White House Years

On August 31, 1978, Sarah Weddington became Special Assistant to the President of the United States. A year later she was promoted to be Assistant to the President, the highest White House staff title. Her work included two general functions. The first was to be the President's advisor on women's issues and to organize administration resources to enhance equality for women in American life. She often met informally with the President and worked constantly to include women in all of the decisions and appointments of the Administration. The complete collection of the publications of her office regarding women's issues is being prepared for publication. Those documents include a complete summary of the Administration's activities and accomplishments regarding a wide variety of areas, including appointments, women in business, women and credit, domestic violence and rape, education, employment, the Equal Rights Amendment, family needs and child care, family planning, health, homemakers, housing, international relations, military women, minority women, older women, and rural women.

Weddington's second function was to serve as a liaison to leaders throughout the country to provide information, primarily through White House briefing sessions, about the work and focus of President Carter. Sarah's office would invite about 250 people from a given state or region to come to the White House for a full day of briefing sessions presented by Cabinet and high-ranking officials or international leaders like Hosni Mubarak, then Vice-President and subsequently President of Egypt. After a buffet lunch, the President would address the group in the East Room of the White House and each person would have an opportunity to have a photo taken with President Carter. Weddington's office was responsible for organizing all of the aspects of the sessions and seeing that each attendee received a copy of his or her photo autographed by President Carter. She continues to see people from all over the country who express appreciation for the opportunity of attending the sessions and for the photos they continue to have in places of honor.

Special memories of the White House years include opportunities to participate in international events and to interact with international leaders. Sarah co-chaired the United States' delegation to the Mid-Decade Conference on Women in Copenhagen in 1980, sponsored by the United Nations. England's Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was among the many people honored at a State Dinner.

White House policy is for the Presidential Seal to be on a podium only when the President is speaking. On this occasion it was not planned for Sarah to speak. President Carter called on Sarah to say a few words, and the result was the only photo Sarah has of her at a podium with the seal. Hopefully one day a woman will have the power and influence that comes with being elected President.

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