Written Q&A with Dr. Jill Biden in Vogue Korea
The following written Q&A with Dr. Jill Biden appeared on-line in Vogue Korea. Below is an English language version:
The Second Lady Who Takes Action: Jill Biden
July 16, 2015
Even after Jill Biden became the Second Lady, she did not leave the field of education. She takes matters into her own hands to better the lives of women based on her own experiences as a working mom. The message she wanted to convey to Vogue Korea was “the power of education.”
Q. This is the first time a Second Lady from the U.S. has visited the Republic of Korea. We are very curious about the reasons for your visit. Is there a special purpose or goal for your visit?
Dr. Jill Biden: The United States and Republic of Korea have a very close and strong relationship. The purpose of my visit is to build upon our joint efforts to expand economic opportunities for women in Asia and to give girls around the world an equal shot in the classroom. Women and girls in Republic of Korea have made tremendous strides over the past few decades, but I know they still encounter many difficulties, just as women do in many countries, including the United States. When women are unable to fully participate in the workforce, it impacts not only their lives, but their families, their communities, and the economy. During my visit I hope to follow up with the participants from the Republic of Korea who attended the White House Summit on Working Families, learn more about how women and girls contribute to their country, and discuss more ways that we can improve quality education for girls and economic opportunities for women.
Q. What part of the Republic of Korea are you aware of or interested in (both personally, and officially)? Have you ever visited the Republic of Korea before?
Dr. Jill Biden: This is my first time traveling to the Republic of Korea, but my husband Joe, the Vice President, has visited previously. During my time in Republic of Korea, I am interested in learning more about the progress women in the Republic of Korea have made on the issues of girls’ education and women’s empowerment. Young women and girls in Republic of Korea excel in terms of educational achievements, but continue to face many challenges in the workplace. I hope to hear about the initiatives the Republic of Korean government has pursued to even the playing field for women in the workplace and to meet with the women who have experienced first-hand the benefits of these initiatives.
Q. Your schedule for the visit has been kept completely confidential to date. What do you plan on doing during your visit? Where will you visit and who will you meet with?
Dr. Jill Biden: I am a lifelong educator and whenever I travel, I try to visit schools and meet with teachers and students. I feel most at home whenever I am in a classroom. On this trip, I want to hear first-hand from girls about their experiences in their countries education system. I also look forward to talking with working moms, students, women entrepreneurs and lawmakers to discuss the ways in which we can work together to make sure girls and women have the tools they need to realize their full potential.
Q. We heard that you will be visiting the Republic of Korea, Vietnam, and Laos, together with Catherine Russell, who is currently serving as an Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues. How are lives of Asian women different from those of American women?
Dr. Jill Biden: Every country has its own unique challenges, but what strikes me is not the differences between Asian and American women, but our shared interest in solving long-term problems that we face. No country has achieved gender equality, not the Republic of Korea, not the United States, and not any of the other countries we’re visiting. Women all around the world face gender-based discrimination. They face stereotypes and bias, and they’re underrepresented in politics and government.
We have so much to gain by valuing women and girls—from boosting our economies to improving health and education for our children. But we have a long way to go. While women have long led the charge for gender equality, we also realize that we can’t do this alone. Governments, the private sector, civil society, religious leaders, and entire communities are coming together to invest in women and girls. If we can keep the momentum going and continue to empower women and girls, I think we’ll see powerful results.
Q. Have you ever experienced concerns similar to those experienced by working women?
Dr. Jill Biden: As a working mother and grandmother, I know first-hand the dedication and sacrifice required of women in the workforce. When I went back to school for my master’s degree, I continued to teach full-time while raising our three children. I remember so clearly the hour-long drives each way to and from school—time that I didn’t get to spend with my family. Even though it took me 15 years to earn two master’s degrees and eventually my doctorate, I kept at it because I knew that education and teaching was my passion and life’s work.
From day one, the Obama-Biden Administration has worked to empower women in the workforce. From supporting women-owned businesses in the United States to demanding equal pay for equal work; from creating the White House Council on Women and Girls to appointing a strong team of women leaders on White House staff, the Administration has taken steps to ensure that women are involved in shaping every level of our government and that their voices are heard throughout society and all around the world.
Q. You have served as a professor for a long time. Are you still teaching students? Your experience as a Professor does not seem to be related to politics. Did such experience help you in any way with your role as Second Lady?
Dr. Jill Biden: I cannot imagine not teaching. I have taught for over 30 years, and I continue to teach English as a full-time professor at a community college in just outside of Washington, DC. When President Obama and my husband were first elected to the White House in 2008, I told Joe that I wanted to continue teaching. One week after inauguration, I was back in the classroom because teaching is not what I do, it is who I am.
As an educator, I am proud to be part of a White House that is committed to investing in our students, and restoring the promise of America’s education system. In 2010, I hosted the first-ever White House Summit on Community Colleges with President Obama. I have traveled across the country visiting over 60 colleges to see firsthand the extraordinary work being done to make transformative change on their campuses to help improve outcomes for their students. And, as Second Lady, I have the opportunity to visit countries around the world, like the Republic of Korea, Vietnam, and Laos, to meet with students, teachers, parents and leaders to learn more about how education is helping them build a better life for themselves, their families and their communities.
Q. What is important to you?
Dr. Jill Biden: Education. I love being in the classroom and helping my students. When I teach, my goal is to help them find the confidence in themselves to overcome challenges large and small, because I know that one’s confidence can make all the difference in the world. Those who are determined to get their education will almost always build a better life for themselves and their families.
In the United States, we are a people who value the strength and diversity of our nation. We value the dignity and worth of every citizen, and work to ensure that anyone who wants an education can get one. Unfortunately today, 62 million girls around the world are not in school. That’s why earlier this year, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama launched Let Girls Learn—a whole of government initiative between State, USAID, Peace Corps and MCC to support adolescent girls education worldwide. Peace Corps Volunteers will be focused on community-led solutions to open doors of education for girls around the world. It is in this spirit that we always stand ready to help others, whether down the street or on the other side of the world.