4:04 P.M. EDT
DR.BIDEN: Hello, everyone. Please sit. Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for being here and it’s wonderful to welcome you to the White House.
Many of you know I’m a proud Blue Star mom. My son, Beau, is a soldier in the Delaware Army National Guard. So while I’m always honored to be in the presence of our military families, I feel a special bond with other military moms. I’ll never forget the day that Beau deployed to Iraq. It was that mixture of pride and concern that military moms know all too well, right? Having Beau overseas was a tough year for our entire family, but it was especially difficult for my daughter-in-law Hallie, my granddaughter Natalie and our grandson Hunter.
There were a lot of people who stepped up in different ways to support our family that year. A neighbor shoveled the driveway during a snowstorm. Our church included Beau’s name in the church bulletin. And at Natalie’s school, her teacher hung a photo of Beau’s unit on the wall so that everyone would know that Natalie’s daddy was away. Through the whole experience, these acts of kindness meant so much to them and to us.
While our sons and daughters serve so selflessly having a community share the burden makes all the difference in the world. Today I am here to say thank you for all that you do, for your selflessness and for your sacrifice on behalf of our country.
And now it is my great honor to introduce our First Lady. Military families have no greater supporter than my friend and partner, Michelle Obama. (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: Thanks so much. Well, everyone, welcome.
Thank you. Thanks, Jill. Thanks so much for that gracious introduction. But, more importantly, thank you for being such a phenomenal military mom and such a spokesperson for military families. You've been just a great partner in Joining Forces and everything we do. And I'm just grateful to have you as a friend and as a partner.
Isn't it pretty in here? (Laughter.) It really is. I walked in and was like, oh, my goodness! And everyone looks so nice. (Laughter.) Must be a tea going on here or something like that. (Laughter.)
Well, welcome. I hope you guys are doing good, having fun -- everything going well. So far, so good? That's good. (Applause.) Well, we're happy to have you here.
And I want to start by recognizing a few people. I want to recognize Patty Shinseki, who is also a dear friend. Patty, where are you? Are you here? Patty is right there. (Laughter.) Patty, wonderful to see you. Thank you for being such a tremendous supporter of both Jill and myself, and for all the sacrifices that you make.
I want to recognize Lilibet Hagel who is here. Please stand, the both of you. (Applause.) Thank you, as well, for your service to this country and for all that you do for Jill and myself as well.
And I want to take a minute to embarrass somebody in the room, because I have a special person here as well -- a woman who is my rock in so many ways. I couldn't do what I do every single day if it weren't for this woman. I just did an interview the other day where somebody asked me what was one of the most important things that my mother taught me -- and I could go on and on and on. But my mom has taught me most to be a good listener, to be patient, to use common sense. She has taught me to be open-minded.
And what she still does for me today is that she will give me endless amounts of time just to talk and talk and talk and talk -- and all she does is listen. (Laughter.) That's all she does, is listen. And sometimes that's all we need.
So it is my honor to recognize my mommy, Marian Robinson, who is here. Stand up, Mommy. (Applause.) It's Grandma. (Laughter.)
And finally, I want to thank all of you for being here today as we celebrate Mother’s Day at the White House. It's really good. We're doing it just a little bit early, so get double duty, moms. (Laughter.) We get today and we get tomorrow. Let's stretch this out. (Laughter.) We get Saturday, Sunday -- and I think we should just figure out what we need to do on Monday, too. (Laughter.) So I think this is a good way to start off the weekend.
Today, we have some of the most extraordinary moms in the country with us. We have active duty troops and veterans and military spouses from all across the country. And we knew we wouldn’t be celebrating motherhood properly if we didn’t have you guys bring along some special guests -- your children -- and some people have brought their own moms as well. So this is quite a beautiful crew -- and handsome, too. (Laughter.) So we are thrilled to have several generations of families here with us today.
We also have a group of very special women who I’d like to take a moment to recognize -- some of the Military Spouses of the Year from each branch of our Armed Forces. And as I say your name, please stand so that we can recognize you. Verenice Castillo from the Air Force. (Applause.) Stay up. (Laughter.) I want you to get your moment. Tara Crooks from the Army. (Applause.) Karen Guenther from the Marine Corps. (Applause.) Shelley Kimball from the Coast Guard. Alisha Youch from the Navy. (Applause.) Where’s Alisha?
DR. BIDEN: Alisha had another event that she had to race to. She’s so sad --
MRS. OBAMA: Well, give her a hug from us.
And just a couple of hours ago, Alicia Hinds Ward from the National Guard was named the National Military Spouse of the Year for 2013. Is she here? There you go -- Alicia. (Applause.)
Thank you all so much. We are so proud. You all are just a reflection of what you know folks like you are doing all over this country. And it is an honor to have you here. We are grateful for what you do. And have a good time. You can sit down now. (Laughter.)
But I'm going to talk a little bit more about our Military Spouse of the Year, Alicia. Alicia’s story probably sounds pretty familiar to many of you in this room. She’s a mother of three boys -- ooh, sorry. (Laughter.) Her husband is in the Air National Guard here in Washington. And every day, she finds a way to give back in some way, shape or form -- working to build morale and support family members who are going through deployments, leading monthly forums to educate families about their benefits in the military, distributing book bags to military kids. And she’s doing it all because, as she says -- and these are here words -- she says, “I believe each of us as the ability to be as phenomenal as we choose or we are given the opportunity to be. Empower someone and watch them soar.”
Those are Alicia’s words. And that’s what military moms do every day. You all help people soar. You help our country soar. When somebody needs you, whether it’s your family, or your community, or your country -- you lift them up. You answer the call every single time. You find a way to fit that meeting into your calendar -- which is why Alicia is gone -- (laughter) -- or stop by that neighbor’s house on the way home to lend a hand.
And even though you’ve got families to raise and jobs to do all your own, you never complain. And Jill and I say this all the time, as we meet with thousands of military families -- you all just never complain. Never complain. You just keep moving along, getting it done.
And I hope that you know how much your country appreciates you. I really hope you do. I hope that you know that people across America have your backs, from everyone here at the White House and the Department of Defense to CEOs of some of the largest companies in this country, to doctors and college professors and community and faith leaders in cities all over this country -- people are responding to your service with service of their own.
And that’s why Jill and I -- one of the things that we've seen as we've been working with Joining Forces over these past several years -- every time we’ve issued a call to action on your behalf, whether it’s for jobs or educational opportunities or volunteers to do more for you, Americans have responded overwhelmingly, in such positive ways. We haven’t had a single person tell us no when we've asked.
I mean, that's what we've learned. A lot of times when people don't step up, they don't know -- they don't know what to do. But when we explain, when we share, when we ask them to do it, they step up. And I know that's not just because Jill and I are asking. I mean, we’re cool and everything, but -- (laughter) -- but it’s really because of all of you and everything your families have given to this country.
So I want you all to know that this country is here for you and your families now and in the years ahead -- because everything we’re doing with Joining Forces isn’t about the Obama administration. The goal is that this is a forever proposition, that anyone who occupies the White House from now on will take this mission up as a primary focus of everything they do. All of these changes we hope to be part of the bureaucracy from now on. So that's what Joining Forces is all about, and that's what today is all about.
So we really do want you to make yourselves at home. When the lights go off and all the cameras leave, it’s just tea with us. (Laughter.) Eat all you want. As I say, have all the cookies you want. (Laughter.) Today is the day to forget about Let's Move. This is the balance part of it. (Laughter.) We’ve earned it, moms. (Laughter.) We can have our cookies.
And we’re going to walk out, Jill and I, for a second. And we’re going to ask all the young people in the room to come with us because we’ve got some surprises for you. So we’re going to leave, do a little business, and we will be back for a few surprises for you all.
So, moms, hold tight. You get a couple of minutes of free babysitting. (Laughter.) So any kids who are ready who want to leave and come with us, you guys follow us. We’re coming. We’re going to march on out. Let’s go.
* * * * *
MRS. OBAMA: Well, surprise! (Laughter.) You guys, your kids will be coming in, they're going to find their places. They've been working so hard on some special surprises. You all, please, be seated.
Well, it is my honor to welcome Prince Harry to the White House today. As you all might know, Prince Harry is a Captain in the Army Air Corps in the British Armed Forces. (Applause.) In January, he returned from his second deployment to Afghanistan, and for the past few years he has focused on honoring the sacrifice and service of our veterans and military families, especially now that the war in Afghanistan is drawing to a close.
He has spent much of his time supporting our wounded warriors and the families of our fallen. And this weekend -- absolutely. (Applause.) And this weekend, he will be attending the fourth annual Warrior Games in Colorado Springs.
So we are absolutely thrilled that he could be with us today, that he took the time. He just arrived in D.C. and only has a limited time with us because he has a very busy schedule. But when he heard about this tea and all of you -- as I said, when people know about you and the sacrifices you make, they want to be a part of it -- he wanted to be here to personally thank you for your service.
So we are going to head into the Blue Room -- Jill, Prince Harry and myself -- and we're going to take time to greet each one of you. So Prince Harry is going to stay as long as he can, and our goal is to get through everyone. But as soon as he -- whenever he has to leave we'll pull him out, and Jill and I will be here to the very end.
So Happy Mother's Day. (Applause.) I hope you guys enjoyed yourselves, and we'll see you inside. (Applause.)
4:49 P.M. EDT