Excerpts of Remarks by the First Lady at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

November 17, 2021

[As prepared for delivery.]


Today, we end, "It's too complicated."

Today we end, "We don't know how."

Today, we are coming together to say, "Our military spouses deserve as much commitment from us as they give to us."

For ten years, we've made progress in so many areas— hiring veterans, educating schools about military kids, raising awareness about caregivers…

But when it comes to military spouse unemployment, the needle doesn't move—instead, it's gotten worse. Today, it's more than seven times the national rate.

Why? What I've heard from organizations is that military spouses' resumes don't fully reflect their qualifications.

That military spouses leave jobs too often. That organizations can't maintain their culture if they allow remote work.

We all want to make progress in this area, but it requires businesses to make significant changes. And that's not easy.

But for a moment, I want you to imagine a spouse on a base. She's self-assured and accomplished—with not one, but two master's degrees.

She tells you how proud she is of her husband, serving on a ship in the Pacific, and that she knows what he's doing matters.

But the more she talks, the more you can see cracks in her confidence.

She tells you she wore her best suit because she never gets the chance to anymore. She misses her work.

After months of applying to jobs with no luck, she's ready to take anything—after all, there are bills to pay—but it won't be the career she's worked so hard to build.

She's not complaining, but you can see the sadness and frustration that she doesn't voice.

I've heard this same story more times than I can count.

Change isn't easy. But neither is moving to a new base, again and again.

Neither is parenting while your partner is deployed.

Neither is losing sleep, worrying that the person you love most in the world might not come home.

That's what our military spouses do every day. They do it even when it's hard. They do it for us.

Meanwhile, their husbands and wives question how long they can serve their country when their spouse is unhappy or feels unfulfilled.

Our military isn't going to be able to keep our best and brightest if they have to choose between their love of family and their love of country. That's why supporting military families is critical to our national security.

Joining Forces—my White House initiative that serves our military and veteran families,

caregivers and survivors—was founded on that principle.

In September, we announced that every executive department across the federal government has committed to joining DOD's Military Spouse Employment Partnership to recruit, hire, and train military spouses.

But we need your help.

All of you have worked so hard to get our veterans hired. Today, their unemployment rate is below the national average. We need the same focus and dedication for our military spouses.

And it starts by creating flexible, transferable, remote work opportunities.

For families, remote work means mom or dad doesn't have to start over at each duty station.

And it means you can keep skilled, talented, experienced workers, even if they are relocated.

It's not a small ask, but there are organizations—some of you here today—that are making it work.

If we've learned anything in this pandemic, it's how to be creative.

So, let's be creative now.

This is possible. And it's profitable.

Because military spouses are highly educated. Through long deployments and difficult transfers, they have learned to be adaptable and resourceful. They know the value of organizations that are willing to invest in them—and they are loyal.

Tap into the power of this dynamic group, and you are tapping into the best of the best.

So, what can you do? How can you create a culture where military spouses have what they need to thrive?

Join the Military Spouse Employment Advisory Council. Invite your colleagues to join as well. Spread the word and share best practices.

As you know, Hiring our Heroes is deeply committed to this cause and they're here to help.

For ten years, so many have asked: How can we afford to make this work?

But the question should be: How can we look at the sacrifices that our military community makes and do anything less? How can we tell those spouses that this is too difficult?

We can't. We won't.

We will come together—with the dedication, resourcefulness, and sense of duty that they show every day—and give them the support they have earned.

Thank you.

Jill Biden, Excerpts of Remarks by the First Lady at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/354868

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