Washington, D.C.

Thank you all for being here.

I’m grateful to Anthea and all the incredible curators here for showing us this collection and welcoming us to this wonderful space.

First Lady Bess Truman once described her marriage like this: She said, “No matter where I was, when I put out my hand, Harry’s was there to grasp it.” They shared an unshakeable bond of trust.

I wonder if that’s the kind of bond her husband, President Truman, had in mind when he and leaders from 11 other countries formed the NATO alliance 75 years ago.

That unity is still important today. As Joe said last night, this moment in history calls for our collective strength.

I hope that we too can forge the kind of partnerships where we can always reach out to one another, take each other’s hands, and share in the challenges and joys of our roles as First Spouses.

Looking back, not many of us could have predicted that one day we would be supporting partners who are leading the world.

I know I couldn’t have.

When Joe was in the Senate, being a political spouse was a small part of who I was. He had his job in Washington, DC—and I had mine in Delaware as a full-time teacher. I was also raising three kids and pursuing my education.

When Joe was elected Vice President—and then President—suddenly, I was giving national interviews and speaking 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. I wanted to use it to shine a light on issues that are close to my heart.

Many of you have asked me about my work with military families.

And because the armed forces from our countries often serve shoulder-to-shoulder all around the world, I wanted to share more about that work with you today.

As many of you know, I’m a military mom and the daughter of a World War II veteran. So supporting the men and women who step forward to serve in our all-volunteer force is personal to me and to Joe.

Over the last several decades, I’ve sat down with hundreds of military families and listened. My White House initiative, Joining Forces, is the direct result of those conversations.

When military spouses told me that they weren’t able to keep their careers because they have to transfer to a new base every few years—we made it easier for spouses to take their federal jobs with them when they move. And we encouraged businesses to do the same.

When military kids told us that no one in their school understood what they were going through—how sometimes they felt all alone—we made sure that more educators had the resources to support military students.

And when military parents told us that child care was expensive and hard to find, we found ways to lower costs and increase the number of providers.

As President, Joe believes that, of all his obligations, the only one that’s truly sacred is preparing those we send into harm’s way, and caring for them and their families when they come home.

And I’m proud of how Joining Forces has helped honor that sacred obligation.

Throughout my work, I’ve found that the most enduring change comes when I begin with what I know, like being the daughter of a veteran and being a military mom.

I’m also a community college professor. That has shaped my work to make sure that our education system lives up to its promise for all students.

The fight to end cancer is also personal to our family, so I’ve been promoting early detection and screenings, and improving the patient, family, and caregiver experience.

And I’ve launched a new initiative to advance women’s health research—especially for women in mid-life and beyond. Women’s lives don’t end at 50, and we need more answers about our health. 

Over the years, as I’ve gotten to know many of you, I’ve heard about the issues that are close to your hearts—how you’re creating change.

And as we spend a little more time together, both here and at Camp David tomorrow, I hope to hear more about what drives you and talk about how we can continue to support one another.

As I look around this room, I’m reminded of the strength of our bonds, and that our work is always better when we do it together.

Thank you.


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