“I prayed she wouldn’t do anything – well, that would automatically disqualify me,” Obama said to laughter from her Reno audience Tuesday. “Fortunately, she slept the whole time and the man interviewing me just had a baby, so he understood and I ended up getting the job. But I know most folks are nowhere near as lucky as I was.”
Obama was the keynote speaker at Tuesday’s Women's Summit at the Reno Ballroom, where she said Nevada women today are “heirs” to a legacy of trailblazers, but still face hard challenges with health care as well as balancing home and work life.
In a 20-minute speech highlighting the work of her husband, President Barack Obama, to eliminate disparities between men and women in the workplace, she said barriers need to be broken so that a woman’s family life doesn’t get shortchanged in a world in which her contribution to the household income is necessary to survive.
“The first bill my husband signed after taking office was the (Lilly Ledbetter) Fair Pay Act,” Obama said. “He said here in America, there are no second-class citizens in our workplaces. Something you all know is the success of women is not just about a paycheck. It’s also about meeting the demands of jobs, a constant struggle to be a breadwinner … and as the mother of two beautiful girls, this is an issue that is particularly close to my heart.”
Obama called the inequities toward women in health care disproportionate considering men have the same coverage at a lower cost.
“Women are more likely to be denied coverage because of so-called pre-existing conditions, such has having a C-section or pregnancy,” she said. “Twenty-five-year-old women are charged up to 84 percent more than men with the same coverage. We know this is unacceptable. It is unacceptable for women, it is unacceptable for families and it is unacceptable for our country.”
She called on audience members to heed a call to action to fight for opportunities for healthier living.
“We know all of us are here today because of all those generations who packed up their things and staked their claims and cracked and shattered those glass ceilings so we could have opportunities we never dreamed of,” Obama said. “We know it will be up to all of you — the leaders, the activists, the ordinary everyday women — to carry that forward, to ensure that our daughters and granddaughters can dream just a little bigger and just a little higher than we did.”
Sen. Harry Reid introduced Michelle Obama as the reason that the president has maintained a “calm demeanor,” having inherited the worst economy in decades as well as the Iraq war and thanked her for being a friend in his own personal time of need as his own wife is healing from a recent car accident.
“The incalculable strength this woman has brought to Washington is really hard to compare,” Reid said. “This woman is the total package. She’s an inspirational national leader, a dedicated advocate for the good, an engaging speaker and most of all, a wonderful friend.”
Obama’s speech wrapped up roundtable discussions with and led by Nevada leaders, including Speaker Barbara Buckley, on finance. Obama then traveled to Las Vegas to talk about her Let’s Move initiative, a campaign to fight child obesity and encourage more physical activity for kids.
Marla Williams of Carson City, deputy administrator for the state health division, said she thought the conference was beneficial.
“I liked the focus on women,” she said. “All the sessions were informative and a real good opportunity for women in northern Nevada to network with each other. I think the session on financial management was really important for women. … I think individually it motivates me. Professionally, I think there were some initiatives (raised) that we could pursue as a state.”