juju—we're sitting there in the Vice President's large office with all the shades pulled, in the dark, and just the lights on—you know, the klieg lights.
And we're about knee to knee. And while we're getting ready, Juju Chang looks at me and says, "You know, everybody says you and your wife have a great love affair going." I said, "I think so." I said, "But everybody knows I love her more than she loves me." And she looked at me straight in the eye—give you my word—and said, "That's what they say." [Laughter]
Ladies and gentlemen, the love of my life and the life of my love: Jill.
NOTE: The President spoke at 6:01 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Douglas C. Emhoff, husband of Vice President Kamala D. Harris; Supreme Court Associate Justice-designate Ketanji Brown Jackson; Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit; Tiffany Cunningham, judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit; Eunice Lee, judge, U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit; and President Xi Jinping of China. He also referred to his granddaughters Natalie, Finnegan, Naomi, and Roberta "Maisy" Biden; and Executive Order 14069.
Joseph R. Biden, Remarks at an Equal Pay Day Event Celebrating Women's History Month Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/354923