New York City, New York

Hello, everyone! It’s wonderful to see all of you.

Thank you, First Lady Geingos—Monica. I’m grateful to Dean Fried and Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health for hosting us today. And thank you, Cora, for the work you’ve put into making this event possible.

When my husband, Joe, served in the Senate, being a political spouse was a small part of who I was.

He had a job in Washington, D.C.—and I was a full-time teacher, raising our three kids, and pursuing my education. Politics was just one part of the equation.

So when he was elected Vice President, I didn’t realize how much my life would change. Suddenly, I was giving national interviews and being asked to give speeches to thousands of people.

It was out of my comfort zone to say the least. But I also knew that it was an incredible opportunity. I said to myself on day one: I will never waste this platform.

The first public speech I gave was terrifying. My hands trembled; my voice caught in my throat. I tripped over my words. But I focused on why I was there—the chance to make a difference. And over time, it became easier.

I saw how I was helping to drive progress for the issues I cared about—supporting military families, community colleges, and supporting young people across the world.

When I became First Lady, I knew that my life would change again. But still, there was nothing that could truly prepare me for the beauty or challenges of this life.

Being a political spouse is a role unlike any other—one that few people understand. 

It can be challenging at times, but it’s also the honor of a lifetime—a gift that we’ve been given. To serve the people of our countries. To raise our voices and lift our communities in ways we never thought possible before.

In February, I had the chance to visit Monica and Rachel in their countries and see the work that they’re doing. And it inspired me so much.

Rachel introduced me to a group of women doing table banking—a type of microlending—in Kibera. They were all a part of her Joyful Women Organization, which helps women invest in women, lift up their good ideas, and give them the support they need to thrive.

Rachel, I loved seeing that spirit of empowerment. It’s a part of everything you do, from nutrition to mental health.

And Monica—you are such a fierce advocate for women and girls in Namibia and beyond. You’ve raised your voice to help more women prevent HPV and combat cervical cancer—one of the leading causes of death for women in African nations. And you’ve used the platform of the Organization of African First Ladies for Development to further this important cause.

Meeting my peers around the world is one of the things I love most about this role—including getting to know many of you at the African Leaders Summit. It’s in these moments that we find the common bonds that connect us across oceans and continents. When we support and mentor each other, we grow together, and our successes ripple outwards.

So, I look forward to bringing us together at UNGA to address HPV.

Because this is a truly special group.

Whatever challenges you face—and whatever opportunities you have—this group understands the uniqueness of our roles better than anyone. All of us have something to share—and something to learn as well.

So, thank you for the work you’ve already done and for raising your voices—even when it feels hard.  

Each of you is setting the course for the future—not only for your nations, but for our globe. And I cannot wait to see the incredible things you do.

Together, with the strength of the sisterhood that surrounds us, we can build a better future for us all.

Thank you.

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