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Op-ed by President Obama: President Obama Reflects on the Impact of Title IX

Monday, June 25, 2012  
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Office of the Press Secretary



June 23, 2012

Op-ed by President Obama: President Obama Reflects on the Impact of Title IX

The full text of the op-ed by President Barack Obama is printed below. The piece was published today in Newsweek.

President Obama Reflects on the Impact of Title IX

By President Obama

Coaching my daughter Sasha's basketball team is one of those times when I just get to be "Dad.” I snag rebounds, run drills, and have a little fun. More importantly, I get to watch Sasha and her teammates improve together, start thinking like a team, and develop self-confidence.

Any parent knows there are few things more fulfilling than watching your child discover a passion for something. And as a parent, you'll do anything to make sure he or she grows up believing she can take that ambition as far as she wants; that your child will embrace that quintessentially American idea that she can go as far as her talents will take her.

But it wasn't so long ago that something like pursuing varsity sports was an unlikely dream for young women in America. Their teams often made do with second-rate facilities, hand-me-down uniforms, and next to no funding.

What changed? Well, 40 years ago, committed women from around the country, driven by everyone who said they couldn't do something, worked with Congress to ban gender discrimination in our public schools. Title IX was the result of their efforts, and this week, we celebrated its 40th anniversary—40 years of ensuring equal education, in and out of the classroom, regardless of gender.

I was reminded of this milestone last month, when I awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Pat Summitt. When she started out as a basketball coach, Pat drove the team van to away games. She washed the uniforms in her own washing machine. One night she and her team even camped out in an opponent's gym because they had no funding for a hotel. But she and her players kept their chins up and their heads in the game. And in 38 years at the University of Tennessee, Pat won eight national championships and tallied more than 1,000 wins—the most by any college coach, man or woman. More important, every single woman who ever played for Pat has either graduated or is on her way to a degree.

Today, thanks in no small part to the confidence and determination they developed through competitive sports and the work ethic they learned with their teammates, girls who play sports are more likely to excel in school. In fact, more women as a whole now graduate from college than men. This is a great accomplishment—not just for one sport or one college or even just for women but for America. And this is what Title IX is all about.

Let's not forget, Title IX isn't just about sports. From addressing inequality in math and science education to preventing sexual assault on campus to fairly funding athletic programs, Title IX ensures equality for our young people in every aspect of their education. It's a springboard for success: it's thanks in part to legislation like Title IX that more women graduate from college prepared to work in a much broader range of fields, including engineering and technology. I've said that women will shape the destiny of this country, and I mean it. The more confident, empowered women who enter our boardrooms and courtrooms, legislatures, and hospitals, the stronger we become as a country.

And that is what we are seeing today. Women are not just taking a seat at the table or sitting at the head of it, they are creating success on their own terms. The women who grew up with Title IX now pioneer scientific breakthroughs, run thriving businesses, govern states, and, yes, coach varsity teams. Because they do, today's young women grow up hearing fewer voices that tell them "You can't,” and more voices that tell them "You can.”

We have come so far. But there's so much farther we can go. There are always more barriers we can break and more progress we can make. As president, I'll do my part to keep Title IX strong and vibrant, and maintain our schools as doorways of opportunity so every child has a fair shot at success. And as a dad, I'll do whatever it takes to make sure that this country remains the place where, no matter who you are or what you look like, you can make it if you try.

The Battle for Title IX and The Opportunities It Created

By Gene Sperling, Director of the National Economic Council

When my six-year-old daughter Nina is a bit older I will tell her in greater detail about the battle for Title IX and the opportunities it created for tens of millions of young women and girls like her. But I also look forward to her feeling a special pride when she comes to appreciate the legal battle her grandfather – my now 80 year old dad and attorney Larry Sperling – fought and won 40 years ago to ensure young women their full rights to compete in sports.

In early 1972, a woman in Ann Arbor named Judy Morris was distressed that neither of her very talented tennis-playing daughters would ever be able to play high school tennis. While there was no girls' tennis team at their high school at that time, her daughter Cynthia and her doubles partner Emily Barrett were clearly good enough to make the Varsity Boys Tennis Team at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor Michigan. The problem was that in 1972 the Michigan High School Athletic Association forbid any girls from playing on a boys' varsity sports team. Judy Morris told my father it was probably too late to help her older daughter, but perhaps if they started right then, maybe in a few years her younger daughter would have the opportunity to compete. But my dad had no intention of waiting a few years. He flew into action, first gaining the support of the Ann Arbor Board of Education to support the young women playing on the boys' tennis team. But when Cynthia and Emily earned starting positions on the team, they saw entire opposing teams time and time again choose to forfeit rather than play against two young women. And when the Michigan High School Athletic Association ruled that they were forbidden to play, my father took them to Federal District Court, where Judge Damon Keith accepted my father's legal argument and ruled in Morris vs. Michigan State Board of Education (April 27, 1972) that denying a young woman the right to play high school sports on account of their sex violated their right to Equal Protection under the 14th Amendment. Less than nine months later, the United States Court of Appeals, 6th Circuit, upheld their victory – though they limited the ruling to the right to play non-contact sports.

This federal court victory was a couple of months before Title IX was to pass and some believe it was the first time a federal court had ever ruled that it violated the 14th Amendment to deny a young woman the right to play a sport solely based on her gender. Cynthia and Emily ended up starting on the Boys Varsity Tennis team and missed by a single match qualifying for the High School Boys State Championships. (Even with the passage of Title IX later that year these types of battles continued. A decade later Tina Tchen – now the First Lady's Chief of Staff -- was to win a similar battle in Illinois to allow a girl the right to play on a boys' soccer team.)

Since Morris v. Michigan High School Athletic Association was brought and won 40 years ago, Judy Morris has passed away but she saw both her daughters play high school tennis thanks to her advocacy on their behalf and she saw Cynthia go on (as Cynthia Starr) to be an accomplished sports writer for USA Today and the Cincinnati Enquirer. My dad has watched his grand-daughters Rachel, Natalie and Ana-Maria all excel in either high school basketball or softball. And perhaps most fitting, last year at the age of 79 he played in the first ever National Grandfather-Granddaughter Tennis Championship with his grand-daughter Jackie – who started on University of Minnesota Women's tennis team and who thanks to Title IX and people like her grandfather never grew up thinking for one second that anyone would deny her the right to compete on any court she wanted to compete on.

40th Anniversary of Title IX

By Valerie Jarrett

Yesterday, June 20th, the White House Council on Women and Girls hosted a great event celebrating the 40th anniversary of Title IX with dozens of advocates and leaders who are continuing the fight for gender equity in our schools. We were also lucky to have some impressive young women from the Girl Scouts and Girls Inc. in audience, who also participated in mentoring sessions with some of the amazing women leaders in attendance after the formal program.

It was so much fun to spend the afternoon having a conversation about the many achievements that women and girls have made over the last forty years. We heard from Billie Jean King and others on the impact of Title IX in athletics. And Benita Fitzgerald-Mosley, an Olympic track and field gold medalist, engineer and current Chief of Sport Performance for USA Track and Field, led a panel about advancing our commitment to Title IX in education, which included astronaut Mae Jemison, among others. We were also honored to have Senator Birch Bayh, "The Father” of Title IX there with us to deliver remarks about the inception of this landmark legislation, as well as our Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan to talk about the administration's commitment to strengthening and expanding the reach of Title IX.

All the insightful voices today proved one thing: Title IX matters. And it is just as important today as when it was first passed forty years ago. Title IX bans sex discrimination against girls – and boys – in all programs at schools around the country. From addressing inequality in math and science education, to ensuring dormitories are safe, to preventing sexual assault on campus, to fairly funding athletic programs, Title IX ensures equality for our young people in every aspect of their education.

And it's thanks in part to these protections that young women are entering college in higher numbers than ever; that STEM has increasing gender diversity; and that more Americans follow women's sports at the college and national levels.

Yesterday's event gave us a chance to celebrate these and other great milestones. And in honor of the anniversary, we put together the video you see at the top of this post to capture the voices of the heroes behind Title IX, as well as some of the superstar women who grew up knowing no limits under its protection. To celebrate this important milestone and the impact it's had on countless lives, we asked some female leaders across the Obama Administration to share a favorite picture that expresses how getting a chance to compete has helped them reach their own dreams which you can view here.

Yesterday was also an opportunity to reassert our commitment to uphold the principles and standards of Title IX. That's why the Administration announced a new set of policies to step up the enforcement of full gender equity under Title IX. Because President Obama is determined to make the next forty years a time when girls dream bigger and reach higher. And we will keep up our fight for progress for women and girls and make sure that our schools continue to provide a fair shot at success for everyone.

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