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Moms on a Mission

Michelle Obama and Jill Biden rally support for military families

Michelle Obama and Jill Biden discuss joining forces at the White House

Jill Biden and Michelle Obama say it's time for Americans to show more love for the families of those who serve. — Photo by Art Streiber

Q: And if you don't live near a base?

MO: Look within your own community. Look within your church, your kids' school. Connect with military families and find out what their needs are.

JB: I'm a community college teacher, and last year when my husband and I went to Iraq, one of the officers there told me this story about a six-year-old in his daughter's class. During a holiday program they played "Ave Maria," and the little girl just burst into tears. The teacher ran over and said, "What's the matter? Why are you crying?" And she said, "That's the song they played at my daddy's funeral. He died in Iraq."

And so when I came back, I talked to other educators, and as a result, we're close to getting 100 teachers' colleges to commit to putting into their curriculum lessons that help military children. The teachers there are also finding out about who's in their classrooms, and they're working with the PTAs. I know everybody in my classroom who's deployed, who's military, and what they're doing.

Q: You've talked enthusiastically about troop greeters.

JB: In Maine they're all senior citizens. And they greet the troops coming home, no matter what time of day or year. When my son came back into this country from Iraq, he landed in New Hampshire. And he said to me, "Mom, you have no idea how much it meant to get off that plane and look down and see two rows of veterans who were there, people saying, 'Thank you for your service, Soldier. Thank you for your service.'" And they had cell phones, and they handed them to the soldiers so that they could call home the minute they hit American soil.

"The beauty is, if you stick to your passions, the things that you really care about, then it's authentic." — Michelle Obama

Q: Let's shift gears a minute. You both have put your unique marks on your roles as First Lady and Second Lady. What was the thinking that went into how you would "be"?

JB: I don't think I thought, "Oh, what am I going to work on?" It naturally evolved for me. I felt I had a platform I wasn't going to waste. And so whatever I was interested in — education, military families, breast cancer — those were the issues I had worked on for years, and now I had a bigger stage.

Q: What about the First Lady role?

MO: My affinity and passion for military families came out of meeting many of these women while campaigning. Their stories moved me. So, like Jill, I have a big platform. We're professional women. We understand the issues. We understand the power of our positions and the delicate nature of them as well. Jill has been a U.S. Senate spouse for a very long time.

JB: My adult life. Exactly. [Laughs.]

MO: All your married life, right?

JB: Oh, yes.

MO: And I was a neophyte Senate wife. The beauty is, if you stick to your passions, the things that you really care about, then it's authentic. And that's one thing I've always said: If I'm going to do this, it has to be authentic, so that people believe you.

Next: Michelle Obama on her mother's role. >>

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