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Michelle Obama Urges Global Meeting Leaders to Hire Veterans

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NEW YORK -- At a conference traditionally dominated by international concerns, First Lady Michelle Obama chose instead to focus on an issue much closer to home in her speech Thursday that closed the sixth annual Clinton Global Initiative. Drawing on one of the event's themes of "Harnessing Human Potential," Mrs. Obama encouraged the audience of business and nonprofit leaders to employ former military service members and their spouses.

Following an introduction by President Obama -- who praised his wife's "moral voice and her moral center" -- the first lady made the case for engaging returning servicemen and women. "I'm asking you to take advantage of their talent, their dedication, and their experience," she said. "I'm not asking you to do this out of the goodness of your heart -- do it because it's good for your bottom line and the success of your organization."

Praising the capabilities of veterans, the first lady said they had "highly valuable, highly transferable, highly marketable skills -- skills that I know many businesses, including those represented here today, are desperate to find." Those who have served in the armed forces, she went on, "master state-of-the-art technologies, run the world's most complex operations, oversee hundreds of their colleagues, and shoulder more responsibility than many CEOs."

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Mrs. Obama lady praised military families as well, likening the work of spouses who lead Family Readiness Groups (FRGs) as similar to that of "a CEO -- or COO -- or senior executive."

She also advocated for veteran employment in the nonprofit world -- specifically in areas such as disaster assistance and relief work. While serving in the military, soldiers "go on regular humanitarian missions throughout the world, providing everything from food aid, to medical care, to help with construction," she said. "They're called to act as diplomats, social workers, mediators, and educators."

Providing context for this high-profile employment drive, the first lady highlighted the problems faced by recently discharged troops. According to her remarks, 150,000 recent veterans are struggling to find jobs; three-quarters of veterans report having difficulty translating the expertise gained in the military into a resume; 61 percent of employers do not fully understand the skills that veterans have to offer.

Mrs. Obama addressed the psychological toll exacted by unemployment on these returning service people: "It's hard to give so much, for so long, for a cause greater than yourself, only to come home and find that there's nowhere you quite fit in."

She noted her husband's work to help veterans -- including a "21st Century GI Bill which is helping nearly 300,000 veterans and their families get the education they need to fulfill their dreams" and hiring nearly 33,000 veterans in the federal government. But, she added, "the government can only do so much."

The first lady then made a pledge. "As part of my ongoing efforts to encourage folks to support our veterans and military families, I'll do my part to connect you with advocates and experts -- and with resources throughout our government -- from the Department of Labor to the Defense Department and the VA."

She added, "I will use my platform as first lady to bring folks together around this issue. I'll work to spark not just a national conversation, but national action to give our vets and military spouses the opportunities they deserve."


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12 Comments

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dickdees

Clinton Global Initiative?? You must mean this recession that he created when he lowered housing mortgage requirements and the sub-prime market was born. That market hurt the very people it was supposed to help and now the world is hurting because of it. He was warned at the time in newspaper articles in the NY Times that his actions would cause a financial system meltdown... did it anyway and here we are.

September 27 2010 at 8:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
john johnson

As a daughter, mother and wife of a veteran I am all for doing everything we can for our service personnel. Why haven't we seen this push in a forum other than at a conference focused on foreign countries and peoples. The issues being discussed are about foreign disaster relief and health issues, etc. America is a good neighbor and we help all we can when disasters hit third-world countries. We help feed the hungry and do what we can medically. But, we are hurting in America. We have families that are homeless, people losing their home, hunger and joblessness, and the list goes on. When are we going to concentrate on our own country? One has to think that Ms. Obama's choice of platforms is nothing but politically motivated.

September 24 2010 at 10:48 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
ellingt5

Is this her way of saying unemployment is so bad in the US that they have to go overseas to get a job? Pitiful!

September 23 2010 at 9:57 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ellingt5's comment
tausands

Evidently you can only read your own bias into anything. She was making the point that too often in the private sector, businesses don't understand the skills veterans have because they don't understand the meaning of many military positions.

September 23 2010 at 11:25 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
dc walker

As it was an international conference should these men and their families hire out to foreign countries' military??

September 23 2010 at 7:33 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dc walker's comment
tausands

Is it your view that a soldier can only be a soldier? International companies can use skilled, capable individuals too. Our vets are technologists, construction workers, medical doctors, scientists...what company wouldn't benefit from their experience?

September 23 2010 at 11:28 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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