I've spent 15 years working on public policy issues that impact women and girls. At one juncture in my career I was a media and program director for a local commission for women in Los Angeles. It was the most rewarding work of my career. In fact women's commission like the one I served on are the progeny of Executive Order 1090, "Establishing the President's Commission on the Status of Women," by President John F. Kennedy in 1961.
Back then, President Kennedy appointed members from various Executive Branch offices to serve on the commission to make recommendations on policies and legislation to remove the myriad of barriers that prevented women from being treated fairly and equitably when it came to employment, education, civil rights and property rights. As you can image it was pretty cutting edge thinking in 1961. And for some it was pure heresy. Whatever you call it, it certainly changed the trajectory of women and girls in this nation and gave us an opportunity to choose the life we wanted to live from being a mommy to a molecular scientist and everything in between.
Today there are over 200 active commissions for women in the United States who have not only carried on the work ignited by that Executive Order, but carried it to the next level in terms of successfully advocating and lobbying for protective legislation that has improved the quality of life for women and girls from health to human rights; to economic equity, family-work-life balance, and violence against women.
March has always been a special time of year for women's commissions across the United States. It is observed as Women's History Month. And President Obama placed another stake in the ground last week in marking this observance by signing Executive Order 13506, "Establishing a White House Council on Women and Girls."
"I sign this order not just as a President, but as a son, a grandson, a husband and a father," said the President during the signing ceremony. "Because growing up I saw my mother put herself through school. I also saw how she struggled to raise me and my sister on her own, worrying about how she'd pay the bills and educate herself to provide for us."
The President says that the purpose of this Council is to ensure that women and girls are treated fairly in all matters of public policy. The Council will be to make sure that the federal government takes into consideration the needs of women and girls in the policies that are drafted, programs that are created, and in the legislation that is supported. The objective is to establish a comprehensive approach to the federal government's policy on women and girls. Like President Kennedy, President Obama has appointed to the Council twenty four members from various Executive Branch offices to cover every possible issue affecting women and girls from health, employment and education; to housing, commerce, transportation, and veteran affairs.
Some have balked and called this action pure symbolism, pomp and exhibition; and even a boondoggle that will waste public dollars.
Not so, says the President who is fully aware that women make up 53 percent of the electorate. The value that women like his mother, his grandmother and wife have added to his life has been incalculable. He's just paying it forward.
"That's why so many of us are here today, because of the women who came before us, who were determined to see us sit in high seats," the President said. "So now it is up to us to carry that work forward, to ensure that our daughters, and grand daughters have no limits on their dreams, no obstacles to their achievements – and that they have the opportunities their mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers never dreamed of. That's the purpose of this Council. Those are the priorities of my presidency."
To this I say, "Bravo Mr. President." (If you have comments about Veronica's View, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.).