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The White House
Office of the First Lady
For Immediate Release
November 06, 2014
11:07 A.M. EST
MRS. OBAMA: Well, hello.
MRS. OBAMA: What’s going on? Just hanging out at the White House, in the East Room. (Laughter.) We’re excited to have you guys here. Welcome, welcome.
Well, this is our latest edition of our White House Music Series — did they tell you that? That that’s why you’re here? (Laughter.) But today, with Veterans Day right around the corner, we’re saluting our troops. And during this workshop, we’re going to be talking about the role of music in national life, how it can move us and inspire us and bring us together.
And we’ve got some really special guests here who are going to be part of this conversation. We have Willie Nelson, who is here. (Applause.) You guys may have heard of this guy, Common, who is up here. (Applause.) We have Christiana Ball, who won the Army’s Rising Star competition. (Applause.) We have Ted Peterson, who is a songwriter who served in the military for eight years. (Applause.) And to help lead the discussions, we have my dear friend, Bob Santelli, who’s here, as well. (Applause.)
But our most special guests here today are all of you. We have got some wonderful young people here from Bel Air, Maryland, as well as from Quantico and Alexandria, Virginia — we can hear it. Let’s hear it. (Applause.) You can whoop it up here. That’s good, that’s good.
And one of the reasons why we wanted to bring this group together is that we have many military kids in the audience today. Can I just hear a round of applause for the folks who are military kids? (Applause.) And this was my request, because as we’re doing the big celebration in the tent, I wanted to make sure that we had an opportunity to highlight you guys here. Because I think that everyone in this country should know your stories. They really should. Because I’ve gotten to know them, and you guys are amazing.
But the unfortunate thing is not everybody does. Not everybody knows what it’s like to be a military kid in this country. A lot of folks don’t understand what it’s like to grow up in a military family.
Let me give you some statistics. They might not know that there are more than two million military kids across this country, or that every school district in America includes military-connected children and youth. They might not realize that, on average, military kids like many of you move between six to nine times by the time you graduate from high school.
Now, for you guys, that sounds natural, right? That’s just the way life goes. But a lot of folks may not know that each of those moves means not just adjusting to a new house, but also to a new school, to a whole new neighborhood, a new set of friends — every single time you move. You’re readjusting constantly. Maybe your school doesn’t have the AP classes that you need to take, so you’re scrambling to figure out how you’re going to readjust your work — I see a lot of heads nodding. Maybe it’s tough to get playing time on your new team because you moved again, and you’re trying to start over.
Maybe you’re going through all this — this touches my heart because my daughter is a junior now and she’s studying for the ACTs, or the SATs or whatever that is — (laughter) — all that stuff you all have to do. And just imagine these kids who are moving and trying to adjust and still take their tests and prepare. They’re worried about the colleges they’re going to go to and whether colleges will understand or accept all of the different credits on your transcripts — just imagine that, the whole college process being a little more muddled.
And on top of all of that, many of you might be dealing with a mom or dad who’s deployed overseas, maybe for the fourth or fifth time. And that means they’re missing a lot of birthdays and games and practices and plays, and all the good stuff that many civilian parents take for granted. And while they’re gone, that means that many of you have to pick up the slack; that you have to be that rock for your younger siblings. Maybe you have to pick up some extra chores or just balance the emotions that are going on in your family. So many of you have to grow up a little faster and take on a little more responsibility than a lot of other kids your age.
But here’s one of the many reasons why I love military kids and why I wanted to make sure you all got highlighted today as we celebrate: It’s because while you all go through all of this, you’re some of the most resilient young people that I have ever met. I mean, truly, the fact that you’re still managing to excel in your classes — so many of you are at the top of your classes, so many of you are getting into the colleges of your choice, you’re dealing as leaders in your schools. Many of you are student leaders, many of you are still involved in community service, finding ways to volunteer even as you move from school to school to school. And you know how to roll with the punches, which — a lot of people your age don’t even know what that means: inconvenience. You guys know how to handle this, how to handle things when they don’t go your way.
And just imagine all the stuff you’ve been exposed to as you’ve traveled throughout the country — many of you have traveled throughout the world — that you’re exposed to so many different people and cultures and you’re learning how to adapt. You have a broader view of the nation and the world. So many of you will be the next leaders because of these experiences. And that’s what I want to make sure you all know: As tough as it is, this stuff makes you stronger and more resilient, and it’s going to make you successful. So it’s a badge of honor.
And that’s why you all are heroes to me and to my husband — because of what you all do. You manage to allow your families to continue to serve. I just know that many of your parents couldn’t do what they do if you all didn’t hold yourselves together the way you do. And for that, we are grateful.
And that’s one of the things we’re trying to do with our Joining Forces initiative, is to really show military kids like you how grateful we are — even little things. We’re helping to work with teachers to understand what you’re going through. We’re trying to make sure that you all have AP classes in your schools so that when you transfer, you have access to the best kind of courses that you need to pursue college. We’re trying to help you transition once you go to college.
So to all of you who didn’t grow up in a military family, I mean, one of the things that I want to make sure is that you realize that there are kids around who have. And it’s incumbent upon all of us to step up on their behalf. So for the young people out there, if you see a new kid at your school, I want you to reach out to them. Ask them whether they’re from a military family. Find out whether there’s a way you can help ease their transition — maybe invite them to be on your team, maybe check out bringing them into a club. You could ask them to do any number of things — invite them to be part of your group.
All of us have a role to play in making these kids know that they live in a grateful nation. There are so many ways to pitch in — and sometimes that means just finding a new way to say thank you. That’s really what we try to do with Joining Forces — just in a small way get this country to understand that these folks are sacrificing so much, and all they want from us is to know that their sacrifice is acknowledged and that it means something.
So that’s what we’re doing today. It’s one of the things we’re doing today. We wanted to bring you all to the White House today to show you how much we appreciate everything you do for the country. And I know that all these folks up on stage feel the same way.
So in a little bit, I’m going to turn it over to Bob to start the discussion, and I want you all to listen to what these folks have to say — and not only about music, but also about life. They have so much to offer. Willie is one of the greatest country singers the world has ever known. Common grew up on the South Side of Chicago — South Side! (Laughter.) Turned himself into one of the biggest names in hip-hop. And he does so much more than music. Christiana and Ted have served our country in uniform just like many of your parents. So they’ve got a lot of wisdom to impart.
So I want you guys — loosen up, make yourselves feel at home. Because the beauty of this experience for you is that you can relax into and enjoy it. And raise your hand and ask questions. I know it’s the White House, I know there are cameras. (Laughter.) But try to ignore all that and get as much as you can out of this experience and others.
And then here’s the thing I always ask the young people we bring in, is that for every single one of you there’s someone who couldn’t be in those chairs. So the question I have for you all to think about is how are you going to pay this forward. What are you going to do to share this experience with other kids in your community who may not have had this opportunity? So think about that along the way.
And I hope you have fun and I hope you enjoy your time here. And just don’t break anything. (Laughter.) It’s the only rule.
So with that, I’m going to turn it over to Bob, who’s going to get the conversation started. You guys have a great time. I love you all. I’m very proud of you. (Applause.)
11:19 A.M. EST