THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the First Lady
For Immediate Release October 17, 2011
REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY
AND DR. JILL BIDEN
AT JOINING FORCES HEROES AT HOME 1,000 REBUILD EVENT
New York Avenue Home Build Site
11:57 A.M. EDT
DR. BIDEN: Thank you, David, for that introduction. And thank you for your continued work on behalf of our military families and veterans. And thanks, too, to Gary for all of the great work that Rebuilding Together is doing around the country to support veterans through projects just like this one.
And most of all, I want to thank Sergeant Johnny Agbi for welcoming us to his home today, and for this incredible commitment and service to our nation.
Sergeant Agbi, I know I speak for everyone here today when I say, you are a true hero. (Applause.) You and all of your fellow veterans and service members from across the country show us every day what words like “strength” and “courage” mean. And, of course, we’re also grateful to your family members for their service to our country.
Projects like today’s build represent some of the incredible ways that communities are coming together to support our veterans and military families all across the United States. And these projects, and all the partners and volunteers who make them possible, embody the spirit of the Joining Forces Initiative that the First Lady and I launched earlier this year.
So thank you to everyone for being here today. And now, it’s my honor and a true privilege to introduce a true advocate for all of our veterans and military families — my friend, our wonderful First Lady, Michelle Obama. (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: Good morning.
AUDIENCE: Good morning.
MRS. OBAMA: How’s it going?
MRS. OBAMA: It’s exciting. We’re honored to be here. I want to thank Gary Officer from Rebuilding Together, and David Works from Sears Holdings for their leadership and for being here today. And of course, I want to thank my partner in crime, Jill Biden. We have done a lot together on this effort. We’ve traveled everywhere from North Carolina to Colorado to New Hampshire for Joining Forces. But I have to say it’s good to be right here in our own backyard, just a quick commute down the street.
And no matter where we are, one of our goals with Joining Forces is really to use what we have to shine a light not only on the incredible service of America’s military families who give our nation so much, but also on those Americans — like all of you — who are stepping up in so many important ways to give something back to these men and women and their families.
And that’s exactly what’s happening here today with these two wonderful announcements. First, we’re marking the 1,000th home that Sears and Rebuilding Together have refitted for our wounded warriors through the Heroes at Home Project. And that is a very impressive accomplishment and you all should be just so proud — 1,000 homes. (Applause.)
And on top of that, Sears Holdings is pledging to increase the number of military family members in its workforce by 10 percent. I mean, that’s incredible. That’s exactly what we’re hoping to see happen. It means that more than 30,000 troops, veterans, and military spouses will be working at Sears. And it’s only the latest commitment that the Sears team has made. They have been working with us at Joining Forces since the very beginning. And we look forward to working with them even more, but more importantly, for them to serve as an example of how America’s businesses can look out for our heroes, particularly during these tough economic times.
And all of this is just amazing. It represents the best that our country has to offer. And just think about what those kind of numbers actually mean. Just think about the lives that are changed. Think about the renewed sense of security that each family feels because mom or dad just got hired; how the wounded warrior whose life is transformed by a refurbished home. Just think about what that new front door, that broader, wider front door means — it’s no longer an obstacle; the stairway that is no longer an adversary; the building that’s no longer just a house, but it’s now become a home.
And then you take all that hope and all that change and you multiply it by 1,000. That’s what’s happening here today. And that’s why today is so big, and that’s why Jill and I wanted to be a part of this very special day.
And that’s really what Joining Forces is all about. That’s what we were hoping to accomplish. Jill and I started this initiative to help marshal all of this country’s goodwill into something concrete — something that folks like Johnny can feel in their daily lives. And let me tell you, from just briefly spending time with Johnny and his family, he is an amazing — amazing — young man deserving of everything that is happening here today — kindness of spirit, a positivity. He’s got a strange sense of humor, too. (Laughter.) That’s good. I’m getting you back for that one. (Laughter.) He had us write on the wall, sign it, and then right when we were finished he was like, “Wrong spot.” (Laughter.) It’s very funny.
So we are grateful to Johnny and his family for all their service and sacrifice. And so, we’re also grateful for companies like Sears, organizations like Rebuilding Together, and more importantly, the volunteers like all of you who are here today for really leading the way, because none of this could happen without volunteers. I mean, I know you have been here for many, many weeks — Johnny said many of you had become like family. And that’s really what this is all about.
And it’s important during this time to also highlight that each of you is giving back in a way that makes sense for you. And by that I mean Rebuilding Together already knows how to refurbish homes; they’re just figuring out how to do it for veterans. Sears needs effective, committed employees, so they’re turning that need into opportunity for thousands of veterans and military family members by hiring some of the most highly skilled, dedicated individuals this country has to offer.
And as we heard, this isn’t just about doing the right thing; it’s about doing what makes the best business sense. That’s why it makes sense. And for volunteers who have the time and the talent to give — what you all are doing is directing all of that wonderful energy toward your neighbors and your fellow citizens who have given this nation so much.
So all of this is exactly the message of Joining Forces. We’re not asking anyone to do anything extraordinary. We’re not asking people to start a brand new organization, or to raise or spend millions of dollars. We just want everyone to ask themselves one simple question — (baby starts to cry) — now, he’s really cute. (Laughter.) And he’s been very good.
But we have — we’re just asking people to ask one simple question, and that is: “What can I do?” That’s really the question out there — “What can I do?” And then we need you to get out there and actually do it. And that’s what makes today so special.
But even with all the wonderful work going on here today, we also know that we’ve got so much more work to do. Today is not the finish line, even though it’s the 1,000th home. Instead, it’s a mile marker. Jill and I are not going to stop until every American — every single American in this country — is joining forces with our military families. Our hope, at the very least, is that these families know how much we appreciate their service. Sometimes it’s as simple as a thank you. Sometimes it’s as simple as a basic stop by to visit, go grocery shopping, to spend some time so that these individuals and their families know that their sacrifice was not in vain.
We want every single company out there — every single one — to figure out how they can do something, or do more. Every single organization, we want them to step up in some way. Every school, every faith community, and every citizen — we want everyone to do something. Not something grand, just something. Anything to show the support in a way that is worthy of the strength, courage, and sacrifice of our troops and their families.
A day like today reminds all of us just how possible that goal is. This is happening everywhere, all over the country. And we just need to lift it up so that we remind ourselves how great we are as a nation, and how, when people fall on times when they need support, there are thousands of us — millions of us — ready to step up and lend a hand.
So I want to thank you all. Thank you, once again. Thank you for having us here at this glorious day. Thank you for your accomplishments and for your achievements. And thank you for being a model of what we want the rest of the country to do.
So Jill and I are going to keep joining forces, and we hope that you continue to do the same, and call on others in your neighborhoods and your families and your communities to do the same as well.
Thank you all, and congratulations. (Applause.)
END 12:08 P.M. EDT