Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

Michelle Obama's first official First Lady function, with Lily Ledbetter. Pool report.


Pool report prepared by Rachel Swarns / New York Times / 202-862-0364.

The reception hosted by Mrs. Obama for Ms. Ledbetter was held in the
State Dining Room. Most of the folks from the signing ceremony walked
across the hall to mix and mingle. Your faithful pooler observed several
members of Congress included Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, House
Speaker Pelosi, Axelrod, Donna Brazile, among others. President Obama
also mingled with the crowd. He left, though, at around 10:54am, before
his wife made her remarks. (He was not present for her remarks.) Mrs.
Obama's staff said that the representatives of about 150 advocacy
organizations were also there.

The guests sipped orange juice and cranberry juice and enjoyed a mix of
pastries, including apricot coffee cake, cherry orange scones, apple
muffins and a fruit mix that included mango, apple, clementines and
pineapple, according to the wait staff. Some folks sat at small round
tables adorned with yellow orchids, but mostly they stood and mixed and

Mrs. Obama, who was wearing a purple suit, white pearls and purple
pumps, talked and shook hands with folks in the crowd. At 11:03am, she
took her place behind a podium below a portrait of a Abraham Lincoln.
Lilly Ledbetter stood next to her. Here are Mrs. Obama's remarks, which
will not be distributed by the White House.

"Thank you for joining us today for this important event and welcome to
the White House,'' Mrs. Obama said. "Feel free, walk around, touch some
stuff, just don't break anything.''

Mrs. Obama said she met Ms. Ledbetter during the presidential campaign
and praised 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,'' Mrs.
Obama said.

"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,'' Mrs. Obama said. "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,''
Mrs. Obama continued. "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 security at

Mrs. Obama then introduced Ms. Ledbetter, who she described as "an
inspiration to women and men all across the country.'' The crowd clapped
and cheered.

Ms. Ledbetter praised the Obamas and said " I just believe in them and
their work so very much.''

"Words cannot begin to describe how honored and humbled I feel today,''
Ms. Ledbetter said. "When I filed my claim against Goodyear with the
EEOC ten 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 decision in my
case, fighting for equal pay for this,'' Ms. Ledbetter said. "But to
watch him sign a bill that bears my name, a 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. I will never see a cent from my case. But with the passage and the
president's signature today, I have an even richer reward." Crowd claps.

"I know my daughters and granddaughters and your daughters and your
granddaughters will have a better deal,'' Ms. Ledbetter said. "That's
what makes this fight worth fighting, that's what makes this fight one
we had to win. 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."

Ms. Ledbetter thanked members of Congress, advocacy groups, the
president and women who rallied behind the legislation.

"With this bill in place, we now can move forward to where we all hope
to be, improving the law, not just restoring it,'' Ms. Ledbetter said.
"You can count on my continued commitment to fight for the Paycheck
Fairness Act and to make sure that women have equal pay for equal work
because that's what this country is all about."

Mrs. Obama and Ms. Ledbetter hug. The crowd cheers. Mingling
re-commences and your pool is escorted out at 11:09am.


This is an extremely uplifting bill for all of us women who were discriminated against over the years. I was subjected to this type of discrimination as a young chemist who supervised other professionals--- men. You can imagine my outrage when I discovered they were being paid at a much higher salary than I was.

When I complained to my supervisor he told he me thought I would not stay for very long, since I was married and would surely be starting a family soon. Additionally, he said that the average stay of staff was about 18 months. That was the average for his 'boys', I had worked there for three years and two months before I left.

I departed soon after discovering the pay discrepancy, even though I was given an immediate raise to bring me in line with other such supervisors. It was not made retroactive. Yes, it will effect my social security as well, which starts in February of this year.

My only joy is that the company went out of business.

First Lady,
You are up and running at an early start and I admire you for your hard and dedicated work. You are setting a good example for other First Ladies who will be following in your foot steps.

I am planning on letting Goodyear know how I feel about their handling of Ms. Ledbetter's lawsuit. Apparently they could not care less about the systematic discrimination on the part of their company nor do they care about the people who have been working for them for a long time. I hope there are tire companies who treat their employees better because I will no longer be buying anything from Goodyear unless they not only reinstate Ms. Ledbetter's original award, but also publicly denounce and change their original position on the matter. Hopefully they will issue a statement saying that they realize how wrong they were on several accounts and that they will never discriminate again.

Well done, Lily Ledbetter, 1st Lady Michelle Obama and Mr. President Barack Obama. Truly, well done. An example of consistency and true adherence to the righteous principles of justice for all, free of artificial gender barriers.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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