The White House Blog: The First Lady
- Posted byon March 27, 2012 at 5:31 PM EST
It's been 100 years to the day since First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese Ambassador to the United States, planted the first of the 3,000 cherry trees presented from the city of Tokyo to the city of Washington, DC as a symbol of friendship between the United States and Japan.
To mark the occasion, First Lady Michelle Obama -- joined by Japanese Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, and William H. Taft IV, the great-grandson of President Taft -- returned to the Tidal Basin along the Potomac River to plant a new sapling for future generations to enjoy.
She told the crowd:
People from both of our nations worked together for years to bring these trees here to Washington. And over the past century, people of all ages from the U.S. and Japan and so many other nations have come to this Tidal Basin each spring to marvel at their beauty. And year after year, even after the coldest, darkest, stormiest winters, these trees have continued to bloom.
So on this historic anniversary, we don’t just admire the beauty of these trees, we also admire their resilience. And in so doing, we are reminded of the extraordinary resilience of the Japanese people. Over the past year, we have all witnessed their courage, unity and grace as they have come together and begun the very hard work of rebuilding their nation.
One hundred years from now, the First Lady said, she hoped, "the First Lady –- or the First Gentleman –- of 2112 will also have the privilege of joining with our friends from Japan, and planting another tree which will bloom for yet another one hundred years and beyond."
- Posted byon March 27, 2012 at 4:51 PM EST
But there’s something about growing it yourself that creates a special connection.
“A lot of times when you grow your own vegetables and fruits, they taste really good. They taste better than a lot of stuff you’ll get in a grocery store -- trust me. My kids have done it. They’re not big fans of all vegetables, but if they help to work on it they’re much more excited about trying it out,” First Lady Michelle Obama said in remarks kicking off the fourth planting of the White House Kitchen Garden.
Schoolchildren from across the country joined the First Lady in the garden on Monday for a sunny afternoon of spring planting on the South Grounds. “You guys wrote some really nice letters telling us about stories of the work that you're doing in your schools, in your communities,” the First Lady said. “Your letters were so wonderful, I thought, why not come and see me at the White House and help me plant my garden? And you made it!”
- Posted byon March 21, 2012 at 10:01 AM EST
Military spouses are known for our toughness. For our ability to be resilient. We can turn a house full of all white walls somehow into a home. We can cheer up a child when they don’t understand why their daddy can’t be home on their birthday. We are a tough group and we are resilient. All we ask for in return is for understanding, respect, and an occasional “thank you”.
To receive that thank you from Michelle Obama is quite the honor. I had the great opportunity to meet her last Friday with a delegation of military families and organizations from Minnesota. Mrs. Obama graciously spent close to an hour with me and seven other individuals to try to learn more about how our state supports military families and to find out what more can be done with her Joining Forces initiative.
She thanked us for the sacrifices that we have made as families of deployed soldiers. She told a young man of 13 years whose father was about to deploy that our nation’s military kids are courageous and have earned our gratitude. She held the hand of a mother who lost her young son in Afghanistan. But, above all, she listened intently. She genuinely wanted to know what she and Dr. Jill Biden could do with their initiative to somehow give back to those who have given the most for our nation.
When talking about what military families and children go through, Mrs. Obama said, “We've got 1 percent of this country serving and sacrificing on behalf of the other 99 percent of us. That can be a daunting position to be in. And a lot of times America just doesn't understand the struggles. ... We take it for granted because you all handle and shoulder the burden so well.”
- Posted byon March 8, 2012 at 12:59 PM EST
Earlier today, First Lady Michelle Obama spoke at the International Women of Courage Awards at the Department of State. Please see below for her remarks, and don’t forget to check out President Obama’s 2012 Proclamation on Women’s History Month.
Thank you. Thank you so much. Good morning, everyone. To say it is a pleasure to be here with all of you today would be an understatement. This is truly an important opportunity, it is an uplifting opportunity, and I am happy to be a part of it every single year.
And I have to start by thanking Secretary Clinton not just for that very kind introduction, but she has been an outstanding -- should I say that again? -- an outstanding Secretary of State. And she has been an inspiration to women and girls around the world. She is a role model for me in so many ways. I don't think she realizes how what she has done has made what I am doing partially possible. So with all the respect and admiration that I can give to her, I will be wherever she needs me to be, whenever she needs me to be there.
I also want to join in recognizing our special guest, First Lady Mills, who is a dear friend. We enjoyed our visit to Ghana. And she is going to have a productive stay here in Washington, so she's going to be busy. Just take it easy. And of course, Secretary Vanda Pignato, who is a dear friend as well. We are honored to have you with us as well. I also want to thank them for taking the time to be here today. It means so much to us all for you to be here.
I have to thank Ambassador Melanne Verveer for her terrific work she is doing -- what she is doing for -- for Global Women’s Issues. This event is top-notch, and it wouldn't happen if not for her. We are so grateful.
- Posted byon March 6, 2012 at 11:26 AM EST
Medscape, the largest source of online continuing education for physicians and other health professionals, has teamed up with Joining Forces to ensure that our country’s servicemembers, veterans, and military families receive the best healthcare possible.
Soon after the White House released “Strengthening Our Military Families” in January 2011, Medscape began working with leading experts in military healthcare to create 10 new online education programs on topics ranging from military culture to screening for post-traumatic stress disorder and helping families connect with VA services. The free modules include links to resources from the government, warrior advocacy groups and medical associations. More than 100,000 physicians, nurses and other healthcare providers have viewed these education courses in the past year.
The curriculum that Medscape has created enables community health professionals to understand and meet the needs of military families. As servicemembers return home to their communities, such preparation is imperative—only half of those eligible for VA services seek treatment there.
- Posted byon March 6, 2012 at 10:32 AM EST
The White House is inviting elementary and middle school students from across the country to submit poster designs for the 2012 Easter Egg Roll. The posters should interpret this year's theme, “Let's Go, Let's Play, Let's Move”, and highlight ways kids can have fun while staying active, a key component of of Let’s Move!, First Lady Michelle Obama's national campaign to combat childhood obesity. The First Lady will select the winning design, which will be used as part of the this year's official Easter Egg Roll program.
The poster contest is open to all elementary and middle school students, and the deadline for submissions is Wednesday, March 7th, 2012 at 11:59p.m. EST. Please note, submissions may be made public during the selection process. You can submit entries here.
Joining Forces Commitment Met: Chamber of Commerce Holds 100 Hiring Fairs for Veterans and Military SpousesPosted byon March 2, 2012 at 2:26 PM EST
As First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden launched Joining Forces last April, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s “Hiring Our Heroes” program committed to host 100 hiring fairs across the country with the top notch companies they work with on a daily basis.
Earlier today in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Chamber met that commitment. In just 11 months, the Chamber has hosted 100 of these fairs in 45 states and the District of Columbia and more than 8,000 veterans and military spouses have already landed jobs -- and the best is yet to come.
Starting this month, the Chamber will host 400 hiring fairs in the next year throughout the U.S. They will work with their Employment Advisory Council – which is made up of more than 20 of America’s largest companies and represents 25 million jobs – to find solid jobs for even more veterans and military spouses . The Chamber will also make improvements to their fairs by layering in in classes on resume writing, financial literacy, interview prep, mentorig opportunities, advice on dressing for success, and much more.
The Chamber has a new focused effort on hiring military spouses too. Last January, they launched a stand-alone program for military spouses and formed the Military Spouse Business Alliance with nine leading military family non-profits. The first-of-its-kind program will include 20 hiring fairs at military installations in the coming year that will include resumé and interview workshops, small-group mentoring with senior women executives and military spouses, an entrepreneurs’ pavilion, and image workshops.
“Hiring Our Heroes” will also launch a campaign focused on small business engagement later this month. Driven largely by the Chamber’s ability to reach 3 million of its own small business members, the Chamber will get thousands of small businesses across America to commit to veteran and military spouse hiring.
Through their strong partnerships with Joining Forces, the public sector, non-profits, and veteran services organizations, the Chamber will spread this movement to help veterans and military spouses find meaningful careers across America.
Stand by for a great 2012!
Hiring Our Heroes 100th hiring fair at the Philadelphia Independence Seaport Museum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania March 2, 2012. (by Ian Wagreich/U.S. Chamber of Commerce)
- Posted byon February 29, 2012 at 8:33 PM EST
President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr Jill Biden tonight welcomed a group of true American heroes to the White House. “A Nation’s Gratitude: Honoring those who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn” was a formal dinner that paid tribute to our Iraq veterans and marked the end of the war.
More than 100 service members and their guests were in attendance, and the invitees included men and women in uniform from all ranks, each U.S. state and territory, and every branch of the Armed Forces. Together, they represented the million American troops who served in Iraq, and they also represented what Vice President Joe Biden called the finest generation of warriors in all of history.
In his remarks, the President welcomed the veterans home, praised their bravery and dedication to their mission, and thanked them on behalf of more than 300 million Americans:
Tonight, what we can do is convey what you’ve meant to the rest of us. Because through the dust and the din and the fog of war, the glory of your service always shone through. In your noble example, we see the virtues and the values that sustain America, that keep this country great.
You taught us about duty. Blessed to live in the land of the free, you could have opted for an easier path. But you know that freedom is not free. And so you volunteered and you stepped forward, and you raised your hand and you took an oath -- to protect and defend; to serve a cause greater than yourself, knowing, in a time of war, you could be sent into harm’s way.
You taught us about resolve. Invasion turned to insurgency and then sectarian strife. But you persevered, tour after tour, year after year. Indeed, we’re mindful that even as we gather here, Iraq veterans continue to risk their lives in Afghanistan, and our prayers are with them all tonight.
In one of our nation’s longest wars, you wrote one of the most extraordinary chapters in American military history. Now the Iraqi people have a chance to forge their own destiny, and every one of you who served there can take pride in knowing you gave the Iraqis this opportunity; that you succeeded in your mission.
- Posted byon February 29, 2012 at 3:34 PM EST
Tonight, a group of Iraq veterans will join President Obama and the First Lady for a formal dinner at the White House to mark the end of the war.
Around 80 service members and their guests will be in attendance.
Those invited include men and women in uniform from all ranks, each U.S. state and territory, and every branch of the Armed Forces. Together, they are representative of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who served in Iraq.
As the last American troops left the country, we put together a timeline to show what it took to end combat operations and begin fulfilling the promise we as a nation owe to those who served.
Go check it out.
- Posted byon February 27, 2012 at 5:30 PM EST
Earlier this morning, the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden addressed the National Governors Association (NGA) Winter Meeting, the annual meeting that brings state leaders to Washington, D.C. to discuss important issues impacting all Americans.
Today, the First Lady and Dr Biden had one message for the governors: urging them to take action on the state level to support America’s military spouses.
In their travels to military bases across America and throughout the world over the last three years, the First Lady and Dr. Biden have heard stories from countless military family members and spouses. One of the top issues they hear about everywhere they go deals with the professional licensing requirements that affect how military spouses can move forward in their careers.
Less than two weeks ago, the First Lady and Dr. Biden joined the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and all of the Joint Chiefs in rolling out a new report on state licensing.
This is an enormous issue for military spouses throughout this country. There are more than 100,000 military spouses who serve in the dozens of professions that require a state license or credential – teachers, nurses, childcare providers, dental hygienists, real estate brokers, speech pathologists and many other professionals. Each move to a new state can mean different credentialing or licensing standards – a process that can sometimes take months to resolve.