June 23rd, 2012
01:59 PM ET
President Barack Obama used his daughter Sasha as an example of the success of Title IX, a law that prohibits discrimination of women in sports and education, in a Newsweek op-ed that honors its 40th anniversary.
Obama, who helps coach his daughter’s basketball team, wrote that while there are “few things more fulfilling than watching your child discover a passion for something,” prior to Title IX, “something like pursuing varsity sports was an unlikely dream for young women in America.”
“Today, thanks in no small part to the confidence and determination they developed through competitive sports and the work ethic they learned with their teammates, girls who play sports are more likely to excel in school,” wrote Obama. “In fact, more women as a whole now graduate from college than men. This is a great accomplishment — not just for one sport or one college or even just for women but for America. And this is what Title IX is all about.”
While Title IX protects discrimination based on sex in many different federally funded programs, its reach is most notable in high school and college athletics and the rule is credited with a boom in women’s sports in the late 20th century. Obama highlighted one notable woman who benefited from the passage of Title IX – former Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt.
“When she started out as a basketball coach, Pat drove the team van to away games,” Obama wrote of the woman he awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom last month. “She washed the uniforms in her own washing machine. One night she and her team even camped out in an opponent’s gym because they had no funding for a hotel.”
Summitt led her team to eight national championships in 38 years, becoming the winningest coach – male or female – in college basketball.
And though Obama used most of the editorial to look back on what Title IX has meant for women, he also said there is more to do.
“We have come so far. But there’s so much farther we can go,” Obama wrote. “There are always more barriers we can break and more progress we can make. As president, I’ll do my part to keep Title IX strong and vibrant, and maintain our schools as doorways of opportunity so every child has a fair shot at success.”
Recent polling indicates a large gender gap that benefits Obama over his likely Republican challenger Mitt Romney. A CNN/ORC poll from April 16 indicated that women voters back Obama over Romney by 16 points (55%-39%), virtually unchanged from an 18-point advantage among women for the president in CNN polling last month.
"By a two-to-one margin, the women surveyed saw President Obama as more in touch with the problems facing American women today,” CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said of the poll.