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#Repost: 5 takeaways from the White House’s United State of Women Summit
By Soraya Nadia McDonald | Jun 16, 2016
Special to espnW.com
The White House Council on Women and Girls hosted the United State of Women Summit on Monday, which brought together more than 5,000 people at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., to discuss issues important to women — from equal pay and reproductive health to economic independence and civic duty.
Among the speakers: Billie Jean King, Jen Welter, Kerry Washington, Amy Poehler, Patricia Arquette, Connie Britton, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, Vice President Joe Biden and President Obama.
(Oh‚ and Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama had a little girl talk center stage about Obama’s time in the White House.)
It was a day packed full of intersectional feminist evangelism, but here are five takeaways:
1. The current generation of teen and tween girls are going to run the world in about 15 years. No really, they are.
Who runs the world? Girls. Specifically, the girls on yesterday’s State of Women program. Mikaila Ulmer, the 11-year-old founder and chief executive of Me & the Bees Lemonade, introduced President Obama, and in doing so told the story of how she created a lemonade stand to raise money to help understand what’s decimating the world’s population of bees. She did it after being stung twice and leaning into her curiosity instead of being afraid of the bees.
There was Marley Dias, the 11-year-old creator of #1000blackgirlbooks, a campaign she started to round up titles with protagonists who look like her, and to draw attention to the fact that so few books are written by or about black girls. One of her favorite books of the year, she said, was Jacqueline Woodson’s “Brown Girl Dreaming,” because it challenged her and she didn’t understand it the first time she read it.
There was also a performance from Chloe x Halle — best known as teen mentees of Beyoncé’s — who were introduced by Dorothee Mulumba and Mpumi Nobiva, the mentees of Winfrey and Obama, respectively. Indeed, the future looks extraordinarily bright.
2. The whole day ran long because Joe Biden went off script and talked for nearly twice his allotted time. But he was really passionate.
Biden, who drafted the original Violence Against Women Act, gave a thundering 45-minute speech that served as a forceful rejection of rape culture. It was also a bit disturbing — Biden went into excruciating detail when recounting the violent sexual assaults that women have told him about during his years in public service.
3. Oprah and Michelle Obama are definitely going shopping after the next president is inaugurated.
By far, the thing just about every attendee was itching to witness was a sit-down interview between Oprah and Michelle Obama that left us wishing Winfrey would just resurrect “The Oprah Winfrey Show” already. Among their discussion topics? What Michelle is most looking forward to (aside from shopping with Oprah, which came up three times) when she leaves the White House. “I want to open my front door without discussing it with anyone,” the first lady said, recounting a story of how Sasha Obama once opened her bedroom window and “there were calls.”
“I want to walk down a street,” Obama continued. “I want to sit in a yard that is not a national park.”
Winfrey also asked if there was anything that made the first lady say “mmph, mmph, mmph” in disbelief or amazement at her life, and Obama offered this charming nugget: “When I see my husband get off Marine One and walk into the Oval Office — mmph, mmph, mmph!”
4. Actress and playwright Sarah Jones is actually every woman.
The music playlist for the day was essentially one girl power hit after another, and Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman” became a familiar bumper between speakers. However, the day featured a performance from Tony- and Obie-winning playwright Sarah Jones, who managed to whip through hilarious quick-hit performances as an English woman, a typical millennial, a Jewish bubbe, a Chinese woman, an Indian woman and herself. Jones’ new off-Broadway play “Sell/Buy/Date” opens in September.
5. The president may be a little grayer than he was eight years ago, but he’s what a feminist looks like.
That’s what President Obama said in his State of Women address, in which Obama quoted Audre Lorde in describing how women should be: “Deliberate and afraid of nothing.” The president also highlighted the accomplishments of American women. “Our country is not all about the Benjamins,” Obama said. “It’s about the Tubmans, too!”
Having found a rhythm and getting tremendous feedback from his audience, Obama pressed on: “Rosa Parks wasn’t a seamstress who sat down by accident. She was a civil rights leader!”
Once again, Obama threw his support behind presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, which also drew enormous cheers, and said he’s not ready to become a lame-duck president until after the country has elected a suitable successor.
The speech was an unusually enthusiastic one, even for the charismatic presidential orator. If he was this fired up in front of 5,000 women in Washington, we can’t help but wonder what he’ll be like at the Democratic National Convention next month in Philadelphia.