Michelle Obama photo

Remarks by the First Lady and Dr. Biden at a Joining Forces Employment Event in Columbus, Ohio

April 14, 2011

DR. BIDEN: Hi. Good afternoon, everyone. And thank you, Christina, for that kind introduction. And thank you for your service.

My name is Jill Biden, and I'm a proud military mom. It's great to be here today and to see so many service members, military families, and veterans. Thank you all for your service and your sacrifice to this country. I'm also pleased to see representatives from local businesses and community organizations here today who are doing their part to honor and recognize service members and their families.

Over the past two years, Michelle and I have had the privilege of traveling around the country and around the world, visiting with service members and military families and hearing their stories firsthand. Most of them talk about how proud they are to serve our country.

But there are also challenges that come along with this service. Frequent moves can be difficult for children who have to switch schools and for spouses who are pursuing an education or trying to get ahead in a career.

Last year, I met Alicia, an amazing young nurse -- student nurse from North Carolina. She managed to finish her nursing degree while caring for her critically-injured husband at -- excuse me -- Brooke Burn Center in Texas. She triumphed, despite unimaginable circumstances, moving across the country, caring for her husband and completing her degree.

As her story demonstrates, our military families are strong. They are incredibly resilient. And they are some of the most valuable members of our American workplace.

Part of what Michelle and I are doing with "Joining Forces," is showing Americans how organizations and businesses like the groups here today are reaching out and doing their part. That's why we're here today.

Michelle and I have talked a lot about the ways that all Americans can support our troops and thank these men and women for their service. And all of you are using the workplace to do just that.

I've seen, through my work with a grassroots organization in Delaware, that small community groups can make a huge difference. There are many small and effective groups like this all over the country, from the barbecue master who travels through your state of Ohio to cook for military families, to the accountants providing free tax service, which is timely, to the soldiers in Minnesota collecting hockey equipment for military kids.

The organizations here today who are supporting our troops and families are showing all Americans that there are countless ways to help -- some large and many small, but all important, and I can tell you from personal experience, all appreciated.

We can all join forces. You are doing your part. The government is doing its part. And each American has the ability to make a difference in the life of a military family. That's what this initiative is all about.

It is now my pleasure to introduce my partner and dear friend, a woman we are fortunate enough to call our First Lady, Michelle Obama. (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA: Thank you everyone. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you all so much. Thank you, please. First of all, let me thank Jill, not just for that very kind introduction, but for being such a tremendous partner in this effort. This has been something that Jill and I have worked on together for years. She brings a wealth of expertise as a Blue Star mom. And her passion and focus on this issue has really helped get this thing off the ground. So let's give her another big round of applause. (Applause.)

I also want to thank Secretary Solis and Lou D'Ambrosio for joining us today and for their work and commitment on this issue as well. And most of all, I want to thank Christina Dibble and all of the other Sears associates here today who have served our country as veterans or as military spouses. (Applause.)

As Jill mentioned, for the past two years, we have traveled across America and in other parts of the world, meeting with our men and women in uniform, our veterans, and their families. So we know all about your courage and your patriotism. We have seen it firsthand.

We know about the sacrifices that you have made for our country. And we know about the challenges that you face every single day.

And we've met so many military spouses who do so much, who work one fulltime job during the day and then they come home to start that second fulltime job of running a household and raising kids, and doing it all alone while a spouse is deployed. We see them trying to build seniority at their jobs, but seeing that they have to keep starting over every time that they move to a new duty station. And with each new move comes a whole new job search. And that's not easy, particularly when so many employers see a resume with multiple jobs as a red flag rather than as a reality of military life.

The truth is that many employers today simply aren't aware of all that our veterans and military spouses have to offer. They don't realize that members of our military do some amazing things. They master some of the most advanced technologies. They run some of the most complex operations. They have extensive experience managing hundreds of their colleagues.

And as for their spouses, as Christina said, on average, they have higher high school graduation rates than the general population. And more than 80 percent of spouses have some college education as well.

And then, there are all the skills and experiences that come with being a military spouse and managing that lifestyle, qualifications that you won't necessarily learn at school or at a university -- the ability to work well with all kinds of people all over the place; the ability to multitask, because you cannot do this if you cannot multitask and think outside of the box; the ability to weather adversity and adapt to changing circumstances.

See, Jill and I can tell, from first-hand experience, that our veterans and military spouses are some of the hardest-working, most talented people that we know. And we think that it's time that our country finally tapped into their full potential and took advantage of all these folks have to offer.

And that's really why, this week, we've launched this wonderful, new campaign that we're calling, "Joining Forces." So this is a nationwide effort to bring Americans together to recognize, to honor, and to serve our nation's military families.

So we're joining forces with everyone, with organizations like the PTA and the YMCA. We're urging them to reach out to our military kids and do more to support them.

We're joining forces with cities and states, and we're encouraging them to adopt policies that help military families.

We're joining forces with the American people, more importantly, as neighbors and colleagues and classmates and community members, we're urging people to step up and give something back to the military families who've given all of us so much.

And we're joining forces with businesses all across the country. We're calling on them to recruit and hire veterans and military spouses. We're calling on them to make their workplaces more military-spouse friendly and more Guard and Reserve-family friendly, with things like flexible work schedules and portable jobs.

As Lou explained earlier, Sears has already stepped up to answer this call in such a brilliant way. And they're not alone. Siemens is setting aside 10 percent of their open positions for veterans. Technology leaders like AOL, Indeed.com and Cisco are creating new tools to connect military spouses and veterans with employers that are hiring. Companies like Walmart and HP and Microsoft made a pledge to train military spouses in new technologies, so that they can start their own businesses.

As Secretary Solis said, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is encouraging its millions of members to hire military spouses and veterans, to find more mentors for military wives and women veterans. And the Chamber is also going to host more than 100 job fairs across the country for these individuals.

And in the coming months, Jill and I, we're going to be highlighting the best programs and initiatives that we can find at companies all across America. This is a challenge. Sears has set the bar. Look at what we can do. Can you do more? And we'll be calling on all companies, all companies in this country -- large and small -- to follow in their footsteps. We'll be urging companies to study these best practices and consider how they can incorporate them into their workplaces. We'll be urging them to get creative and come up with new ideas to help us benefit from all that our military spouses and veterans have to offer.

And I want to be clear that we're not just doing this because it's the right thing to do for America's veterans and military families, although it is. This is about doing the right thing. But we're also doing it because it's the right thing to do for America's businesses; because we know that when our companies hire the best people and then give them what they need to succeed, they see the results in their bottom lines.

And if enough companies do that -- if we can get enough companies to give our veterans and military spouses the chances they deserve to put their skills to work, that won't just be good for those companies. This is something that's going to be good for our entire economy and for the future of this country.

So I want to end today by thanking all of you at Sears for everything you've done, for setting that bar, for showing other companies in the rest of the country what it means to have a workplace that values the service that you provide. And I want to thank you for everything that you will continue to do in the months and the years ahead. And we look forward to seeing companies across the country follow your lead.

So thank you so much. Thank you for this event. Thank you to all of you for your service. May God bless. Take care.

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady and Dr. Biden at a Joining Forces Employment Event in Columbus, Ohio Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/320531

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