First Lady Endorses Veterans, Spouses for Jobs
By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 23, 2010 First Lady Michelle Obama today asked leaders gathered for the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City to consider veterans and military spouses among their talent pool for working on global projects.
“This issue may seem too uniquely American in scope for such a global audience here,” said Obama, who was introduced by her husband, President Barack Obama. “But right now, the human potential of America’s veterans and military families is both vast, and woefully under-utilized, and that’s not just an issue for those individuals, or for this country. It also significantly impacts what you and so many others are trying to achieve, not just here in America, but around the world.”
Former President Bill Clinton started the non-profit organization in 2005 as a forum for philanthropists and others to solve global problems.
As first lady, Obama told the audience, she has made it her mission to meet with military families and elevate their issues. “I always come away from these visits not just with a sense of pride and gratitude, but with a sense of awe,” she said.
Many people don’t realize the scope of what U.S. military service entails, Obama said. She outlined a variety of common skills among servicemembers in areas covering technology and logistics, management and recruiting, disaster relief and diplomacy, among others.
Servicemembers “master state-of-the-art technologies -- some of the most advanced information, and medical, and communications systems in the world,” she said. “They run the world’s most complex operations, distributing supplies to thousands of locations, moving tons of equipment halfway across the globe.
Veterans have highly valuable, marketable skills, yet more than 150,000 recent veterans are struggling to find jobs, Obama said. “It’s hard to spend years serving your country, only to find that value of service isn’t fully understood,” she said.
Military spouses, too, have strong job skills, Obama said. They use their many skills, she said, to multi-task between raising children, often alone while their military spouses are deployed, and conducting volunteer work, often in leadership roles, while also pursuing careers and education.
The problem, Obama said, is that veterans and military spouses have a hard time translating their skills into civilian needs, and civilian employers don’t know enough about the work they do.
“America’s veterans and military spouses have years of experience and training doing precisely the kind of work that all of you are doing every day across the globe,” she said.
The first lady pledged to help the Global Initiative participants hire veterans and military spouses. “If you’ll do your part, I’ll commit to doing my part,” she said, by connecting people, answering questions and soliciting help from federal agencies.
Few employees would have the dedication and passion for service as former servicemembers and their spouses, Obama told the audience.
“For these folks, service is the air they breathe. It’s the reason they were put on this earth,” she said. “Many of them don’t just want to serve for a certain number of years, or deployments -- they want to make their whole life a tour of duty.
“This kind of potential is too precious and unique to squander,” she added.