"This is what change looks like."
That's what Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland) said as two historic events neatly dovetailed into one momentous occasion. President Barack Obama today signed his first law -- the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act -- and by doing so moved the United States closer to the goal of equal pay for equal work.
Mikulski was the bill's chief sponsor in the Senate, which passed it a week ago after a previous defeat in April 2008. Here's what history in the making looked like according to ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper who was an observer in the East Room of the White House:
After First Lady Michelle Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Vice President Joe Biden arrived, Lilly Ledbetter...walked out with President Obama.Senator Barbara Mikulski, Lilly Ledbetter and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi look on as President Obama signs the Lilly Ledbetter Act.
"Lilly Ledbetter didn’t set out to be a trailblazer or a household name," President Obama said. "She was just a good hard worker who did her job –- and did it well –- for nearly two decades before discovering that for years, she was paid less than her male colleagues for the very same work. Over the course of her career, she lost more than $200,000 in salary, and even more in pension and Social Security benefits –- losses she still feels today."
Ledbetter, he said, "set out on a journey that would take more than ten years, take her all the way to the Supreme Court, and lead to this bill which will help others get the justice she was denied."...
"It is fitting that with the very first bill I sign," the President said, "we are upholding one of this nation’s first principles: that we are all created equal and each deserve a chance to pursue our own version of happiness."
Photo © Mark Wilson/Getty Images
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- First Lady Michelle Obama's First Function - Remarks at the Lilly Ledbetter Reception