Remarks by the First Lady at Joining Forces Veterans Jobs Summit and Career Forum
11:35 A.M. CDT
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you, guys. (Applause.) Thank you so much. Good morning. And it is truly a pleasure for me to be here today.
I want to start by thanking Sergeant Wanless for that very kind introduction, and, more importantly, for his service to our country both in and out of uniform. I also want to recognize my dear friend and outstanding partner in Joining Forces, Dr. Jill Biden. Jill, it has just been an extreme pleasure to work with you on this issue. She is smart. She is funny. She is beautiful. And she cares a lot about what you all are going through. So I am so grateful for her friendship and her support.
I also want to recognize our fabulous First Lady of Kentucky, Jane Beshear, who is here with her handsome grandson -- straight-A student, fifth grade. And she has just been an amazing, passionate champion for our military families. So we are grateful for your service, and we’re honored to have you here today.
I’d also like to thank Major General McConville, as well as Command Sergeant Major Smith for their commitment and leadership here at Fort Campbell.
And finally, most of all, I want to thank our soldiers and, more importantly, your fantastic spouses, right? Because, quite frankly, you couldn’t be here if they weren’t by your side. I want to thank you all for your service and for taking the time to join us here today -- although I know that you didn’t exactly have a choice about being here since this is your mandatory place of duty. And as I understand it, usually, when you’re called to a mandatory place of duty, it’s because we need you to carry out some kind of mission for our country.
Well, today it’s different. Today, you’re here for yourselves. And your mission is your future. And that’s what this summit is all about -- it is about a transformational shift across the military in how we think about your careers.
See, we’ve always done an outstanding job in preparing you to succeed during your time in uniform. And that’s why our military is second to none. But most of you aren’t going to spend your entire careers in the military. And for some of you, that transition to civilian life doesn’t always go as smoothly as it should.
Our servicemembers haven’t always had the time or the information that they need to prepare for civilian life -- things like getting your resumes together, plotting your career goals, taking the time to meet with employers to get access to the jobs that you all deserve. And that’s simply not acceptable.
As my husband has said, when you have fought for this country around the world, you should not have to fight for a job when you return home.
And that’s why the Army has adopted the new Soldier for Life initiative, so that now, starting on the day you join the service -- on the very day you join -- we’re already going to be planning for the day you leave. And we won’t just be investing in your success as soldiers, but we’re going to be investing in your future as civilians -- as employers and as employees, as entrepreneurs, as leaders who will contribute to this country for the rest of your lives.
And today, I’m thrilled to announce that every branch of the military will soon be taking this very same new approach. That means that every member of our Armed Forces will start preparing for their transition in advance. They’re going to start -- yes. (Applause.) We won’t wait for the last day. So that means you’re going to start very early drafting resumes. You’re going to start ahead of time attending job fairs and summits like this one here today. And you’re going to start applying for college if you want to go to college. And you’ll be doing all of this months before you hang up your uniforms.
And starting today, every servicemember, every veteran, and every military family member will have access to a new online tool that will revolutionize how you find jobs in both the public and private sectors. All you have to do is log on to ebenefits.va.gov. When you get to the website, you click on to “employment center,” and then you just type in your M.O.S. And within seconds, that website will translate that M.O.S. into a list of civilian skills, and it will tell you what careers you’re qualified for. You can also see which of those jobs are actually available where you’ll be living. And with a few more clicks, you can make your resume visible to the employers who are on that site. It is very simple. I have seen it myself. It is truly an amazing tool that will make your lives better.
The website will also show the companies here -- which companies have actually made commitments to hire veterans and spouses. And it will give you information about all kinds of things -- things like your higher education benefits. It will show you all of your earned benefits in one place -- everything from career counseling to the GI Bill. You can sort of consider this like your personal transition toolbox, and it’s something that will be right there for you on your computers.
And for all of the companies that are out there, not just here but out there around the country, through this tool, you’ll have access -- direct access to some of America’s most qualified employees that you will ever meet. All you have to do is log in, and you’ll see which veterans, which servicemembers and spouses have the skills you need in the communities where you need them. And then you can contact them instantly, directly right then and there. This tool is amazing. You can also see, as employers, which hiring centers are available to you as an employer, from direct financial incentives to job training for employees. It is all right there at your fingertips.
So with this website, we’re going to be connecting veterans, servicemenbers and your families to the jobs and educational opportunities that you’ve earned. And we’re doing this well before you leave the service.
And all of that is our responsibility to you. It is our obligation to you. That’s our job. Your responsibility is to take full advantage of these opportunities. We need you all to get out there and sell yourselves. We need you to tell these schools and employers about everything you’ve achieved during your time in the Army.
And I know that request might be a little counterintuitive for many of you, because I know they don’t exactly teach you how to self-promote in the military. Instead, you’ve been focused on completing the mission. You’ve been focused on being there for your fellow soldiers.
Well, today, we need you start thinking and talking about yourselves for a change. And that’s going to take a little transition for you personally. It may be a little scary to talk about yourself. But I have met so many of you over the course of these three years working with Joining Forces. I have met with so many amazing military spouses and veterans. You all have done incredible things, so don’t be afraid to brag a little bit about yourselves -- and smile every once in a while, too. (Laughter.)
I have worked in every sector out there. I have worked in government, I’ve worked in corporate America, I’ve worked in non-profits. And I can tell you from my own experience that if you want to get a job, then you can’t be modest about your qualifications. You have to be willing to sell yourself. But you all are qualified for so much, for any number of jobs.
You have got world-class training in everything from logistics to risk management to intelligence analysis. You’ve learned about leadership. You know about team building. You know about working with folks from all different backgrounds. And all of these skills, trust me, are in high demand in today’s workplaces. Anyone out there would be lucky to have you on their team. That’s why folks are here -- because they know who you are, they know what you have to offer. And that’s really another reason why we’re all here today.
You see, these summits aren’t just an investment in your futures. They’re an investment in our country’s future, as well. Because when employers can hire top talent like all of you, that makes our businesses stronger, and that in turn makes our entire economy stronger. And you don’t have to take my word for it. Just listen to what happened at the summit that we held back in February at Fort Bliss -- same summit.
Employers there took more than 700 resumes over the course of that time, and made more than 100 job offers on the spot on that day. And that’s just a tiny fraction of all the hires that we’ve seen since we launched Joining Forces just three years ago.
Back when we launched this initiative, we called on companies to step up and hire as many of you as possible. We hoped we’d meet the President’s goal of getting people to commit 100,000 jobs in two years. And we thought that that was ambitious. But the truth is, we met that goal -- and we met it in just one year. That’s how responsive employers to that request. (Applause.) That’s how ready and willing they are to step up and support you. And today, as we celebrate the third anniversary of Joining Forces, that number has risen to 540,000 jobs. That’s over half a million jobs in just three years. (Applause.)
And as Jill said, we are not stopping there. Today, I’m pleased to announce that Capital One, in partnership with Hiring Our Heroes, has secured commitments from over 300 small and medium-sized businesses to hire 55,000 veterans and military spouses. (Applause.) UPS is doubling their commitment from 25,000 to 50,000 jobs. (Applause.) Xerox will be hiring 10,000 veterans and spouses. And they just launched an initiative called Heroes@Home, which will allow folks to telework from their own homes. So that’s a good thing. We are so proud. (Applause.)
And today, more than 100 companies have come to this base. And they’re all here for just one reason -- because they want to hire you. So make no mistake about it: We’ve got your backs. We do. Because we know what your service has meant to this nation.
Just think about the history of this very base. As you all know, Fort Campbell is home to the 101st Screaming Eagles, the Band of Brothers who served in World War II -- (applause) -- and were later sent by President Eisenhower to help integrate Central High School in Little Rock Arkansas. And I know that many of us will never forget the images of those soldiers facing down an angry mob so that those nine young men and women –- and, quite frankly, all of our children -- could get the education they deserve. And we’ll never forget your service in the decades since then. In fact, the 101st is still serving bravely today as we speak in Afghanistan. They are there now.
And you all have survived some of the toughest battles, risking your lives time and again to preserve our most fundamental rights and freedoms. So here’s the beauty of that: I know you can handle the pressure of a job interview with Xerox or UPS. That is nothing. I know you all can thrive in any classroom, in any business.
And ultimately, that’s really what today is all about. It’s about ensuring that you all can keep contributing to this nation. And it’s about making sure that we serve all of you as well as you’ve served the United States of America. You all deserve nothing less.
So thank you. Thank you so much for your service. Thank your spouses for their service and sacrifice. Thank you to our veterans for just being a shining light of what America is supposed to be.
God bless you all. And I look forward to seeing everything that you achieve in the months and years ahead. We need you out there. So go get the job.
Thank you so much. (Applause.)
11:51 A.M. CDT