First Lady Dr. Jill Biden has a long history of supporting the nation’s armed forces and veterans, a cause she will continue to spearhead during her husband’s time as president.
Her connection to the armed forces is one near and dear to her heart: Dr. Biden’s father, Donald Jacobs, served in the Navy during World War II; President Joe Biden's son, Beau Biden, who she raised, served in both the United States Army and the Delaware Army National Guard before his death from brain cancer in 2015.
During her time as second lady, Dr. Biden and then-first lady Michelle Obama launched Joining Forces in 2011, an initiative that supports service members and their families through wellness, education, and employment opportunities.
During Biden's successful presidential campaign, both he and Dr. Biden promised to relaunch and prioritize a new Joining Forces initiative.
In a virtual meeting Wednesday alongside Charlene Austin, the wife of newly-confirmed Secretary of Defense Gen. Lloyd Austin, Dr. Biden said the renewed effort will focus on fostering open communication and dialogue between the armed services community and the government.
“There’s still so much work to do, and the needs of this community are evolving,” the first lady said. “As we build on the progress we've made, we'll be hosting listening sessions with families, government leaders, and experts. We’ll figure out where we need to improve, and create strategies and timelines to get there.”
Dr. Biden said the initial goal of the 2011 project was not to “tell military families what they needed,” but instead to listen to their requests -- a theme that she plans to continue under her husband’s administration.
“While I hope you will tell us when we are getting it right, more importantly, I hope you'll tell us when we get it wrong,” Dr. Biden said. “I hope you'll help us make this initiative reflect your lived experiences, so we can truly serve the military families who serve us all.”
The Biden administration formally began on Jan. 20, and the first lady joked on Wednesday that she can’t believe “it's only been two weeks since the inauguration, and already I've had so much to do.”
One of the first lady’s first official events in the White House was last week’s virtual meeting with high school members of the Military Children Education Coalition’s (MCEC) Student 2 Student peer mentoring program, many of whom she mentioned during Wednesday’s call with military spouses.
“You are our North Star, so welcome to the White House. I wish you could be with me right here, together in person,” Dr. Biden told the students last Friday. “As a member of MCEC’s Student 2 Student program, you are demonstrating what our military community does best: service and sacrifice for others. Using your own challenges to make it easier for someone else.”