Remarks at a White House Ceremony Marking the 10th Anniversary of Executive Women in Government

September 19, 1983

Welcome to the White House.

Ten years ago, during the Nixon administration, Executive Women in Government was organized to bring more women into positions of authority and influence within the Federal Government. And under your first chairman, Air Force General Jeanne Holm, your organization set out to encourage talented women to enter government and to ensure that women had the opportunity to play significant roles once they got involved.

You started out with 38 members, and today you have 246. I know you're a wonderfully diverse group -- scientists, judges, lawyers, managers. You've been activists within the system, serving as a point of contact for professional women and a catalyst for change during four administrations. Now, I don't want to make this a partisan event, but three of the four were Republican administrations. [Laughter]

Over the last few months much has been said about women in general and in our administration. I just wish that those who are doing all the talking would focus more on the many top-notch women in the administration instead of talking in generalities. I'm exceptionally proud of the women who are making great contributions to achieving our goals.

Women are in top policy and decisionmaking positions throughout the executive branch, yet they are by-and-large ignored by those who are claiming our record is not up to par. Well, we've appointed more women to significant positions than any other administration.

We appointed the first woman to the Supreme Court, and I can tell you that there have been a few decisions when I was mighty happy she was there. [Laughter] And for the first time in history, we've got three women of Cabinet rank -- Secretaries Dole and Heckler and Ambassador Kirkpatrick. I'd just like to add something important here. During this time of tension over the Soviet massacre of 269 airline passengers, Jeane Kirkpatrick has been a tower of strength and dignity, and she's doing a great service to her country.

But these female stars in our administration receive far less personal attention from the public than they deserve. And other women within the administration, individuals who are making decisions that are affecting the lives of tens of millions of people, are getting too little public recognition.

Being intimately involved in government, we know, but how many other citizens are aware, for example, of the tough job Mary Jarratt is doing as Assistant Secretary of Agriculture for Food and Consumer Services? She has responsibility for programs totaling $19 billion.

Or how about Arlene Triplett, the Assistant Secretary for Administration at the Department of Commerce? She oversees 35,000 employees and a budget of about $2 billion. And then there is Dorcas Hardy, Assistant Secretary for Human Development Services at HHS. She's been instrumental in improving services to some of our nation's most vulnerable citizens. And then there is your own chairman, Nancy Harvey Steorts, who heads up the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which has the responsibility of ensuring the safety of some 15,000 generic consumer products.

All of these and so many others that I couldn't possibly take the time to name are in positions of authority not because of some artificial quota, but because they're capable, committed, and responsible individuals.

Now, most of them are in positions that traditionally have nothing to do with their sex, but instead are concerned only with their expertise and skill. You know, it makes me think of a little incident that happened. There was an accident one day, victim lying there, bystanders had gathered around. There was a woman bending over him trying to help, and a man came elbowing his way through the bystanders, shoved the woman aside, and said, ``Let me at him. I have first aid training.'' And she stepped aside, and he knelt down and started doing the prescribed things in his training, and at one point she touched him on the shoulder and said, ``When you get to that part about calling the doctor, I'm right here.'' [Laughter]

But we, all of us in this administration, came here to strengthen America. We're part of one team and, frankly, it bothers me that talented women like yourselves get so little public recognition.

I want to encourage all of you to speak out with a louder voice about the job you are doing, and I'm going to suggest at the next Cabinet meeting that this encouragement be passed on throughout the executive branch.

Let me just diverge a moment to make a short announcement on another subject, because it affects that goal I spoke about. Strengthening America begins with strengthening American families by providing new opportunity. We've been working hard to do this from the outset of this administration. Reducing tax rates, estate taxes, and the marriage penalty, increasing the child care credit, and bringing down inflation and interest rates are all important steps of progress. But there is another side, a darker side to family life in America. The problem of family violence, the terrible cost of this violence in emotional grief, shattered lives, and more crimes in the future must be squarely faced. This year the President's Task Force on Victims of Crime recommended, in particular, the creation of a task force to study the problem of violence in families. And today, we're announcing the creation of the Attorney General's Task Force on Family Violence. This task force will be asked to make specific recommendations, and it will be chaired by William Hart, the chief of police of Detroit, Michigan.

All of you have much of which to be proud. I'm tempted to go through a list of accomplishments, but it's sufficient to say that all Americans are better off because of what the women and the men of this administration have done, aided by capable and dedicated career staff, in these last 2\1/2\ years. I'm happy to have had this opportunity to thank you for the role that you're playing and to congratulate you on the occasion of your 10th anniversary.

So, I'm not going to end without saying keep up the good work, and God bless you all. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 11:34 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House.