Michelle Obama photo

Remarks by the First Lady and Mrs. Lilly Ledbetter at a Reception After Bill Signing

January 29, 2009

MRS. OBAMA: So thank you for joining us today for this important event, and welcome to the White House. (Applause.) As I told guests, feel free, walk around, touch some stuff. (Laughter.) Just don't break anything. (Laughter.) It's what I try to tell my kids. (Laughter.)

I had the opportunity to meet Lilly during the campaign and to hear her story. First of all, she is one of my favorite people in the whole wide world. Anyone who meets Lilly can't help but be impressed by her commitment, her dedication, her focus. She knew unfairness when she saw it, and was willing to do something about it because it was the right thing to do -- plain and simple.

In traveling across the country over the past two years, Lilly's story and the broader issue of equal pay was a concern voiced over and over and over again. It was a top and critical priority for women of all racial and ethnic backgrounds -- older women, younger women, women with disabilities, and their families. This legislation is an important step forward, particularly at a time when so many families are facing economic insecurity and instability. It's also one cornerstone of a broader commitment to address the needs of working women who are looking to us to not only ensure that they're treated fairly, but also to ensure that there are policies in place that help women and men balance their work and family obligations without putting their jobs or their economic stability at risk.

And it is my honor to introduce this extraordinary woman whose hard work has brought us here today for this very special occasion, and who has been an inspiration to women and men all across this country. Ladies and gentlemen, Lilly Ledbetter. (Applause.)

MRS. LEDBETTER: Thank you. And thank you, Mrs. Obama.

I fell in love with those people campaigning with them. I have to tell you that. And that's not on my prepared speech -- (laughter) -- but I have to tell you I love she and the President. And I just believe in them and their work so very much.

But thank you very much. Words cannot begin to describe how honored and humbled I feel today. When I filed my claim against Goodyear with the EEOC 10 years ago, never -- never -- did I imagine the path that it would lead me down. I have spent the past two years since the Supreme Court's decision in my case fighting for equal pay for this day. But to watch you sign a bill that bears my name, the bill that will help women and others fight pay discrimination in the workplace, is truly overwhelming.

Goodyear will never have to pay me what it cheated me out of. In fact, I will never see a cent from my case. But with the passage and President's signature today, I have an even richer reward. (Applause.) I know that my daughter and granddaughters, and your daughters and your granddaughters, will have a better deal. That's what makes this fight worth fighting. That's what made this fight one we had to win. And now with this win we will make a big difference in the real world.

On behalf of all the women in this country who will once again be able to fight pay discrimination, thank you. Thank you to all the senators and House members who fought for and supported this bill. Thank you to the many organizations and broad coalition that worked tirelessly for its passage. And thank you to the countless women around the country who rallied behind this legislation. It would never have happened without you.

With this bill in place, we now can move forward to where we all hope to be -- improving the law, not just restoring it. President Obama, I want him to know that we're very grateful for his support. And you can count on my continued commitment to fighting to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act -- (applause) -- and to make sure that women have equal pay for equal work, because that's what this country is all about.

And thank you very much. (Applause.)

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady and Mrs. Lilly Ledbetter at a Reception After Bill Signing Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/320266

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