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Remarks by the First Lady During a Joining Forces Faith Leaders Call

May 18, 2011

MRS. OBAMA: Thanks so much, Joshua. Joshua, you've just been terrific leading our faith-based efforts, and I'm glad you're going to be helping out on this, as well.

Good afternoon, everyone. I want to thank you all again for taking the time to join me this afternoon for this call. And I'm really pleased that all of you, faith and community leaders from across this country, could join today. We've got a long list of people on this call. We've got great turnout, so we're very excited.

And we're excited about the work that you've been doing to support military families and veterans. So many of you and your organizations, your congregations, your houses of worship across America have embraced and supported our military families and veterans for many years, if not generations.

Faith and community leaders like you have been at the forefront of the critical work to support military families and veterans. So I want to start by thanking your ministry, your service and your commitment to this cause.

Our nation, as you know, has been at war for nearly a decade. And our troops and their families have given their all throughout that time. What I've learned throughout my work with military families over the years is that they are proud to serve. And they're very strong. And many times they don't complain.

But the truth is they face unique challenges that require our attention and our action. We shouldn't wait for them to ask.

For more than two years, I've been working with my partner, Jill Biden, to engage our nation's military families on bases and in communities across the country and around the world. And we've had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with these families and to listen to their stories, to their concerns, and then help be their advocates for their priorities.

And building on this work that Jill and I have done, just listening and spending time with these families, as well as the President's efforts to mobilize the federal government to support military families, last month Jill and I launched Joining Forces.

As Joshua and Tina mentioned, this is a comprehensive national initiative to mobilize all sectors of our society to support, engage -- and engage America's military families and veterans.

Joining Forces is especially focused on three areas: education, employment, and wellness. And I look forward to joining forces with houses of worship, with faith-based community organizations, and with faith leaders. We're going to need your help. We want you to join in on this. You are all the bedrock of our communities, and you know it. You welcome new families with open arms and give people the strength and the comfort they need. At times you deliver the programs and services people and families need to tackle their challenges and fulfill their potential.

And for those of you with experience supporting military families, I would ask that you share your expertise with others and help them take action, as well. So we need you to be the leaders and the role models.

And I'm thrilled to be joined today by seven faith and community leaders to share what their organizations and congregations are doing today to help military families.

But for those of you considering ways to begin supporting military families and veterans, it's important for you to understand that you don't necessarily have to be an expert in military family issues to make a difference. You can build on what you already do best, whether it's family counseling programs that you already have. Maybe you have a youth ministry or a career mentoring program that's already in existence. And you can work and ensure that you're helping families in your congregations and in your communities.

So as I always say, find out who is in your current community and pull them into the fold. And you can also use your respected voices in the community to raise public awareness about military families and their priorities, and encourage others to get involved as well.

So as we hear from the leaders on the call with us today, I know that each of them, and also Joshua, will speak to various ways to get more engaged through congregations or community organizations.

Number one, you can make a special effort to ensure that your existing ministries and services integrate and are accessible to military families and veterans. And the second thing you might consider doing is that you could expand a military family ministry or program that you've already launched in your church.

Another thing you could consider -- if you don't already have one, you could consider starting a new ministry or service for military families or veterans, or partner with an existing program in your community, because there are many, many programs and organizations that are doing this.

For some of you with smaller congregations, you could coordinate a once-a-year fair, an event or some kind of service activity that's focused on military families. We do this in our office all the time, support one-time initiatives that really do make an impact.

Finally, you can help raise awareness about the issues and challenges that military families and veterans face, as well as their service and strengths that some of their neighbors may not fully be aware of.

So you can be that voice in the community, because part of the reason why we pulled this call together is because you're the leaders that people come to. You're the leaders that people look to for guidance and direction. And hearing your commitment to military families and spreading that throughout your congregations and your organizations can really spark individuals and families to work and lend their support to this effort.

You all are trusted leaders in your communities. And you can make a real difference to our military families and the communities and the country they protect and serve.

So I am looking forward to really getting this initiative off the ground. I have come to the faith community on almost every initiative that I worked on, whether it's service; working with young people; mentoring; or getting people up and moving and active. The faith community has been a strong bedrock for me as First Lady. So I would be remiss if I didn't bring this issue to you as well and ask for your support, your leadership, and your guidance.

So, again, I look forward to working with all of you. Thank you for this wonderful turnout on this call. I'm going to turn it back over to Joshua, who will walk through the rest of the agenda with the other speakers. But I'm very excited. I think this is an issue that we can all put our arms around, regardless of our party affiliation, our religious affiliation. We are all Americans, and these families need and deserve our support.

So Jill and I will do everything we can to make this initiative successful, but we can't do it without you. So thanks again, and I look forward to hearing about the progress in the months and years ahead. Thanks so much.

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady During a Joining Forces Faith Leaders Call Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/320520

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