Remarks by the First Lady at Jobs Fair
Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii
2:52 A.M. HAST
MRS. OBAMA: Well, aloha!
MRS. OBAMA: Let me just say that we're just ending a couple of days of being here for the APEC Summit.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: All right!
MRS. OBAMA: Yeah -- you're just happy about everything. (Laughter.) And I have to say that Honolulu really did a phenomenal job hosting these world leaders over the last couple of days. And I can say, personally, just from talking to them, that they were so incredibly impressed with the people, with the food, with the culture, with the hospitality, as well as all of the world leaders' spouses.
So you all should be very proud. This has been a successful visit. My husband is going to be leaving to go on to Australia and Indonesia, and I am leaving to go back home to Malia and Sasha -- (laughter) -- the other half. You know how it is, mothers: Dad can be gone for I don't know how long, but short time for mom. So I'm heading back, but before I hop on the plane I wanted to stop by and get a look for myself to see how these job fairs are faring. And I'm just happy that I've had an opportunity to come by and to hear from you and to see all the great things that are happening.
So I want to start by thanking Kevin not just for that wonderful introduction but for all of his leadership at the Chamber, in pulling together these job fairs all over the country. He is a phenomenal leader, and we are grateful to him, and we have to give him a round of applause. (Applause.)
I also want to thank Captain James and his family for his outstanding leadership, and for hosting us here today.
And I also learned today that we are welcoming back the sailors from the USS Hopper, who I understand have just returned home earlier today from deployment. So that's good news! (Applause.) That's wonderful news. And hopefully, by year's end, there'll be a lot more of that kind of good news going on all over the country. So we are so proud of their service, and we're thrilled that they're home, and we're proud of all of you.
And finally, and most important, I want to thank all of you -- our extraordinary men and women in uniform, our veterans, and of course your extraordinary families. Thank you so much.
As Kevin said, over the past few years I've had the privilege of meeting thousands of folks all across this country just like you, on bases and in communities all over the place. And I always come back from these visits not just with a sense of pride and gratitude, but with a sense of awe. And I say this time and time again, but it is simply true: I am awed by the sacrifices you’ve made to defend our country -- signing up to serve at a time of war, enduring deployment after deployment, being away from the people you love most for months -- and sometimes years -- on end.
And I am awed by our military families -- that's for sure. You all might not wear any kind of uniform, but when our troops are called to serve, you’re serving right alongside them. You all are the spouses who run your households all alone, often juggling fulltime jobs of your own. Many of you out there are kids, wonderful kids who are studying hard, you're helping out with chores -- right? You're listening to your parents and eating your vegetables! (Laughter.) And many of you are doing your best to be brave while mom or dad is away.
So you all didn’t exactly take the easy path when you signed up to serve your country. But I know that things don’t necessarily get any easier once you decide to leave the military. And that's important for America to understand as well.
In fact, for a lot of folks, sometimes it’s just the opposite. For a lot of folks, making the transition to civilian life is hard, especially in the midst of a tough economy. And I know it can be daunting –- and incredibly stressful –- to walk away from an institution where you have invested so much of yourselves and spent so many years of your lives and of your careers. And I know that right now, many of you are wondering how you’re going to translate all that you’ve learned in the military into a job and into civilian life.
But here’s something else that I know, and Kevin mentioned it: I know that all of you are some of the highest-skilled, hardest-working, most dedicated employees that we have in this country -- and that's important for this country to know. You all have mastered state of the art technologies, run some of the world’s most complex operations. You’ve overseen hundreds of your colleagues and you've undertaken missions with no margin for error, working in situations where the bottom line is literally a matter of life and death.
And make no mistake about it, these are precisely the kind of skills that so many of our businesses so desperately need right now. And the way I see it, we have an obligation to help you put those skills to work. As my husband said, no one who’s fought for our country abroad should have to fight for a job when they return home. (Applause.)
But that’s why Dr. Jill Biden and I started a nationwide campaign called what? Joining Forces! Where were you? (Laughter.) And what we're doing through Joining Forces is rallying all of America to recognize and honor and support our veterans and military families. As part of this effort, we've issued a simple challenge to America’s businesses: We've asked them to step up and hire as many veterans and military spouses as they can.
And I have to tell you that the response has been overwhelming. That is the good news. The Chamber of Commerce has sponsored veterans hiring fairs like this one. And they’ve connected more than 44,000 veterans to more than 2,200 employers in 36 states. And they're going to keep doing it.
We’ve also launched a website called vetjobbank.com, where you can find veteran-friendly jobs online -- and that site currently lists more than half a million jobs just waiting to be filled right now. So check it out. They're there. (Applause.)
Companies like Siemens, Sears -- they've already hired hundreds of veterans. Kmart and Sam’s Club have promised to help military spouses keep their jobs if their family is assigned to a new duty station. And in the past month, American businesses have stepped forward with pledges to hire 125,000 additional veterans and military spouses by 2014. (Applause.)
And as many of you probably know, my husband has also proposed a new tax credit for small businesses that hire veterans -- that's a good thing. And he’s working with Secretary Shinseki and the Veterans Affairs Department to improve the transition process; that's something that we hear from you all quite often, that the transition resources have to be better so that you all have the resources and support as you prepare to enter civilian life.
So if there’s one thing that I want you all to know today -- and I want every veteran out there, and every spouse and family to know -- is that America does have your back. America has your back.
Every time we have asked someone to get involved and step up, we’ve gotten the same answer –- absolutely yes. No hesitation. When people are asked, they are stepping up. Companies are lining up to sign on. They’re challenging themselves and each other to do more. And as Kevin said, they’re not just doing it because it’s the right thing to do and the patriotic thing to do -- which it is. They’re doing it because it’s good for business. It's good for their bottom lines, too. They’re doing it because they know that all of you are the best employees that money can buy.
I think the Deputy Commander of this base, Colonel Carlson, put it best when he said, and this is his quote: “We are a part of the greatest Air Force and Navy the world’s ever seen, but it’s the people that make it, and it’s the families behind those people that make the difference.”
He’s talking about people like Colonel Wicks, who's commanded a unit in Afghanistan. They were plenty busy with their official duties there. But they still find time to adopt a school for girls in Kabul. (Applause.) Absolutely. And every week or so, they dropped off desperately needed supplies to help those girls get the education they deserve.
And then there are the 561st Network Operations Squadron Airmen, who were called in after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan earlier this year. Within five hours, they got a network up and running so that workers and supplies could get where they needed.
And then there are the spouses like Joni Mansapit -- I hope I'm pronouncing her name right. She is a mother of five children, one of whom has a life-threatening medical condition. And while her husband was away, Joni wasn’t just caring for her own family. She stepped up to help other families with seriously ill loved ones. She would cook dinner for them. She took them shopping. And she did everything she could to keep their spirits up.
So make no mistake about it, you all represent the very best this country has to offer. And that is my goal, to make sure that everyone in this country understands that. And today, I want to end the same way that I started -- by simply saying thank you.
Thank you for everything that you have done for this country. Thank you for your sacrifice. Know that we are proud of you, that we're going to be continuing to work hard to make sure that you get the support that you deserve.
So you all just hang in there. Keep working hard. Keep taking care of each other. God bless you all, and God bless America. I'll come down and shake hands. (Applause.)
3:04 P.M. HAST