President Barack Obama praised six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson for being part of the “Ban Bossy” campaign when honoring his winning team at the White House Wednesday.
“This spring, Jimmie joined in the Ban Bossy campaign to help encourage leadership among young girls,” Obama said. “Jimmie caught some flak, I understand, for doing it but he is the father of two girls, and he understands how important it is for us to lift up our young women and make sure that they know they can do the same stuff that any boy can. So as somebody who is accustomed to being criticized once in a while, I just want to give you some advice, keep at it.”
The Ban Bossy campaign was established to discourage using the term bossy to describe girls, claiming that “bossy” discourages young women from taking leadership positions. Though the campaign has been criticized for political correctness.
Johnson talked to reporters after the White House ceremony and explained his support for “Ban Bossy.”
“Having two daughters, certainly it spoke to me and as I flipped through the literature and got up to speed on the program and what it was about, I understood the discussion and certainly want to be a part of it,” Johnson said.
Obama also praised Johnson’s overall involvement in charity. Since 2006, the Jimmie Johnson Foundation donated $7 million to public schools and education charities, has visited wounded veterans and promotes youth fitness.
“He is running a Wellness Challenge to encourage his fans to get healthy and get in shape, which Michelle is very happy about,” Obama said. “He met some of our brave wounded warriors before this event, and obviously is grateful for their sacrifice.
Johnson is part of the Hendrick Motorsports team.
Johnson said that Obama seemed very knowledgeable about NASCAR and told reporters how fortunate he felt to be able to visit with the president, going back to visiting President George W. Bush in 2002.
“I felt less nervous than my first trip. My first trip I vividly remember me shaking, my voice crackly,” he said recalling his first visit. “I was afraid to talk and engage with President Bush at the time.”
Another reporter asked him if he felt his success in the sport make him comparable to the late Dale Earnhardt.
“It’s so tough to figure out generations,” Johnson said. “Richard Petty’s career was over well before I had a chance to race against him. I was a year away from racing Earnhardt. There is a big void in my mind that I’ve never had the chance to compete against him or be crashed by him.”
“It’s always tough to look at different eras. There is always debate and conversation. In my heart, I don’t know that I could have survived in his era,” Johnson added. “I’m not sure he’d be able to survive in the way the NASCAR works today and even go further back to Richard Petty.”