An Oneonta Bus Lines manager was asked to represent the U.S. Department of Transportation at a White House event when President Barack Obama marked the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act.
“I’m very, very honored,” Camilla “Cam” Morris of Oneonta said. “It was an incredible experience. … It will be something that I’ll always remember.”
Morris said she was among about 120 leaders, mostly women, from a range of business sectors and industries who attended the reception in the East Room of the White House on Monday.
Morris said guests were told that “someone senior” would speak at the event. After reaching the East Room, she said, she saw the presidential seal on the podium, then the president was introduced.
Obama engaged with his listeners, Morris said. The president said he hoped that his daughters would have the same opportunities to achieve as men, she said.
Obama spoke about 10 minutes, according to a White House transcript.
“Fifty years ago today, President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law, right here in the White House,” Obama said. When the law was enacted, he said, women earned 59 cents for every dollar earned by men on average, a rate that has risen to 77 cents on the dollar today.
“I assume everybody thinks we can do better,” Obama said.
“Yes!” was the audience reply.
Obama pledged to continue the fight toward an economy with good jobs and fairness in pay.
“We have all of you and your predecessors to thank for the incredible progress this country has made in eliminating the barriers and injustices that might keep our daughters from enjoying the same rights, same chances, and same freedoms as our sons,” he said. “I’m proud of you.”
Morris said she was proud to represent her employer and the American Bus Association and to be among DOT representatives at the White House event and to support women in the transportation field and to further the cause of equal pay for women.
Morris, who refused to divulge if she voted for Obama, said she appreciated the president’s “young mind-set” and his willingness to listen to both sides of issues.
“I think he has done a good job on many things,” she said. “He’s also had his hands tied by senators and representatives on many things.”
Morris said she also likes that the White House is home to a family dealing with day-to-day issues of raising children.
Morris started with Oneonta Bus Lines as a tour escort in about 1988-89. The family-owned business on Orchard Street in the town of Oneonta was founded in 1947, she said. The company has about 45 employees and a fleet of 14 buses, which provide charter and retail services.
Usually when the DOT calls, the topic involves an audit or regulatory issue, according to Morris, who said she was “ very flabbergasted” to receive the invitation to the White House event. She received the call Thursday, then later confirmation from the White House after a security clearance, she said.
Morris said the group had to be at a main entrance at 10:15 a.m. Monday. The guests passed through two security check-points, including one with a dog, she said. A beeper went off when she passed through a scanner, but a security officer indicated she could proceed.
In the East Room, Obama shook hands with some guests in the first row of chairs. Morris said she was seated about five rows back and didn’t have an opportunity to shake hands with the president.
No cameras were allowed. Miller said some guests used cellphones to take photographs, but she didn’t.
Morris said she was asked to represent the DOT because she is chairwoman of the Women In Buses committee of the American Bus Association, a trade organization. Morris said was involved with forming the committee about two years ago.
Morris said she left the White House grounds at about 12:30 p.m. Monday.