Notes from the White House on International Women's Day

Former Secretary of State, Madeline Albright wore a pin symbolizing breaking the glass ceiling but the question that hung in the air at the White House celebration of International Women's Day and Women's History Month on March 8th was: what does it take to bring about change for women and girls. President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary Albright all said what we know to be true--that we don't want our daughters to have fewer opportunities than our sons. But what does it take for that knowledge to become reality?

If there was one answer in the celebration, it was: it takes our grandmothers; it takes our mothers; it takes our daughters; and it takes us. In other words, it takes real experience in confronting challenges and then it takes real experience in facing down these sometimes quite harsh challenges to take on challenges and ignite change.

The President retold the story of what ignited his own feelings for this issue--of his mother who fought for injustice overseas and of his grandmother who worked her way up from a secretary to the vice president of a bank, "only to watch as men, no more qualified than she was, rise up the corporate ladder."

Madeline Albright concluded her comments with the well-known poem, Low Road by Marge Piercy. It message is that with one person, "you can fight...but they roll over you." Two people can "keep each other sane, can give support, conviction." Three people form a "delegation;" four "can start an organization; a dozen make a demonstration; a hundred fill a hall."

As the program closed with a searing song about violence against women by Afghan singer Mozdah Jamalzadah, the message of the event was clear--change takes experience, change take conversation.

And speaking of conversation, almost everyone in the rows around me was bent down looking at their BlackBerries or their iPhones. Were they tweeting about the event or were they keeping up with their own conversations on email, even at the White House?