Women's World Cup Initiative: Empowering Women and Girls Through Sports

September 14, 2012

Robin: On behalf of my new teammates participating in this international exchange. I want to say thank you to the Secretary, Clinton, for making today possible.  Now please join me now in welcoming the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton: Well this is one of my favorite events that we've held her in the Ben Franklin room, that’s Ben Franklin up there, one of our founders and a man who I think who would be very pleased to see all of you here today because he was a great believer in breaking down barriers and boundaries, and having people go as far as they could on their own efforts and sports is all about that. But it’s also, as Robin just said, about teams, and learning together, and getting better, and contributing, and that is really our goal here, with this very exciting effort, 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’m especially pleased Robin is from South Africa and is exemplifying the changes in her own country. And Valerie Jared 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, so I have no illusions about what title would have meant to me. But I loved sports and I was raised in a very sports oriented family. I was lucky enough to go to public schools in my town that had a lot of girl’s sports. And it was quite surprising to me of what was available elsewhere there that there weren’t those same opportunities. And I was delighted when 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 believed strongly that this program, which had to be legislated so that everyone 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 that I am very proud of our US women’s team, not just for last night but for all that they are doing and they are getting ready for the women’s world cup in Germany next month, and I can remember that very, very hot July day 1999 when Brandi Chastain stepped in to take that penalty kick. Now I know some of you weren't born then but I hope you've seen it on YouTube or somehow because it was a very important moment for women in sports, for women everywhere for all of the men particularly the fathers, and the brothers, and the sons that supported them. You know that penalty kick won the world cup for the US women’s national team and everyone went crazy after that. But it wasn’t just a win for US 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 years before was paying off. That girls and women, robin, would have their own teams and would be able to compete. And I know that Brandi became an ambassador after that and talking about and writing about her experiences and confounding the Bay Area Women's Sports initiative and I know that less than three months ago Brandi was there to congratulate a 3rd grader named Jocelyn Rosa who became the 10,000th girl to sign up for that program. So we really try to keep giving and giving for those who came after. because this is a program that has really leveled the playing field. Because sports programs teach girls of every income level and ethnic background about leadership, and teamwork, and 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 you know for some reason that particular game really sticks in my head, because these girls were from a different environment that I was from, they were from a different kind of background, they had it a lot harder, a lot tougher than I did, than my teammates did and they through themselves into that game, for them it really mattered whether they won or not. It wasn’t just some nice way to spend an afternoon because they were seeing it as apart of their own lives, and their own ambitions and their own goals. 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. You know as long as human beings are on this planet we are going to compete but ... lets compete with rules, lets compete in a way that doesn’t kill people, lets compete to determine who’s the best soccer play, the best basketball player, the best long distance runner, and I want to thank the State Department Office of Global Women’s Issues and the SportsUnited to who co-sponsored this initiative. Actually our sports exchanges are the most important exchanges that 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 are going to have an opportunity to hear from one of my friends, an Olympic medalist, Donna de Verona, which will take place in the Marshall Center immediately after this ceremony. So I hope that today as we celebrate Title IX, as we celebrate our sports exchanges, will 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 be the best they can be. And that we see more women around the world given more opportunities to live up to their god given potential. That is what guides me in the work i do for both young women and young men. And today is a very special day for all of us that believe in the power of sports to liberate and open up opportunities for so many. Thank you all very much. 

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