Scripps Howard Intern Shiraz Mukarram of Pakistan Reports from the White House

Aug 312010

By Shiraz Mukarram

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama, invoking the marital dictum that a husband will never get in trouble for saying that his wife is smarter than he is, marked International Women's Day on Monday by poking fun at himself.

Obama and Michelle Obama helped celebrate the event with some one-liners reminiscent of the old vaudeville routines of George Burns and Gracie Allen, or perhaps of Sonny Bono and Cher. Many accomplished women, like his wife, the president said, have probably looked across the dinner table at their husbands and thought: "I am smarter than that guy."

After getting the requisite laughter, Obama said that women in the United States still face unfairness and hardship, and he vowed to fight for gender equality.

"I didn't run for president so that the dreams of our daughters could be deferred or denied," Obama said. "I didn't run for president to see inequality and injustice persist in our time."

He then moved on to the main thrust of the event, to commend the accomplishments and challenges facing women.

At the ceremony in the East Room at the White House to honor women, Obama promised to keep supporting efforts to empower women in the United States and around the world.

Surrounded by all manner of women - including American Idol crooner Katherine McPhee, actress Kerry Washington, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Afghan singer Mozhdah Jamalzadah - Obama took particular note of his secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

He commended her for putting "millions of cracks in America's glass ceiling," and for making the alleviation of suffering of women a priority in U.S. foreign policy, including lifting restrictions on access to family planning.

He spoke of his own daughters, Sasha and Malia: "I think about the world that they, and all of America's daughters, will inherit.

"And I think about all of the opportunities that are still beyond reach for too many young women and too many of our brothers and sisters - too many of our sisters and mothers and aunts, all of the glass ceilings that have yet to be shattered."