This weekend marked the 35th anniversary of one of our country's most important civil rights laws. One deceptively simple -- yet profoundly effective -- sentence gave American women a new opportunity to aspire and succeed.
Title IX of the Educational Amendments, which became law on June 23, 1972, says that, "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." That framework has helped provide women a more equal opportunity for education.
The great legacy of Title IX is most often talked about in the context of sports. After winning two gold medals in swimming in the 1964 Olympic Games, Donna de Varona had to put off her college education at UCLA because sports scholarships for women did not exist.
A generation later, Title IX has helped propel women's sports to increasingly higher levels of performance, awareness and respect. Indeed, some of our country's most recognizable and influential stars are women who have excelled at collegiate, Olympic and even professional sports.
Yet the most telling effect of Title IX is the fact that today, more women than men are attending college. Equal education for women was rare before 1972. Many law and medical schools accepted a maximum of 15 women per year, and women were often shut out of classes such as criminal justice and auto mechanics.
Today, well over half of all undergraduate college students are women, and women outnumber men in many graduate programs.
Despite this progress, Title IX continues to come under attack. In March 2005, the U.S. Department of Education announced it was watering down its enforcement. More recently, opponents of Title IX have used the so-called "boy crisis" debate to fan the myth that expanded educational opportunities for girls have come at the expense of boys.
The fact is that everyone wins when girls get the same chance to compete, learn and play. It's time to once and for all defeat those that want to keep girls off the field.
I have my own yearly tribute to Title IX, which is all about opportunity and making the most of it. Tonight, I'll be playing in my fifth Congressional Baseball Game, a hardball fundraiser for charities including the Boys and Girls Club played at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC.
Once again, I will be the only woman on the Democratic team. My jersey number is IX.
At last year's game, my coach sent me in to pinch-hit in the final inning. On my third pitch, I smacked a single through the left side of the infield. The crowd erupted -- not because of who I am or what my politics are, but because I was a woman playing hardball with the big boys.
While our country still has a long way to go to achieve true equality between women and men, Title IX has shown us how much we can achieve with one important sentence, or even with one modest base hit.