The panel and interview session also featured Sarah Hughes, a former gold medalist figure skater, and Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a three-time gold medalist swimmer who is now advocacy director for the Women’s Sports Foundation.

This year’s theme for the event is “Girls in Sports, An Investment in the Future,” and the panel discussed the myriad ways sports influence female self-esteem, academics and career development.

Dawes, a Maryland native who sits on the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, gave a rousing speech, declaring that she remains “living proof of the power of sports,” and that her childhood athletic participation not only made her a champion of her sport, but more importantly, “a champion in life.”

The group discussed efforts to involve more girls in sports, including legislation before the House and Senate aiming at making data on high school athletic spending and gender statistics available to the public.

Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) dropped by to show her support and shared personal anecdotes about the power of athletics in her own childhood and adulthood.

Other prominent female athletes in attendance included Grete Eliassen, a freestyle skiing medalist at the 2011 X Games, and Esther Lofgren, a gold medalist in rowing in the 2012 London Olympics.