First lady Michelle Obama in spotlight at reception
First lady Michelle Obama took a turn in the spotlight Thursday, hosting a reception for a woman whose treatment at Goodyear prompted Congress to change the law on pay discrimination.
It was one of the highest-profile public events for the first lady since the inauguration last week. And it was on behalf of a woman — Lilly Ledbetter — who got to know the first couple well during the presidential campaign.
President Barack Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act into law in the East Room of the White House flanked by a small crowd of lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
“This is what change looks like,” Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland joked to the audience as the lawmakers crowded around the document Obama was to sign.
The first lady later spoke about Ledbetter at a reception in the State Dining Room as guests sipped orange juice and cranberry juice and munched cherry orange scones, apple muffins and other pastries.
“She is one of my favorite people in the whole wide world,” Michelle Obama said.
“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.”
Ledbetter discovered after 19 years on the job at Goodyear Tire & Rubber that she was the lowest-paid supervisor at her plant despite having more experience than some male co-workers.
A jury found she was the victim of discrimination. But the Supreme Court reversed the decision two years ago, saying discrimination claims must be filed within 180 days of the first offense.
“I will never see a cent from my case,” Ledbetter said. “But with the passage (of the bill) and president’s signature today, I have an even richer reward. I know that my daughters and granddaughters and your daughters and your granddaughters will have a better deal.”
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Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (Michelle Obama greets guest); Reuters/Jim Bourg (Obama hands pen to Ledbetter after signing bill)