Full Text Political Transcripts December 2, 2015: First Lady Michelle Obama’s Remarks at Annual White House Holiday Decoration Press Preview

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by The First Lady at Annual Holiday Press Preview

Source: WH, 12-2-15

East Room

1:16 P.M. EST

MRS. OBAMA:  Hi, everyone.  What’s going on?  You guys doing okay?  Hi to you guys, the grownups here, too.  (Laughter.)  Well, welcome to the White House.  (Applause.)  It’s the holiday time!

Let me start by thanking Cilicia for that wonderful introduction, as well as all the volunteers who have traveled from across the country — and we’ve got people who have come from around the world — to help us decorate the White House for the holidays.

I also want to say a special thank-you all of the servicemembers, our veterans, our wounded warriors who are here today, as well as our amazing military spouses and our fabulous military kids.  Do we have any military kids in the house?  (Applause.)  It is an important part of our White House holiday tradition to kick off the season by celebrating with our extraordinary military families.  And we do this because of everything that you all do every day to make our country great.

This time of year it’s easy to get caught up in all the holiday whirlwind –- making the lists, and the errands, and the travel plans — that we sometimes forget what the holiday season is all about.  But sharing this special time with our military families reminds us that this season is about so much more.  It’s about giving more than we receive, right, guys?  (Laughter.)  It’s about serving others.  It’s about toys, too.  (Laughter.)  But it’s about finding ways to lift up our communities every day in every season.

And that’s what all of you all do for this country — whether you’re serving in uniform with multiple deployments under your belts, or serving without a uniform as a military spouse holding down a household while continuing your education or your career, or as a military kid adjusting to maybe your 7th or 8th new school.  You all represent the very best of us.  And then in the midst of all that you already have going on in your lives, you still find time to be leaders in your communities — volunteering with your congregations, or organizing the local food drive, or running the PTA meeting at night, coaching Little League on the weekends.

So many of you here today truly embody that commitment to service.  Just take Cilicia, for example, who, as you heard, is a proud military spouse living in Alexandria, Virginia.  Her husband is a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy, and like most military spouses, Cilicia has endured frequent moves.  In fact, she told us that their three-year-old son has already lived in three different states.

So it’s no wonder why Cilicia hardly has time to decorate her own house for the holidays, yet she still found time to be here with us to help decorate the White House.  And, as she put it — and these are her words — she said, “Diving right in to the holiday activities where we’re stationed helps make each new place feel like home.”

Or take Andrea Marks from Spotsylvania, Virginia.  Andrea, where are you?  Back there — hey, girl!  (Laughter.)  Andrea is a retired 30-year Army combat veteran.  And during her — yes.  (Applause.)  During her impressive career, she did five overseas tours.  She served as a Drill Sergeant, and was part of a command team that led a brigade in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

And today, Andrea continues to serve.  She spends time with wounded warriors through Fort — through the USO with Fort Belvoir.  She volunteers with the Special Olympics.  And you see with her holiday hat on, she was also here helping to decorate the White House.  (Laughter.)  Looking quite festive.

And that kind of commitment to giving back, that’s what the holidays are really all about.  And that’s why — (baby cries) — and, yes, it’s about milk in a bottle, too.  (Laughter.)  But that’s one of the reasons why Jill Biden and I started our Joining Forces initiative that Cilicia talked about.  Because we want to make sure that we’re serving all of you — all our men and women in uniform, our veterans and our military families -– as well as you serve us.  And as we ring in another holiday season, we’re going to make sure that the over 68,000 visitors who will pass through these rooms over the coming weeks know about and honor your service and sacrifice.

This year’s holiday theme is “A Timeless Tradition.”  And as usual, we’ll be continuing our proud White House tradition of honoring military families with special decorations.  The very first thing visitors will see in the East Landing is a tree that pays tribute to our armed forces.  This tree is adorned with Gold Star ornaments that honor some of America’s greatest heroes — the men and women who gave their lives for our country.  Next to that tree is an iPad station that allows guests to tweet and email holiday wishes to our servicemembers.

And then there’s our amazing White House Christmas tree in the Blue Room that I just saw — pretty amazing — which is also dedicated to our military families.  This year’s tree stands over 18 feet tall.  I know, it’s big, it’s big.  (Laughter.)  And it’s covered from trunk to tip with messages from military families to their servicemembers stationed around the country and around the world.  And after the holidays, we’re going to be sending each family member their message as a special keepsake.

And as — much like these military decorations, the rest of our decorations celebrate proud American traditions and our singular American spirit.  In the East Colonnade, you’re going to see hundreds of messages from students from local schools sharing their dreams for the future, and you can read about their hopes and aspirations on these beautifully handcrafted snowflakes hanging from the ceilings.

And then in the White House Library, we’re honoring great American authors and thinkers with a holiday forest of novels and manuscripts trimmed with pages of text and inspirational quotes.  And then, kids — we’re going to see this soon — you don’t want to miss the State Dining Room, which features dozens of vintage nutcrackers — little-bitty Army nutcracker men right over there — and there’s a six-foot-tall Teddy Bear.  I haven’t seen that yet.  I can’t wait to see that.  (Laughter.)  And, of course, in the State Room, there’s the official White House gingerbread house which weighs 500 pounds.  It’s a big house.  It’s the White House.  (Laughter.)

We also have more than 70,000 ornaments here in this house, 62 trees — a lot of trees — as well as 56 snowmen and snowwomen in the garden representing every state and territory in the country.  And then we’ve got a dog display — (baby cries) — she is like, get me out of here, mom.  (Laughter.)  Take her to see the gingerbread house.  She can have whatever she wants there.  (Laughter.)

But, you guys, have you seen the dog display with Bo and Sunny?

AUDIENCE:  Yes!

MRS. OBAMA:  I haven’t seen that yet, either.  Well, Bo and his sister — there’s a tree with treats — with doggy treats and tennis ball ornaments.  And I think I’ve heard Bo and Sunny are pretty excited about that one, so we’ll have to — I’ll have to ask them what they think about it.

So it’s a great kickoff.  It’s a beautiful home.  Everything looks wonderful.  The volunteers have done a phenomenal job.  And, kids, you guys will be the first to see it.  So you have to let me know what you think, whether it passes muster, okay?

So I want to once again thank all the terrific volunteers for creating this winter wonderland of American traditions.  I also want to thank the brilliant designers who are the genius behind these magical displays — Bryan Rafanelli — I see you there, Bryan — and his team.  We also have designers Carol Lim and Humberto Leon.  My dear friend Duro helped decorate some of the rooms this year.  And Carolina Herrera and her team also played a huge role this year.

So it’s time to have a little fun, but before we do that, I just want to say once again — I want to honor all of our military families here today and around the world.  Thank you, thank you for your outstanding service.  Thank you for your sacrifice.  Thank you to all the families for your sacrifice, for being so brave and good and kind.  It’s why you guys get to be here first.  And we wish you guys the happiest holiday.  And we wish everyone here in the country a happy holiday season.  Hopefully you guys get to come down and visit the White House.

But for now, we’ve got some business to take care of.  You guys want to follow me?  You guys ready?  We’re going to make some special surprises for your parents.  It may involve something you can eat.  We’re going to go see the big tree.  And maybe Bo and Sunny will come by for a visit, but we have to see.  They may be busy, but we’re going to see.  (Laughter.)

All right.  So anybody who is afraid of dogs, you tell me, okay?  But they’re pretty nice.  They’re bigger than they look on TV.  (Laughter.)  So you guys ready to go?  All right, we will take care of your children.  You guys sit here, relax.  Don’t break anything.  (Laughter.)

And happy holidays, everyone.  Thanks so much.  (Applause.)

END
1:27 P.M. EST

Political Headlines December 4, 2013: First Lady Michelle Obama Previews the 2013 White House Holiday Decorations

POLITICAL HEADLINES

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

First Lady Michelle Obama Previews the 2013 White House Holiday Decor

Source: WH, 12-4-13

First Lady Michelle Obama and children of military families participate in a craft project in the State Dining Room during the White House holiday press preview, Dec. 4, 2013. Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses helps children decorate Springerle cookie ornFirst Lady Michelle Obama and children of military families participate in a craft project in the State Dining Room during the White House holiday press preview, Dec. 4, 2013. Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses helps children decorate Springerle cookie ornaments. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

Today, First Lady Michelle Obama previewed the 2013 White House holiday décor to a crowd of military families who were the first of more than 70,000 anticipated visitors this holiday season. Mrs. Obama announced this year’s theme, Gather Around: Stories of the Season, a celebration of the stories and traditions that bring us together this special time of year. “Our goal is for every room and every tree to tell a story about who we are and how we gather around one another to mark the holidays,” she said. The custom of selecting an official holiday theme began in the 1960s when First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy created a nutcracker-themed Christmas for her daughter Caroline….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency December 4, 2013: First Lady Michelle Obama’s Remarks at 2013 Christmas Holiday Press Preview

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the First Lady at 2013 Holiday Press Preview

Source: WH, 12-4-13

Jacquelyn Martin/AP

First lady Michelle Obama spoke to military families in front of the White House Christmas tree on Wednesday.

East Room
1:32 P.M. EST
MRS. OBAMA:  Well, hello, everyone.  You guys look great — I’m talking about the front row.  (Laughter.)  You guys look okay, too.  Well, I am thrilled to welcome you all here to the White House.  Are you excited?
CHILDREN:  Yes!
MRS. OBAMA:  Why are you excited?  (Laughter.)  Because it’s Christmas?  Because you’re going to get presents soon?  Because there may be treats somewhere?  Yes, a few heads nodding.  Well, we’re excited to have you guys here with us today.
I want to start by thanking Diane and her amazing family for all that they’ve done for this country and for that eloquent introduction, and for being one of the many fabulous volunteers who helped make this White House so beautiful.  In fact, Diane told me that she got to work in this room, so we can personally thank her for this beautiful — these beautiful decorations.  Diane, we’re just so grateful to you.  And I want you all to know a little bit about Diane — that in addition to the long hours that she put in this week, on top of all of that, she has spent countless hours volunteering regularly in her community through her church, through the Red Cross.
So volunteering is no stranger — or Diane is no stranger to volunteering.  In fact, Diane isn’t alone in the contributions she’s making — in fact, I believe she embodies the spirit that we see in military families –- families like all of yours all across this country, particularly during the holiday season.  You all are serving our nation.  You all are volunteering in your communities every day.  And you’re also taking care of business at home with your own families.
And during this holiday season, as we gather with our loved ones, I’d ask every American to remember what our military families and servicemembers often experience during this time of year.  Let us all remember the sacrifices they make to proudly serve all of us.
For example, I’m thinking today about the thousands of men and women in uniform serving abroad who wake up in the middle of the night in some remote part of the world to read a special holiday story to their children over Skype, or to be there on the screen to experience that special moment of joy when their kids open those presents from Santa.
And then there are the military families who spend hours painstakingly filling holiday care packages for their loved ones in uniform –- sending them miniature Christmas trees, making holiday cookies, creating special homemade cards, doing their best to help them experience the magic of the holidays wherever they may be.
And let us remember that many military families are assigned to bases that are far from their extended families, so they aren’t always able to make it home to see grandma and grandpa.  And as a consequence, they have to find new ways to make the season bright.  So they reach out, and they band together with other families, and they create their own special military family celebrations and traditions.  And that’s what I’ve learned that military families do.
No matter what challenges you all face –- during the holidays or any other time during the year — you all just dig a little deeper.  I say this time and time again.  You just get creative and you find ways to make it work, and you do it with such strength and humor and grace.  And on top of all of that, somehow, like Diane, so many of you still manage to find time over the holidays and throughout the year to give back to your communities, once again digging deep and going above and beyond.
In fact, a recent survey shows that 81 percent of military family members reported volunteering in the past year, and that’s compared to just 27 percent of the general public.  So you guys really make us all look bad.  (Laughter.)  But in short, your sacrifice and your service to this country, your families’ stories are such an important part of our great American story — stories that remind us of the true meaning of the holiday season.
And that actually brings me to this year’s official White House holiday theme, which is “Gather Around: Stories of the Season.”  This holiday season, we’ll be focusing on the stories behind classic American holiday traditions — traditions celebrated here at the White House and across the country.  Our goal is for every room and every tree to tell a story about who we are and how we gather around one another to mark the holidays.
And that starts with all of you — literally.  In fact, when visitors arrive, the very first thing they’ll see is a tree decorated to pay tribute to our Armed Forces.  This tree, graced with special Gold Star ornaments, tells the story of some of our greatest heroes:  Those who gave their lives for our country.  And any Gold Star family who visits the White House can create their own ornament to honor their loved one.  In addition, everyone who visits this White House this year gets a chance to fill out an Operation Honor Card pledging to serve their community in honor of our military families, your servicemembers, your veterans, whoever you choose, just find a way to serve.
We also have an entire room — it’s right next door, it’s the Blue Room, one of my favorite rooms — dedicated to the idea of gathering around our military.  The tree in that room is decorated with holiday greeting cards drawn by military children from bases all across the country as a way to celebrate their parents’ service.  And they’re beautiful, they’re really sweet cards.
So that’s how we’ll be honoring our veterans and servicemembers and their families this holiday season.  And I would ask during this time that every American find a way to honor these great Americans, not just during the holidays, but every day.  And let us never forget the debt that we owe these men and women and their amazing families.
As for the rest of the house, because there is more, we have a number of special touches that build on our “Gather Around: Stories of the Season” theme.  In the East Garden Room, you’ll see Christmas trees made entirely of stacks of books.  You may have seen those coming in, they’re very cool.  In the Cross Hall, you’ll see trees reflecting the idea of gathering around our heritage.  They’ll be decorated with ornaments representing great American sites like the Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore, and there’s some silhouettes of people you might know today in history, so you guys will look and see if you recognize anyone.
And of course, we have our usual first dog display.  This year, Bo will be joined by his little sister Sunny, our new pup, and the two of them will be surrounded by books.  And I was surprised to see last night, this year they actually move.  They’re mechanical.  This is a new step.  We’re stepping up in the world of Bo-and-Sunny honoring.  And these are just a few of this year’s highlights.
Although people who visit the White House will see dozens of trees and wreaths, they’re going to see thousands of ornaments and they’re going to see a gingerbread house that weighs about 300 pounds — it’s pretty big — some of the best sights they’ll see are kids enjoying all of this just wonderful glory.  Some of the best times in this White House is just watching the faces of kids as they walk through this house and count the trees and look at the ornaments.
And none of this would be possible without the 83 volunteers like Diane who came from all across the country to help us decorate, once again, sacrificing, leaving their families — because they start decorating this house the day after Thanksgiving.  It would not be possible for us to do all of this without our volunteers.  They are a pleasure to work with, they are high-energy, they are positive.  And just look around.  I mean, every year they just outdo themselves.  So we are just so grateful for their hard work and enthusiasm.
Now, over the course of this season, about 70,000 people will come to see our holiday decorations — not bad.  And I can’t imagine a better group of people than all of you to be our very first guests.  Don’t you feel special?  No one has seen these, not even the President has seen these.  (Applause.)  He hasn’t seen them yet.  You guys are the first.
And truly, it is a treat to make you all the first every season, because you all do so much for us.  And we are so proud and so honored and so grateful.  And we just want to give you a chance to bring your families in to just get a little special something just to remind you just how special we all think you are.
So I want you all to enjoy every minute in this house.  I’m going to stop right now because we’ve got a little something we’re going to do with the kids.  All the kids, you guys think you’re ready to go have some fun?
CHILDREN:  Yes!
MRS. OBAMA:  I’m going to take your kids.  (Laughter.)  And don’t worry, nothing can be broken that can’t be repaired.  I guarantee you my kids have broken it if it can be broken.  And we’re going to go and do some decorating.  Our chefs and our bakers and our florists — they’re over there — they’ve got special little things that you can make, little gifts.  You guys ready for that?
CHILD:  Yes, ma’am!
MRS. OBAMA:  Yes, ma’am!  (Laughter.)  I love that.  So why don’t you guys get up.  You guys can come and go with me.  Parents, you guys hang out.  Get some cider, some cookies, look at the ornaments.  Breathe a little bit.  They’re in good hands.  I guarantee you we will not lose them — but I can’t guarantee you they will come back clean.  (Laughter.)  That’s the only thing I can’t guarantee, so if you want pictures of them clean, do it now.  (Laughter.)
And thank you.  Have a happy holiday, from my family to all of yours.  Enjoy this holiday season.  Be safe, be happy.  And gather round together, and remember what this is all about.
You all, take care.  Love you much.  (Applause.)
END
1:43 P.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency July 4, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech at White House Fourth of July Celebration

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS


OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Fourth of July Celebration

Source: WH, 7-4-13
The President Delivers Remarks at Independence Day Celebration

The President Delivers Remarks at Independence Day Celebration

South Lawn

5:58 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Welcome to the White House.  (Applause.)  And Happy Fourth of July!  (Applause.)

So we’ve tried to plan a proper Fourth of July celebration. We’re grilling some food.  We’ve got the fireworks coming.  We’ve got lots of music.  The band fun. is here with us today.  (Applause.)  And we’ve got multiple groups from our Marine Band
— we’ve got the Marine Concert Band.  We’ve got the Dixieland Band.  We’ve got the Marching Band.  And we’ve got Free Country, the country band.  (Applause.)

So we hope everybody has a great time.  We are incredibly grateful for your service, and we’re thankful that you get a chance to spend the Fourth here with us.  And by the way, it’s Malia’s birthday, so she is appreciative that you’re all going to be wishing her happy birthday as well.  (Applause.)

So I don’t want to keep you from the food, but let me just say this.  There are children all over the world right now asking their parents what’s so special about today.  And maybe some of those little ones are running around even here on the South Lawn, thinking, well, this is just an excuse for some hotdogs.  (Laughter.)  But it’s worth remembering what happened 237 years ago on this date and what it meant to the world.

On July 4, 1776, a small band of patriots declared that we were a people created equal, free to think and worship and live as we please; that our destiny would not be determined for us, it would be determined by us.  And it was bold and it was brave.  And it was unprecedented, it was unthinkable.  At that time in human history, it was kings and princes and emperors who made decisions.

But those patriots knew there was a better way of doing things, that freedom was possible, and that to achieve their freedom they’d be willing to lay down their lives, their fortunes and their honor.  And so they fought a revolution.  And few would have bet on their side, but for the first time in many times to come, America proved the doubters wrong.

And now, 237 years later, this improbable experiment in democracy, the United States of America, stands as the greatest nation on Earth.  (Applause.)  And what makes us great is not our size or our wealth, but our values and our ideals and the fact that we’re willing to fight for them.  A land of liberty and opportunity; a global defender of peace and freedom; a beacon of hope for people everywhere who cherish those ideals.

And we have also earned it — you have earned it — because as part of a long line of folks who are willing to fight for those ideals, we’ve been able to not only preserve and make more perfect this union, but also try to spread that light elsewhere. You, the fighting men and women of the United States, and those who came before you, you’ve played a special role.  You defended our nation at home and abroad.  You fought for our nation’s beliefs, to make the world a better and safer place.  People in scattered corners of the world live in peace today are free to write their own futures, because of you.

And we’ve got all of you here today.  We’ve got Army.  (Applause.)  We’ve got Navy.  (Applause.)  We’ve got Air Force.  (Applause.)  We’ve got Marines.  (Applause.)  We’ve got Coast Guard.  (Applause.)  And we’ve got National Guard.  (Applause.)  That’s all right, National Guard, we love you, too.  (Applause.)
And up here with me are incredibly capable and brave men and women from each service branch.  And we salute you, one and all. We salute our soldiers, like Specialist Heidi Olson, who, when she was wounded by an IED in Afghanistan, gave lifesaving treatment to another injured soldier, and then another.  She had to be ordered to stop and get treatment for herself when the MEDEVAC aircraft arrived.  And for her courage she was awarded a Bronze Star.  Give her a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

We salute our sailors, like Petty Officer Joe Marcinkowski, who serves wounded warriors at Walter Reed, coordinating their care and supporting their families throughout their recoveries.  (Applause.)  Thank you, Joe.

We salute our airmen, like Staff Sergeant Adam Ybarra, who helped save nine lives in 11 combat search and mission rescues in Afghanistan in 2012.  Give Adam a big round of applause.  (Applause.)
We salute our Marines, like Corporal Amber Fifer, who was shot five times in an attack in Helmand Province, and has stayed on to serve as a Marine Corps drill instructor.  (Applause.)

And we salute our Coasties, including Petty Officer Randy Haba, who was one of the first responders to rescue the crew of a ship off the coast of North Carolina when Hurricane Sandy struck and saved the lives of five mariners.  (Applause.)

So every day, men and women like them — and like all of you — are carrying forward the ideals that inspired that American Dream 237 years ago.  Defending our nation and our freedoms with strength and with sacrifice is your daily charge.  And it’s the charge of all of us — the charge of all who serve worldwide, including our troops that are still in harm’s way, and their families back home.  They serve, too.  And so we think of them, we pray for them.

And on behalf of all Americans, I want to say thank you and wish you all a very, very happy Fourth of July.  You’ve earned it.  So, God bless you.  God bless your families.  God bless the United States of America.

And with that, let me turn it back over to the Marine Band.  (Applause.)

END
6:05 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency July 4, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: Celebrating Independence Day

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: Celebrating Independence Day

Source: WH, 7-4-13

President Obama commemorates our nation’s Independence Day, and recognizes the generations of Americans— from farmers to teachers to entrepreneurs—who worked together to make the United States what it is today. The President also thanked the men and women of the military, who have given so much to defend the United States at home and abroad, and said that we are grateful for their service and sacrifice.

Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

Weekly Address: Celebrating Independence Day

Source: WH, 7-4-13

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
July 4, 2013

Hi everybody.  I hope you all had a safe and happy Fourth of July, filled with parades, cookouts, fireworks and family reunions.

We celebrated at the White House with a few hundred members of the military and their families. And we took a moment amid the festivities to remember what our Independence Day is all about – what happened 237 years ago, and what it meant to the world.

On July 4th, 1776, a small band of patriots declared that we were a people created equal – free to think and worship and live as we please.  It was a declaration heard around the world – that we were no longer colonists, we were Americans, and our destiny would not be determined for us; it would be determined by us.

It was a bold and tremendously brave thing to do.  It was also nearly unthinkable.  At that time, kings and princes and emperors ruled the world.  But those patriots were certain that a better way was possible.  And to achieve it – to win their freedom – they were willing to lay it all on the line.  Their lives.  Their fortunes.  Their sacred honor.

They fought a revolution.  Few would have bet on our side to win.  But for the first of many times to come, America proved the doubters wrong.

And now, 237 years later, the United States – this improbable nation – is the greatest in the world.  A land of liberty and opportunity.  A global defender of peace and freedom.  A beacon of hope to people everywhere who cherish those ideals.

Generations of Americans made our country what it is today – farmers and teachers, engineers and laborers, entrepreneurs and elected leaders – people from all walks of life, from all parts of the world, all pulling in the same direction.

And now we, the people, must make their task our own – to live up to the words of that Declaration of Independence, and secure liberty and opportunity for our own children, and for future generations.

I want to say a special word of thanks to the men and women of our military, who have played such a vital role in the story of our nation.  You have defended us at home and abroad.  And you have fought on our nation’s behalf to make the world a better, safer place.  People in scattered corners of the world are living in peace today, free to write their own futures, because of you.  We are grateful for your service and your sacrifice, especially those still serving in harm’s way and your families here at home.

So, God bless you all.  And may God bless the United States of America.

Full Text Obama Presidency April 19, 2012: First Lady Michelle Obama Celebrates One Year of Joining Forces Recap

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

First Lady Michelle Obama revealed that 60,000 servicemen and women and their spouses have been hired through Joining Forces employment initiatives

First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks at Kansas City Southern  Railroad duri

First Lady Michelle Obama at Kansas City Southern Railroad during a Joining Forces event, White House Photo, Lawrence Jackson

On Board with the First Lady: Michelle Obama Celebrates One Year of Joining Forces

Source: WH, 4-19-12

Go behind the scenes as First Lady Michelle Obama travels from Washington DC to Philadelphia, New York City, Shreveport and Jacksonville to honor our servicemen and women and their families. Join us on set at the Colbert Report, on stage with Ellen DeGeneres and on the ground with thousands of nurses and meet the 50,000 person to get a job through the Joining Forces hiring initiatives.

See more:

Michelle Obama’s Message to Military Families: You Do Live in a Grateful Nation

Source: WH, 4-11-12

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden today marked the one year anniversary of the launch of Joining Forces with an event on the South Lawn of the White House, and Mrs. Obama used the occasion to renew her call of action, and challenged all Americans to keep finding new ways to show their support for military families.

The First Lady told the crowd that over the past year, as she and Dr. Biden reached out on behalf of our military families, “not a single person that we’ve talked to, that we have approached, has told us that they could not help — not a single person.  We’ve asked; they said yes.

And the good thing is, is that once people get started, they just keep coming up with new ideas on their own.  We’ll present something, and they double it.  They want to do even more.  They just keep raising their goals even higher.  They just keep figuring out how to get more and more people involved.”

And her message for all military families, is that “you do live in a grateful nation.”

First Lady Michelle Obama at the Joining Forces Community  Challenge event on the South Lawn

First Lady Michelle Obama greets guests following the Joining Forces Community Challenge event on the South Lawn of the White House, April 11, 2012. The event was a celebration for military families and organization leaders who have played key roles in supporting our nation’s troops, veterans and military families over the past year. (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

Today’s event also honored the Joining Forces Community Challenge finalists, who Dr. Biden called “inspiring. These efforts aren’t always in the headlines, but they support our military families every single day in real and meaningful ways. That’s exactly what the First Lady and I set out to accomplish with Joining Forces.”

Later today, the First Lady and Dr. Biden will be in Philadelphia, where they will announce a commitment from more than 150 state and national nursing organizations and over 500 nursing schools to further educate our nation’s 3 million nurses so they are prepared to meet the unique health needs of service members, veterans, and their families.


Learn more:

Remarks by the First Lady and Dr. Biden at the Joining Forces Anniversary event

South Lawn

11:13 A.M. EDT

DR. BIDEN:  What a great day for a celebration.  Thank you, General Dempsey, for that kind introduction and for all that you have done to support the Joining Forces initiative over the past year.  I also want to thank Deanie Dempsey, who’s been a wonderful partner and a wonderful friend.  Thank you for your leadership.  (Applause.)

To the Joining Forces Community Challenge finalists who are here, it was great to see you all yesterday, and we’re delighted to have you here at the White House this morning.

One of the best parts of my role as Second Lady is spending time with military veterans and families.  And I’ve traveled across the — as I’ve traveled across the country and the world, I’m always inspired by the strength and the resilience of our military families.

While the troops serving our nation may be only 1 percent of the population, we want to make sure that 100 percent of Americans are supporting them.  Our military families have done so much for our country and each of us can do something in return.  That’s why the First Lady and I created Joining Forces to encourage all Americans to support and honor our military families.

Since we launched Joining Forces a year ago, we have been so inspired by the many ways Americans all across the country are honoring, celebrating and supporting our military families.  Our partners in this effort are businesses, schools, churches, communities and individuals.  The Joining Forces Community Challenge finalists here today are shining examples of what we’ve seen.

Organizations like HeartsApart.org — photographers volunteer their time to take photos of soon-to-be deployed servicemembers and their families.  And so that they can carry their loved ones when they are serving us, these beautiful photographs are printed on waterproof, durable cards that fit perfectly in the pocket of a battle dress uniform.

Programs like GreenCare for Troops, which connects local green industry professionals with military families to provide free lawn and landscaping services while their loved ones are serving our country.

Or the city of Richfield, Utah, an entire community that has supported its local Army National Guard through four deployments since September 11, 2001.  They’ve organized a community-sponsored holiday party for the families of deployed troops.  The local newspaper delivers the hometown paper to deployed soldiers so that they can stay in touch with home.  And the community library ordered children’s books about deployment so that children will understand what their parents are doing while they are away.

These are just a few examples of what is happening all across our country.  If I had to sum up what we have seen since launching Joining Forces in one word, it would be “inspiring.”  These efforts aren’t always in the headlines, but they support our military families every single day in real and meaningful ways.  That’s exactly what the First Lady and I set out to accomplish with Joining Forces.

So please, let’s give a round of applause for all the Challenge winners who are here with us today.  (Applause.)

I am also proud to announce that after the wonderful response this first year, we will start another challenge later this year.  We look forward to seeing more of the creative ways that Americans are giving back to our proud and brave military families.

And now it is my great pleasure to introduce an amazing, young woman.  I met Moranda Hern two years ago when she came to my office to tell me what it was like for her when her dad was deployed to Afghanistan.  She was going through all the challenges of being a teenager with the added burden of worrying every day about her father’s safety.

Moranda’s dad is in the California National Guard, so she didn’t have the support of a military community and she felt disconnected from her peers.  When Moranda met another military teen, she realized she wasn’t alone.  The girls created a support network called The Sisterhood of the Traveling BDUs* — to make sure other military girls had a way to share their experiences with one another.  Today the Sisterhood connects military girls through an online community and is expanding nationwide.

Moranda is here today as a military daughter and the founder of an initiative that has made a real difference in the lives of military children.  Now, as you can see, she wears a uniform herself.  She is pursuing her dream of becoming a pilot as a sophomore at the United States Air Force Academy.

I’m so proud to introduce Moranda Hern.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

* * * * *

MRS. OBAMA:  Thank you, everyone.  Please be seated.  Welcome.  Welcome to the White House.  And happy anniversary.

I want to begin by thanking Moranda for that lovely introduction.  But she is the reason why we do this.  I mean, enough said.  There are thousands of amazing kids like her all over this country that need to have this light shined on them.  So we are so proud of you, so very proud of you — and the others like you.  So keep it up.

I also want to recognize Tom Brokaw, who has been such an advocate for our men and women in uniform.  He has been amazing. And we are privileged to have him with us today and have his voice out there so passionately on behalf of families and troops.

Of course, I want to thank General Dempsey and Deanie.  They have just been amazing partners.  I think I spend more time with you all than I do my husband — (laughter) — which isn’t bad, isn’t bad, not too bad.  But they have just been tremendous.  And I can’t thank you both enough for what you have done for this country, what you are doing and I know you will continue to do for the rest of your lives.  So we wouldn’t be here without you.

And of course, I want to thank my partner in crime, Dr. Jill Biden.  She is, as you know, a proud military mom, very passionate.  She is really just a tremendous friend, just a true inspiration for me.  This would not be as much fun if I didn’t have her by my side.  And she has done just an amazing job, and we need to give her another round of applause.  (Applause.)

And of course, I want to join Jill in congratulating the winners of the Joining Forces Community Challenge.  We are so happy that all of you have been able to come and travel here to D.C.  And you’ve been spending a little time in the city.  I understand that there was a wonderful reception and roundtable yesterday that I missed, but I hear was just wonderful.  And you’ve been able to get some tours around town.  I hope everybody has been nice.  And there’s going to be a luncheon for you all today.  So, hopefully, the food will be good.

But we are just thrilled to have you in our nation’s backyard to congratulate and honor all that you’re doing.  So thank you again.

I also want to recognize Congressman Al Green who is here. San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro is here as well.  Thank you both for being here.  And, finally, I want to thank each and every one of you for taking the time to be here this morning.

We have many people in the audience.  We have our troops and military families here, but we also have government and military leaders, business and nonprofit leaders, leaders from our faith communities, our schools, our hospitals, our veterans’ service organizations and so many others.  And I am thrilled that all of you could be here today as we celebrate the one-year anniversary of Joining Forces.

Now, I have to tell you that when Jill and I first started talking about launching this initiative to honor and support our veterans and military families, we knew that we were going to get a pretty good amount of support, because after all, every American is proud of our men and women in uniform.  So we knew that the emotion was there; we knew that the feelings were there.  So we knew we were going to get some support, because we all want to show our gratitude for their service.

But the outpouring of support that we have seen over this last year — I mean, the hours logged, the services donated, the love and devotion and offers to help that have poured in from every corner of the country — all of that has far surpassed even our wildest expectations.  And that’s a good thing.

And I tell military families all around, that’s really what we want you to know, is that you do live in a grateful nation, and when people are asked on your behalf they are stepping up and they are doing it gladly.  Over the past year, more than 1,600 businesses have hired more than 50,000 veterans and spouses, and they pledged to hire at least 160,000 more in the coming years.  And I know they’re going to do even more than that — that’s just the pledges that we’ve gotten.

Technology and employment companies like Google, Monster and LinkedIn, they have stepped up to help connect veterans with good jobs.  We’ve had state leaders that are passing legislation to make it easier for military spouses to renew their professional licenses and get back to work as their families move from state to state.  And we hope that we’re going to see that kind of initiative throughout the country.

Medical schools are training our next generation of health care providers so that they can better care for our military families.  The Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, Treasury, Labor, they have all made groundbreaking announcements to support our nation’s veterans, our wounded warriors, our caregivers and our military spouses.

Associations of doctors, nurses, physician’s assistants and social workers, they’re working to improve the treatment that they provide for Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injuries.

School professionals are reaching out to our military kids in ways that are so important.  High schools have — with high numbers of military students — are adding more Advanced Placement courses so that these kids have the opportunities they deserve to compete for college.

If you watch TV, you’ve seen all of the activity on the airwaves.  TV shows like “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”, “Sesame Street” — our favorites — (laughter) — and organizations like NASCAR, AOL, Disney, they’re all sharing stories of military families and using those stories not just to shine a light, but to encourage others to serve.

You’ve got wonderful people like Tom Hanks, Oprah, Steven Spielberg — they starred in a series of very powerful PSAs.  And then, of course, the episode that has made me a fan favorite in every household — I am now more popular than the President  — because I was on “iCarly.”  (Laughter.)  There are kids who probably didn’t know I was First Lady, but they know I was on “iCarly.”  (Laughter.)  And that episode — they focused the entire episode on the experience of military children.  It was wonderful.  It really got the message out to young people in a way that we could never do on our own.

So over the past year, not a single person that we’ve talked to, that we have approached, has told us that they could not help — not a single person.  We’ve asked; they said yes.
And the good thing is, is that once people get started, they just keep coming up with new ideas on their own.  We’ll present something, and they double it.  They want to do even more.  They just keep raising their goals even higher.  They just keep figuring out how to get more and more people involved.

A wonderful example is Operation Honor Cards.  It’s a wonderful initiative that asks Americans to honor our military families by pledging service of their own.  And when we first sat down with this organization last year, they set a goal of getting 3 million hours of pledge service from people all across the country.  But then what happened was that by June, they had already doubled that number; and then by November, they hit 10 million hours — just by November.  And today, we can announce that we’re at 21 million hours pledged — 21 million hours pledged — with already 30 million total hours served.  (Applause.)

Now, that’s really the story of Joining Forces.  That’s what we are celebrating today.  That’s truly what is going on through Joining Forces.  It is the story of a wave of support that spreads across this country, and it’s reaching more communities every single day.

But the real impact of Joining Forces over this past year truly cannot be measured just by a list of accomplishments.  It can’t be explained with numbers or hours or dollar amounts.  The true measure of our success lies in the lives that we’ve helped to change — all of us, everyone here — those lives, all those moms and dads out there, all of those sons and daughters, like Moranda, all the grandparents who have felt the love and the support of a grateful nation.

They are heroes like my good buddy, Johnny Agbi — Sergeant Agbi.  He’s quite a character; got to spend some time with him.  He was wounded in Afghanistan, and he’s here with us today.  And thanks to Sears and Rebuild Together, who worked together to refit his house for his wheelchair — and Jill and I got to write on his wall — I hope our signatures are still there.  Are they there?  (Laughter.)  All right, that’s good.  We got to write on his wall.  But thanks to their efforts, Sergeant Agbi can now more easily get in his front door — something as simple as that.  He can now move around his home more freely.  And hopefully, everything feels just a little bit more like home again.

They are spouses like Ann Wells, who Jill and I got to meet.  She’s a nurse who, because of the licensing portability efforts in the states may not have to deal with so much bureaucracy the next time her family moves and she needs to recertify before she can get a job.

They are veterans like Joshua Rassi, from Beaverton, Oregon.  Now, in 2007, Sergeant Rassi joined the Army and was trained as a geospatial analyst — you guys probably know what that is, right?  You Joint Chief types, right?  He was deployed to Iraq, where he was in charge of securing convoys, checking roads for IEDs.  He managed many, many soldiers, communicating detailed information throughout his unit.  But when he left active duty in May of 2010, he couldn’t find consistent work.  He couldn’t find consistent work back home.  For more than a year he was out of consistent work.  This highly trained soldier applied everywhere, but his searches ended in frustration.

Then last September, he went to one of the Chamber of Commerce’s hiring fairs in Portland.  And the Red Cross liked what they saw at this fair.  And within a week, Sergeant Rassi had started a new job with the Red Cross as a lab technician.  And he has been working for six months.  And he is thankful not just for the income, not just because his skills are no longer idle, but because it gives him an opportunity to keep giving back to the country that he loves.

And, as he said — and these are his words — he said, “Part of the reason I joined the military was getting to serve, and at the Red Cross I’m doing the same thing.  My big thing in life is making a difference.”  And that’s how deeply ingrained service is to our men and women in uniform.  That is the greatness that we all feel when we travel the country.  That’s why you guys hook us in.  It is that ethic of service.  It’s that commitment to this country that we want to honor through Joining Forces.

I always say if all of our young people could just get a little dose of what you all have, then they would be just fine.  Just fine.  This effort is about making an impact.  It is about repaying our debt to our veterans and military families.  It’s about giving these heroes the opportunities they deserve.

But I want to be clear that we are not here to pat ourselves on the back.  We’re not here just to throw a nice party or to list our accomplishments.  We’re here to really, truly make a difference for these families who have put everything on the line for all of us.  So while today is certainly a time for celebration, it’s also a time to renew our call of action.  That’s why we’d like to mark the sand with an anniversary, because it’s time to say this is what we’ve done, but there is so much more to do.  It’s time for us to redouble our efforts.

So today, I want to challenge all of you here, and I want to challenge Americans all across the country, to keep raising the bar, just keep raising the bar.  Keep bringing more people into the fold — the fold of Joining Forces, the fold of whatever it is you are doing, keep bringing people in.  Keep coming up with new ideas.

And one message to all of the military families here today and watching around the country:  I want you to know that these are not just words.  We are not giving out empty promises — not on my watch, not on Jill’s watch.  We’re going to keep working until all of our veterans know that when they hit the job market, their skills be rewarded.  We’re not stopping until every military student gets an educational experience that honors their service.  We’re not calling it a day until all of our military spouses can rest assured that the next time their family is transferred, they won’t have to leave their job behind.

And we’re going to keep working.  We’re going to keep persuading.  We’re going to keep driving forward until all of our nation’s military families feel in real and concrete ways the love and support and gratitude that we all hold in our hearts.  That is our simple promise to you.  And it is one of the best things that we all do with our time.

And as Tom said, this is a forever proposition.  This is not a blue state or red state proposition.  This is something that we want to make a part of the culture of the United States of America, that every citizen feels this level of gratitude and finds some way to give something back.  And if we can do our part by shining a light on this effort, then we will continue to do that.

So I want to thank you all for everything that you have done, for leading the way in your communities across this country.  Keep it going.  We are so proud of all of you.  We are grateful.  So God bless you all.  And God bless the United States of America.  Enjoy the rest of your time here in Washington.  (Applause.)

END
11:39 A.M. EDT

60,000 Veterans and Military Spouses Have Been Hired Through Joining Forces Employment Initiatives

Source: WH, 4-13-12

First Lady Michelle Obama greets people in the crowd at Kansas  City Southern Railroad

First Lady Michelle Obama greets people in the crowd at Kansas City Southern Railroad after delivering remarks during a Joining Forces Event in Shreveport, La., April 12, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

It was a great day in Shreveport, Louisiana, yesterday. First Lady Michelle Obama joined the leadership of the Kansas City Southern (KCS) Railway Company in announcing Michael Abitago, Junior as the 50,000veteran or military spouse to have been hired by a company through the Joining Forces employment efforts this past year! Abitago literally left active duty in the Army last Saturday after 4 years of service (including 2 tours in Iraq) and starts work on Monday as a Conductor-trainee. He was hired by KCS in mid-March at a Joining Forces hiring event in Ft Hood, Texas.

And there’s even more great news. A couple of months ago when we first wanted to highlight this event, we had planned on announcing our 50,000hire. But as we approached our visit to Shreveport we had already hit that mark. By April another 8,000 veterans and military spouses were hired. And yesterday, Mrs. Obama revealed the news that the surge in hiring pushed the number of veterans and military spouses hired through Joining Forces to 60,000!

Through Joining Forces, American businesses have not only hired more than 60,000 veterans and military spouses to date,  they have also pledged to hire at least 160,000 more in the years ahead.

More than 1,600 companies have been involved in this effort, including Microsoft, Comcast, Honeywell, Safeway and Sears. JPMorgan Chase and the 40 companies of the “100,000 jobs mission” hired more than 6,000 veterans  — alone – in the January-March 2012 timeframe.

The private sector is stepping up in a real way to support veterans and military spouses. For a full list of companies and their commitments please click HERE.


Learn more:

Brad Cooper is the Executive Director of Joining Forces
Related Topics: Economy, Veterans, Women

Remarks by the First Lady at a Joining Forces Employment Event – Shreveport, LA

Kansas City Southern Railways
Shreveport, Louisiana

1:27 P.M. CDT

MRS. OBAMA:  Well, hello, everyone.  (Applause.)  I want to thank Michael for that very kind introduction and for his service.  We are very proud of him.  We know he’s going to do well.  And we’re just thrilled to be here — thrilled to be here with all of you.

I also want to thank Dave for his work and his introduction, for hosting us here today, and everyone else here at Kansas City Southern for hosting us as well.  It is really exciting to be here as part of our first anniversary of Joining Forces.

I also have to recognize Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover, who is here.  (Applause.)  Thank you for being here and thank you for your leadership and for joining us today.

Yesterday, we kicked off our tour to celebrate the first anniversary of Joining Forces, which is our nationwide campaign to honor and serve America’s veterans and military families.  And I’m here today in Shreveport to make another big announcement about our effort to hire veterans and military spouses across the country.

And I have a little secret — because the truth is, is that when we started to plan this event a couple of months ago, we had planned on announcing the 50,000th hire.  That’s what this was going to be.  But by mid-March — because we were going to hit that goal by the end of — the middle of the year — but by the end of March we had already hit that mark.  (Applause.)  And then a week later, we added 5,000 more.  And by April, another 3,000.  (Applause.)

So today, I couldn’t be more excited to announce that America’s businesses have hired 60,000 veterans and military spouses in the past year.  (Applause.)  And that’s really the story that we want to celebrate here today.  That’s the story of Joining Forces.  Whenever we have asked Americans to step up, no matter who we were talking to, they have gone above and beyond our expectations — just above and beyond.  And I want these veterans to understand that.  America is stepping up in big ways.

When we looked to America’s health care providers, 135 medical schools, more than 500 nursing schools, more than 3 million health care providers stepped up to improve care for veterans and military families.  (Applause.)

When we asked Americans of all kind to find ways to honor our military families, they answered by serving more than 13 million volunteer hours right in their own communities.  (Applause.)  That’s individual.  That’s all volunteer work.

And of course, when it comes to businesses, when we approached the private sector, when we asked them to follow through on my husband’s challenge to hire or train 100,000 veterans and military spouses by the end of 2013, America’s businesses have overwhelmed us with their response.  So just listen to some of what they’ve done, just some examples:

The Chamber of Commerce held more than 130 hiring fairs for veterans and military spouses all across the country.  The Military Spouse Employment Partnership committed to 20,000 hires.  The American Logistics Association pledged 25,000 hires.  And the International Franchising Association committed to 80,000 more hires.

And just last week, a group of 11 companies said that they would devote 15,000 portable, flexible jobs to military spouses and veterans.  More than 1,600 companies — from Sears and Siemens, to NBC and Disney, to Honeywell and Snap-On Tools — they’ve all joined this effort.  Everyone is stepping up.  And in total, they’ve committed to hiring at least 160,000 veterans and military spouses in the coming years.  And that’s above and beyond the 60,000 that we’re talking about here today.  That’s on top of it.  (Applause.)

So I think it is fair to say that over this past year, this has just been one year’s worth of work.  Over this past year, America’s businesses have truly answered the call to give back to the men and women who have given so much to this country.  And all of these companies are joining this effort, as Dave said, not just because it’s the right thing to do, not just because it’s a patriotic way to show our support, but because it’s good business as well.  That’s important.  This is good business.  (Applause.)

Right here at Kansas City Southern you all are seeing that.  That’s why more than 10 percent of your American workforce has worn our country’s uniform.  That’s why you hired 45 veterans last year alone.  You have made hiring veterans a priority because you know that these folks are some of the most highly-skilled, hardest-working employees in this country.  They have experience that simply cannot be created — or recreated in a classroom.

Today’s modern battlefield means that our 9/11 generation of veterans has served not only as soldiers or airmen or sailors, but as diplomats — they’ve served as social workers, as mediators, as educators.  They’re directing dozens of their peers — so they’ve got the management experience.  They’re executing highly complex, life-or-death missions, and they’re operating some of the most advanced technology on the planet.

Meanwhile, their spouses are getting more done in a day than most of us get done in a week.  They are juggling everything — family schedules, keeping the finances in order, coordinating community drives — because they’re also volunteering outside of their own homes, all while earning degrees or trying to build their own careers.  They are doing it all.

So make no mistake about it, our veterans and military spouses are some of the most able –- and employable -– people in the marketplace today.

But for so long, so many of these heroes have had difficulties finding jobs.  Last year, the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans was over 12 percent — and that was significantly higher than the general population.  And over the last few years, our nation’s military spouses have struggled to find employment as well, with an unemployment rate that nearly doubles that of civilian spouses.

But we have reason for optimism — because the unemployment rate of post-9/11 veterans has been trending downward for the past 27 months.  (Applause.)  Absolutely.  So while we know that we haven’t solved this problem and we know that there is still a lot more work to be done, we are cautiously optimistic that we’re beginning to turn a corner on this employment issue and so many other issues that impact our veterans and military families.

And let’s remember that these are not simply numbers or plot points on a graph that we’re talking about.  These are not just statistics that we’re dealing with.  These are real lives that we’re talking about — real people with real struggles.  These are families who won’t have to worry about where the next mortgage payment is going to come from.  These are military spouses who can once again add a second income to the family’s finances.  Correct?  We are talking about veterans who can provide for their families and put their skills to use, and who can trust that this country has got their backs.  That’s what this is about.  (Applause.)

And that is really what Joining Forces is about.  That’s why we’ve done this.  It is not about words.  And I said that from the very beginning:  This is not about words or about false pats on the back, this is really about action.  That is one thing I didn’t want to do when we started this initiative, is to have some family member look me in the eye and not feel the work that we were doing.  This isn’t about what’s going on in Washington.  This is about what’s happening on the ground.  (Applause.)  It’s about making a real, meaningful difference for these men and women and families who have given our country so much.  And they’ve done it without complaint.  They’ve done it without hesitation.

So to all of you here at Kansas City Southern and to everyone across the country who has hired our veterans and military spouses, I want to thank you for giving our heroes the opportunities they deserve.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)

And this anniversary is about continuing to raise the bar.  We can celebrate a little bit today, but there is more work to do.  So to any company out there that needs dedicated, productive, and highly skilled professionals on their team, I urge you to hire a veteran or a military spouse.  I urge you to do that.  I am confident that they will serve you as well as they’ve served this country.

And also, to all of the veterans and to the military members here — and I know that includes the 30 veterans who were recently hired at KCS –- I again want to thank you for everything that you have done and continue to do for this country.  You all inspire me.  And one of this things that most people cannot do is that they don’t get a chance to visit a military base.  They don’t get to see up close and personal what you all go through over the course of a day, a year, a career.  They don’t see what happens when you come back.  The challenges that you face for the service that you’ve provided.

I feel blessed to have had that honor.  I am not from a military background — Jill Biden is, and she’s been a terrific partner in this effort.  But we committed to be a voice for all of you in this position.  We’ve committed to be a part of telling your story so that other Americans who don’t have that connection, who don’t have someone in the military can really understand the incredible lives you’ve lived and the debt that we owe you as a country for the sacrifice that you have so selflessly made.  We are grateful.

And it is important for you to know that you live in a grateful nation.  Everyone we have asked has wanted to step up.  I think the only reason the connection hasn’t been made is that people don’t always know how to serve, because you all are so doggone competent — (laughter) — that you don’t ask for help, and you’re used to handling it all, keeping it all in, so people don’t always know how best to reach out, how best to provide that support.

But it is not just businesses that are doing this.  This is church groups that are stepping out.  These are teachers and classrooms, and again, nursing students and doctors and social workers.  Joining Forces provides them a platform for help.  We are not doing it; they’re doing it.  And they’re doing it not because of us but because of you and your stories.  And I want you to know that, because sometimes it takes a little time for that support to trickle down.  And we are working — that’s why there is so much more work to do.  We cannot stop until the unemployment rate among our veterans and military families is at zero.  That’s a high goal.  (Applause.)  But that’s how much we need to do.

So I want to thank you all for what you’ve done for this country.  This is a forever proposition.  The goal is that Joining Forces, the concept of it — whether it’s in name or in spirit — is something that becomes a part of our culture as America forever.

So thank you, all.  Good luck to you.  Good luck to your families.  And God bless you all.  Thanks so much.  (Applause.)

END
1:40 P.M. CDT

Remarks by the First Lady Honoring Young Women from Military Families

Jacksonville Naval Air Station
Jacksonville, Florida

6:08 P.M. EDT

MRS. OBAMA: Oh! (Applause.) How are you guys doing? (Applause.) You guys sit down. Rest yourselves. Are you having fun? (Applause.) There is more fun to come. I am thrilled — thrilled — to be here.

I want to start by thanking Maddie for her poise and for introducing me not once, but twice. (Applause.) Well done, Maddie. She is amazing. She’s terrific. Very proud of her, so let’s give her another round of applause. (Applause.)

A few other people that I want to thank. I want to thank Representative Corrine Brown, who’s here, and Mayor Alvin Brown, who are here to — joining us today. Thank you both for your leadership and being here with us.

I also want to take a moment to recognize all of the extraordinary men and women in uniform who are here today. You’re amazing — and your amazing spouses. Yay for the spouses. Thank you for the service that you’ve given. Thank you for the sacrifices that you’ve made. You all are the very best this country has to offer, and I am thrilled that you could join us here today.

And finally, I want to thank our guests of honor, these amazing, beautiful, well-dressed, well-put-together young women we are celebrating here today. (Applause.) And on behalf of myself and my husband, I want to tell you all truly how proud we are of you. We are so proud of you. We are inspired by you, and we are grateful for everything that you do for this country every single day. That’s why we wanted to have you here.

You see, when we talk about how our men and women in uniform sacrifice so much and serve this country so bravely, we’re not just talking about your parents. We are not. We are talking about all of you. We’re talking about our military kids and our military families, because we know that when your parents are called to serve, you all serve right alongside them.

When your parents get that call to pick up and move halfway across the country, you pick up and move right alongside them. And then, just when you finally get settled in, just when you’re feeling comfortable and make friends and start fitting in, what happens? That call comes again, right? And you have to start all over again and make new friends, and settle in, yet again.

And I know that couldn’t be easy. That can’t possibly be easy for you. And I know it’s even harder when your parents are deployed, and you have to keep your spirits up through all those missed holidays, and missed birthdays, and times when you would give anything in the world to have them back home.

And I know that some of you here will be — for you, there will be an empty seat at graduation — I know this. And for some of you, when it comes time for the prom, mom might not be there to help you pick out your dress. Dad might not be there to see you out on your date. And I know that that can’t possibly be easy either.

But here’s something else that I know: Through it all –- through all the moves that you’ve had to make, through all those difficult moments, you all have stayed strong. I have seen it. I’ve seen it in so many kids like you across this country. You all have risen to the challenge.

You’ve become leaders in your schools. You’re excelling in your classes. You’re getting involved in all kinds of activities. You’ve become leaders in your communities, finding all kinds of ways to volunteer and give back. And many of you have stepped up at home as well, juggling activities and homework with chores and housework.

Many of you have had to put on a brave face for maybe a younger brother or sister, even when you were worried. You’ve had to reassure your parents that you were okay, even when sometimes you weren’t.

And you’ve done all of this because ultimately, you understand that your parents are part of something far bigger than themselves. You know that they protect and defend the freedoms that every single one of us holds dear. You know that their service keeps this country safe every single day. And you all are a vital part of that work. You truly are.

By working so hard at school and at home, and doing your part, you give your parents the peace of mind they need to focus on their mission. With your service, you make their service possible. And for that, we can’t thank you enough. We cannot thank you enough.

Now, I know that many of you have never known anything else, right? This is your life. So for you, this is no big deal, maybe. Maybe you think it’s nothing special, because this is just how you’ve grown up.

But I am here today — we are all here today, and we’re doing all of this today — because you should know that this is a big deal. You are special. You all have lived lives that make you incredibly special young individuals.

As military kids, you have learned lessons and had experiences that many people don’t have in their entire lifetimes. You’ve immersed yourselves in all kinds of communities and cultures. You’ve made friends with people from all different backgrounds. And you’ve gained the wisdom and the perspective to appreciate what really matters in life.

You see, unlike a lot of young people, you all don’t take your families for granted, right? A lot of times, you have to work to stay connected to your families — maybe through Skype. It’s a lot of hard work making the most of those precious weeks of leave, saying the things that we don’t nearly say enough to the people we love –- things like “I’m so proud of you,” “I don’t know what I’d do without you,” “I love you more than you will ever know.”

And that’s something that always strikes me about our military families –- how dealing with the challenges of military life actually strengthens your family bonds, rather than weakening them; how spending time apart oftentimes actually brings you closer together. And all of that is part of who you are. And you should know that.

And as you get older, you will see that growing up in a military family has prepared you for life in a way that nothing else can. Because that’s really what life is about –- it’s about weathering all sorts of changes and transitions, and bumps and bruises. But it’s also about savoring the good times, right? Treasuring the people that we love and appreciating the many blessings that come with living in this great country of ours. That’s what all of you do every day.

Like your parents, you all are the very best this country has to offer. You’re role models not just for kids, but for adults and for all Americans who want to see what patriotism, sacrifice and service really looks like. That’s why we’re here.

So I want to thank you all for everything that you do. I want to once again thank your parents for their service to our country.

And now — here’s where the fun begins — I would like to announce that we have a special surprise guest who is about to join us. She is someone that I am proud to call a friend. She’s a tremendous supporter and admirer of veterans and military families. And she’s so amazed by your service that she’s going to put you all on national TV right now.

So are you ready?

AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA: So joining us live from the set of her TV show, I’m proud to introduce the one and only Ellen DeGeneres. (Applause.)

MS. DEGENERES: Hi, everybody!

MRS. OBAMA: They’re screaming.

MS. DEGENERES: Hello, Mrs. Obama!

MRS. OBAMA: Hey, Ellen.

MS. DEGENERES: We’re screaming here too! (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA: What’s going on?

MS. DEGENERES: I hope I’m not interrupting anything.

MRS. OBAMA: No, we’re good. We’re just — good to have you here.

MS. DEGENERES: Good to be there. Congratulations on Joining Forces’ one-year anniversary. Tell everybody what it’s about, please.

MRS. OBAMA: Well, Joining Forces is our national initiative to make sure that all Americans honor our troops, veterans and families. This is the one-year anniversary. We’ve made some amazing strides, and we’re here with some great military kids to give them a special thank you.

MS. DEGENERES: And that’s why I’m there, too, to give them a special thank you. You’ve accomplished so much already. What do you hope to accomplish this year?

MRS. OBAMA: Well, we want to do more. We want to make sure that every American does something. We’re saying — our motto is everyone can do something. It can be something as big as having you on your show, but it can also be helping mow the lawn; it can be doing what you do best, but doing it on behalf of a military family — finding those families within your communities and reaching out to find out what they need.

So we want more of that to go on across this country.

MS. DEGENERES: So that is what you’d say if you — if somebody says how can I help, it’s all the little things. Just call up and say, what can I offer, what’s my specialty?

MRS. OBAMA: Yes. And people can go to our website, joiningforces.gov. And we’ve got thousands of wonderful ideas, suggestions, things that are going on in communities all across this country. That’s a good place to start.

MS. DEGENERES: Great. Great. Now, Mrs. Obama, before we go any further, I think it’s time we talk about the push-up situation. (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: You’re still bothered by that, huh?

MS. DEGENERES: Oh! (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: Still feeling the wounds of defeat. (Laughter.)

MS. DEGENERES: Let’s just make sure that everyone sees what we’re talking about here. You were here in February, we had a competition to see who could do the most push-ups. I did 20, and you did 25. (Laughter.) Now, let’s just watch the video for a second and then we’ll comment.

Anything you’d like to say?

MRS. OBAMA: I could have done 35. I stopped because I felt bad for you. (Laughter and applause.)

MS. DEGENERES: I bet you could have. I actually bet you could have.

All right, we have to take a break. And we’ll be back with the First Lady, Michelle Obama, and we have a surprise for a few lucky people there. We’ll be right back. I’m going to do some push-ups. (Applause.)

MS. DEGENERES: Oh! I’m exhausted. I just did 53 push-ups. (Laughter and applause.)

We’re back with the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama. She’s in Jacksonville, Florida right now with military families. (Applause.) Mrs. Obama?

MRS. OBAMA: Yes! (Applause.)

MS. DEGENERES: Mrs. Obama, tell me who you’re sitting with right now.

MRS. OBAMA: Oh man, we’ve got some great, beautiful young ladies. They’re just gorgeous. You want me to pass the mic? You want to hear from them? You want to hear who’s here?

MS. DEGENERES: Sure, let me meet them.

MRS. OBAMA: All right, we’ve got —

Q Hi, I’m Rachel.

MS. DEGENERES: Hi, Rachel. You excited to be there today?

Q Oh, I’m extremely excited to be here. I’m so honored. I’m here with all my classmates and my family members as well.

MS. DEGENERES: Well, it’s so nice to meet you Rachel. Who are you sitting next to?

Q I’m sitting next to —

Q Hey! My name’s Kianna. (Laughter.)

MS. DEGENERES: Hey, Kianna! (Applause.) Hey Kianna, I love your energy. And your mom is serving overseas right now, right?

Q Yes, she is.

MS. DEGENERES: And how do you stay in touch?

Q My mom calls our house a few times a week, and I always enjoy whenever she calls the house. I love hearing her voice, but it reminds me of her background.

MS. DEGENERES: I bet, I bet. And you’re sitting next to?

Q Hi Ellen. My name is Elise.

MS. DEGENERES: Hi Elise, how are you?

Q I’m good. How are you?

MS. DEGENERES: And your dad is a Navy vet? I’m fantastic, thank you. Your dad is a Navy veteran. What is the best thing about being a military kid?

Q I really think that it teaches you a lot of good characteristics and to have a lot of strength and courage. Because it’s really not easy when you have a family member out in deployment.

MS. DEGENERES: I know, it certainly is not easy, and that’s why you get so much love and support from all of us. We admire your strength and everything that your parents are doing for us. (Applause.)

So my question is, it’s almost prom. You’re looking forward to that, I bet, right?

Q Yes. Definitely.

MS. DEGENERES: Now, Mrs. Obama, I don’t think I’ve ever shown you my prom picture. I just wanted to — I want to show you my prom picture first. (Laughter and applause.)

MRS. OBAMA: That is an excellent picture. Love the dress. Love the dress.

MS. DEGENERES: Thank you very much. That was a tablecloth at one point. (Laughter.) Now, I heard you have a good one too, so I thought I would share yours. (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: That split was a little high. I don’t know if I’d let my kids go out with a split that high, so let’s not show this to Malia and Sasha.

MS. DEGENERES: All right. Were you shopping at Pier One or something? (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: You’ve never done the wicker chair shot? That’s standard.

MS. DEGENERES: No, I’ve seen the wicker chairs before but — I didn’t know it was standard.

All right. Well, listen, JC Penny knows that you guys are getting ready for prom. They’re a one-stop shop for all your prom needs. They have dresses, shoes, accessories — even a salon — all at great prices. So they’re giving all three of you a $250 JC Penny giftcard. (Applause.)

And I know there are 300 other students there with you all for the event today who need to get ready for the prom as well. So all of you students who are there in Florida with Mrs. Obama are also getting a $250 JC Penny giftcard. (Applause.)

Thank you so much for your time today, Mrs. Obama. You know I admire you, I think you’re an amazing, amazing woman. Thank you for all that you’re doing. We’re going to put something up on our website if anyone wants to get involved with Joining Forces. And we send our love and our support to all of you there. Thank you so much for all you do. And thank you, again, Mrs. Obama, for your time.

MRS. OBAMA: Thank you, Ellen. We love you. This is amazing. (Applause.) Thank you.

MS. DEGENERES: Love you, too. We’ll be right back.

END
6:30 P.M. EDT

Political Buzz November 30, 2011: First Lady Michelle Obama Unveils with First Dog Bo the 2011 White House Christmas Theme Shine, Give, Share Honoring Military Families

POLITICAL BUZZ

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. Ms. Goodman has also contributed the overviews, and chronologies in History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-2008, 4th edition, edited by Gil Troy, Fred L. Israel, and Arthur Meier Schlesinger to be published by Facts on File, Inc. in late 2011.

IN FOCUS: FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA UNVEILS WITH FIRST DOG BO THE 2011 WHITE HOUSE CHRISTMAS THEME SHINE, GIVE, SHARE HONORING MILITARY FAMILIES

Bo, the Obama family dog, made from plastic garbage bags, is seen in the Library of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011, as the Christmas holiday decorations, whose theme is 'Shine, Give, Share' were previewed.

Bo, the Obama family dog, made from plastic garbage bags, is seen in the Library of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011, as the Christmas holiday decorations, whose theme is “Shine, Give, Share” were previewed. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

White House Holiday Decoration Preview with the First Lady

Source: WH, 11-30-11

First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed military families to the White House today for the first peek at this year’s holiday decorations. After speaking to parents, spouses, and children of service members in the East Room, she invited kids down to the State Dining Room to decorate cookies and make Christmas tree ornaments.

The theme for this year’s holiday is “Shine, Share, Give,” celebrating the countless ways we can lift up those around us, put our best self forward in the spirit of the season, spend time with friends and family, celebrate the joy of giving to others, and share our blessings with all.  The decorations in every room of the house, hung with care by volunteers from 37 states, reflect the theme, using shiny stars, metallic garland, and twinkling lights and also by inviting visitors to give thanks to the military for their service.

Each room of the White House is uniquely decorated for the holidays. After arriving through the East Visitor Entrance, visitors are invited to write thank you notes to service members in the East Landing and view the Gold Star Families Tree, decorated by families whose loved ones gave their lives in service to our nation.  In the Entrance Hall on the State Floor, crystal snowflakes hang from the ceiling above visitors as they walk toward the Blue Room, home to the official White House Christmas Tree, also decorated in honor of military families. The East Room has been transformed into a winter wonderland, complete with four trees and garland and tree branches in every window.  A 400-pound gingerbread, marzipan, and white chocolate White House—an exact replica, complete with tiny furniture, art, and chandeliers—sits in the State Dining Room.

And, a very special four-legged member of the Obama family is represented in nearly every room. Bo can be found in nearly every room, from small ornaments to life-size topiaries made from everyday materials like felt, buttons, candy and even trash bags!

Read more about the White House Holiday decorations and this year’s theme

Shine, Give, Share

The theme for this 2011 holiday season is “Shine, Give, Share,” which offers an opportunity to pay tribute to our troops, veterans, and their families throughout the White House. This year, the official tour features 37 Christmas trees, 30 are natural trees and 7 are made from paper, felt or aluminum; a gingerbread model of the White House made of 400 pounds of gingerbread, white chocolate and marzipan plus 5 different representations of First Dog Bo Obama. Volunteers from 36 states plus the District of Columbia worked for days to get everything ready.

item divider

Blue Room

The centerpiece of the Blue Room is the official White House Christmas tree—a breathtaking 18-foot-6-inch balsam fir from Neshkoro, Wisconsin—which honors our men and women in uniform and features holiday cards created by military children. Collected from United States military installations around the world, these thoughtful and poignant cards celebrate their parents serving in uniform. Medals, badges, and patches from all of the military branches are displayed on ornaments, historic military images are displayed with volunteer-made pinecone frames and ribbons inspired by the Armed Forces colors represent the brave women and men who protect our Nation and defend our freedom.

Share a holiday message with our troops:

Share Your Message

blue room holiday photo

item divider

Download the White House Holiday Tour Book

item divider

Gold Star Tree

The Gold Star Families Tree pays tribute to those who gave their lives in service to our Nation and to the families who continue to carry their proud legacy forward. Photos of these fallen heroes and messages from their loved ones honor their courageous service, and remind us of the great sacrifices made for our freedom. Visitors can write notes to service members showing their thanks and visiting Gold Star Families will have the opportunity to inscribe a ceramic gold star with a personalized note to decorate the tree. Honoring Gold Star Families in this fashion was the First Lady’s idea, and the tree was decorated by Gold Star families who volunteered their time this holiday season.

gold star tree photos

item divider

See some special moments from White House Holidays through the years

First Family Slideshow First Family’s Pets Slideshow Obama Family Slideshow Simple Gift Blog Post

item divider

Deck the Halls with Bo Obama

This year the White House Holiday décor includes a bounty of Bos! The tour route features 5 Bo topiaries made from various materials like felt (35 yards of wool felt used), buttons (318 buttons in total), pom poms (750 pom poms used), candy (12 marshmallows, 1911 pieces of licorice), and even trash bags (6,850 feet worth)! Including Bo ornaments and other small Bos, you can find Bo in almost every room!

Shine, Give, Share: The Obama White House’s theme for this 2011 holiday season is “Shine, Give, Share,” which offers an opportunity to pay tribute to our troops, veterans, and their families throughout the White House. This year, the official tour features 37 Christmas trees, 30 are natural trees and 7 are made from paper, felt or aluminum; a gingerbread model of the White House made of 400 pounds of gingerbread, white chocolate and marzipan plus 5 different representations of First Dog Bo Obama. Volunteers from 36 states plus the District of Columbia worked for days to get everything ready. — WH

‘Shine, Give, Share’: Christmas Decorations at the White House — PICTURESNational Journal, 11-30-11

  • White House Holiday Decoration Preview with the First Lady: First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed military families to the White House today for the first peek at this year’s holiday decorations. After speaking to parents, spouses, and children of service members in the East Room, she invited kids down…. – The White House, 11-30-11
  • Holiday decorations unveiled to military families: …First lady Michelle Obama welcomed military families to the first viewing of the 2011 decorations on Wednesday. “Shine, Give, Share” is the theme for the Obama family’s third Christmas in the mansion. The theme translates throughout the public viewing space from gold foil leaf trimming to shiny quartz ornaments.
    Several decorations honor military families including a Gold Star Families Tree with ceramic gold ornaments carrying personalized messages by families. Tour visitors can also create handwritten notes for the troops… – AP, 11-30-11
  • White House decks the halls for Christmas: Amid the festive sparkle of 37 Christmas trees and a 400-pound gingerbread White House, Michelle Obama honored military families as she unveiled her 2011 holiday decor. The “Shine, Give, Share” theme was reflected in the East Room’s shimmering quartz … – WaPo, 11-30-11
  • Military families, first dog showcased in Christmas decorations at White House: First dog Bo is upstaging the Christmas decorations at the White House this holiday season. The Obamas’ Portuguese water dog is in almost every room of the public tour, ranging from a miniature licorice and marshmallow version to a felt … – WaPo, 11-30-11
  • The White House decking the halls: First Lady Michelle Obama showed off the newly-decked halls of the White House on Wednesday to a select group of special guests. Family members of military servicemen and women joined Mrs. Obama and her staff to preview this year’s … – CNN, 11-30-11
  • Holiday decorations unveiled to military families: First dog Bo is upstaging the Christmas decorations at the White House this holiday season. The Obamas’ Portuguese water dog is in almost every room of the public tour, ranging from a miniature licorice and marshmallow version…. – CBS News, 11-30-11
  • Bo stars at showcase of White House holiday decorations: The first family’s pet dog, Bo, starred Wednesday at a preliminary viewing of holiday decorations at the White House for military families. First lady Michelle Obama opened the White House to Gold and Blue Star military families … – MSNBC, 11-30-11
  • Bo is Christmas star in White House decor: Amid the festive sparkle of 37 Christmas trees and a 400-pound gingerbread White House, Michelle Obama honored military families as she unveiled her 2011 holiday decor. The “Shine, Give, Share” theme was reflected in the East Room’s shimmering quartz … – WaPo, 11-30-11
  • White House Christmas decor includes military tribute: “Shine, Give, Share” is the theme for Christmas at the White House, whose doors flung open Wednesday to the first wave of guests given the chance to ogle its fragrant, fanciful holiday finery, including no fewer … – LAT, 11-30-11
  • Michelle Obama hosts military families at holiday unveiling: First dog Bo is upstaging the Christmas decorations at the White House this holiday season. First Lady Michelle Obama welcomes children to begin festivities after welcoming military families who would be the first to view the 2011 White House… – USA Today, 11-30-11
  • Obamas Showcase First Pup Bo for Christmas: “Where’s Waldo” Fans will love the Obama’s Christmas decorations this year. Because in nearly every room, the first family has sneaked in a version of the first pup Bo.
    From a nine-and-a-half-inch depiction made of 318 buttons, a candy Bo made of 12 marshmallows and almost 2,000 pieces of licorice, a black and white Bo made of about 7,000 feet of trash bags and a four-and-a- half-foot tall pup made out of 35 yards of wool felt, it’s obvious Bo is the star of this year’s White House Christmas…. – US News, 11-30-11
  • Christmas At The White House: ‘Where’s Bo?’: While the official theme of this year’s White House Christmas is “Shine, Give, Share,” the real star of the Obama’s third holiday season at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is First Dog Bo. “It’s sort of a ‘where’s Bo?’” First Lady Michelle Obama explained at a White House holiday event with military families today. “You’ve got to find the Bo in every room, because he’s hidden everywhere.” … ABC News, 11-30-11
  • Michelle Obama, and Bo, show off White House holiday decor: First lady Michelle Obama and her dog Bo welcomed military families to the White House on Wednesday, the first visitors to see this year’s White House holiday decorations. As usual, the decorations are impressive…. – USA Today, 11-30-11
  • White House Christmas display salutes military: “Shine, Give, Share” is the theme for Christmas at the White House, whose doors flung open Wednesday to the first wave of guests allowed to ogle its fragrant, fanciful holiday finery, including no fewer … – Chicago Tribune, 11-30-11
%d bloggers like this: