Dr. Jill Biden visits GMU campus to celebrate education initiative

Dr. Jill Biden spoke at the "Joining Forces" event at GMU (photo courtest of Dakota Cunningham).
Dr. Jill Biden spoke at the "Joining Forces" event at GMU (photo courtest of Dakota Cunningham).

On Wednesday, Oct. 3, Dr. Jill Biden came to George Mason University to celebrate “Joining Forces,” a program designed to educate the public on the importance of honoring veterans and military families.

There are over 100 colleges and universities who have signed on to the central mission of “Joining Forces.” The initiative emphasizes the preparation of educators in creating an ideal learning environment for military children. 

“Joining Forces is the national initiative started by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden which aims to educate, challenge and spark action from all sectors of society to ensure veterans and military families have the recognition and support they have earned,” read the event’s press release.

“Operation Educate the Educator,” held in the Harris Theater on campus, commemorated the commitment these universities have made to the program. Mason committed to the agreement in April of 2012

Biden was welcomed by Mark Ginsberg, the Dean of Mason’s Graduate School of Education, and President Ángel Cabrera.

“As I’ve traveled to bases across the country and the world, I’m always inspired by the strength and the resilience of our military families,” Biden said. “But they have told me about the many challenges they face: the long deployments, the frequent moves and the stress of having someone in harm’s way.”

As an educator and a military mother herself, Biden started “Joining Forces” to address an issue close to her heart.

“When I asked [military families] about their priorities almost everyone mentions education,” Biden said. “I’ve heard over and over from military families how important it is that a school environment be supportive of military children.”

In 2011, Obama and Biden introduced the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education and the Military Child Education Coalition as partners in “Joining Forces.” As part of her speech, Sharon Robinson, president and CEO of AACTE, said that together the organizations formed an advisory group to agree on three founding principles for the initiative.

The first principle concerns fostering awareness and understanding of military children to educators. Second, the initiative will require schools to meet certain social, emotional, and learning needs of the military children including providing schools with an understanding of the complications that are faced in their families. The third principle requires that the preschool through 12th grade classrooms create an environment responsive to the needs of military children.

Biden sees a great need across the country for such a program.

“There are military children in every school district in this country and there are more than 1.3 million children military connected whose parents are active duty,” Biden said.

Biden was joined by General Raymond Odierno, Chief of Staff for the United States Army.

“80% of military children attend public schools, so it’s very important that educators understand the challenges and sensitivities that go with that,” Odierno said.

 “On average as Felicity told you, military children attend six to nine different school systems,” Biden said. “It is really kind of unimaginable for those of us who have never moved as children. Through each transition they had to leave their friends, their sports teams, their ballet classes and adjust to new schools. We all want to support these children whose parents are doing so much for our country.”

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