It’s a great way to begin the 40th anniversary of Title IX, and to have so many athletes and coaches and administrators and representatives from around the world here today. And I especially am pleased that – Robyn is from South Africa and is exemplifying the changes in her own country, and Valerie Jarrett is here from the White House, and in a few weeks the First Lady, Mrs. Obama, will be going to South Africa, and I’m sure one of her main focuses will be on young women and girls and the opportunities that are available or should be available to all of you.
I am a huge supporter of Title IX, because I came of age before we had a Title IX and I played sports of all kinds, not very well – (laughter) – so I have no illusions about what Title IX would have meant to me – (laughter) – but I loved sports and I was raised in a very sports-oriented family and I was lucky enough to go to public schools in my town that had a lot of girl sports. And it was quite surprising to me, as I learned more about what was available elsewhere, that there weren’t those same opportunities. And I was delighted that, by the time my daughter came along, there were so many more ways that young women and girls could participate in sports in our country.
And as First Lady back in 1997, some of you were there, I see in the audience, when we celebrated the 25th anniversary of Title IX. And I can remember our first woman astronaut, Sally Ride, was there, and Jackie Joyner-Kersee, one of our great Olympians, was there. And we believe strongly that this program, which had to be legislated so that everybody knew it was a priority of our country, is serving as a model for people around the world.
And I’m very proud of our visitor exchanges, including our teenage athletes, who have been introduced from across the world. I know many countries are represented here, but I have to say I’m very proud of our U.S. Women’s Team, not just for last night but for all that they’re doing. And they’re getting ready for the Women’s World Cup in Germany next month, and I can remember that very, very hot July day in 1999 when Brandi Chastain stepped in to take that penalty kick. Now, I know some of you weren’t born then, but I – (laughter) – I hope you’ve seen it on YouTube or somehow, because it was a very important moment for women in sports, for women everywhere, and for all of the men, particularly the fathers and the brothers and the sons who supported them.
That penalty kick won the World Cup for the U.S. Women’s National Team, and everybody went crazy after that. But it wasn’t just a win for U.S. women; it really was a victory for all girls, because young women like Brandi, who had benefited from Title IX, was really demonstrating that the commitment we had made some years before was paying off. That girls and women, Robyn, would have their own teams and would be able to compete. And I know that Brandi became an ambassador after that on behalf of sports and talking about and writing about her experiences and co-founding the Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative. And I know that less than three months ago, Brandi was there to congratulate a third grader named Jocelyn Rosa who became the 10,000th girl to sign up for that program.
So we’re really trying to keep giving and giving and giving to those who come after, because this is a program that has literally leveled the playing field. Because sports programs teach girls of every income level and ethnic background about leadership and teamwork, about supporting one another.
I can remember playing soccer back when I was in junior high school, which was way long ago, and we were playing a team from another school, and for some reason that particular game really sticks in my head because these girls were from a different environment than I was from, they were from a different kind of background, they had it a lot harder, a lot tougher than I and my teammates did, and they threw themselves into that game. For them it really, really mattered whether they won or not, it wasn’t just some nice way to spend an afternoon. Because they were seeing it as a part of their own lives and their own ambitions and their own goals, to keep striving and striving.
And so, for me, sports is, in and of itself, terrific, but it’s also a symbol for so much of what we want to see in the world. As long as human beings are on this planet, we’re going to compete. But let’s compete with rules. Let’s compete in a way that doesn’t kill people. Let’s compete to determine who is the best soccer player or the best basketball player or the best long-distance runner.
And I want to thank the State Department’s Office of Global Women’s Issues and the SportsUnited Office, which co-sponsored this initiative. Actually, our sport’s exchanges are the most popular exchanges we do. And when I go to other countries around the world and we talk about what kind of exchanges that people are looking for, very often a leader will say, how about a sports exchange? And we want to do more and more of that. And for all of you who are helping us do that, thank you.
So this is an exciting day for us. And you’re going to have an opportunity to hear from one of my friends, an Olympic medalist, Donna de Varona, which will take place in the Marshall Center immediately after this ceremony.
So I hope that today, after we celebrate Title IX, as we celebrate our sport’s exchanges, we’ll encourage even more people to get behind women and girls in sports and to give young women a chance to compete on the playing field, to discharge that incredible energy that they want to put in to being the best they can be, and that we see more and more women around the world being given the opportunities to live up to their own God-given potential. That is what guides me and the work I do for both young women and young men.
And today is a very special day for all of us who believe in the power of sports to liberate and open up opportunities for so many. Thank you all, very much. (Applause.)
And let me – let me introduce our first ever global ambassador for women’s issues. And I’m going to have to excuse myself to actually go over to the White House for a meeting with President Obama. Otherwise, I would stay. But I want you to welcome Ambassador Melanne Verveer. (Applause.)