First lady Michelle Obama announced today that U.S. business has pledged to hire 100,000 veterans and military spouses by 2014, and she made a personal vow not to rest until all of the country’s 859,000 unemployed veterans have gainful employment.
“Now I have to say I am excited to be here because this is a big day. This is unprecedented,” Obama said in a keynote address to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce today. “America has your back. Today, America’s businesses have stepped forward with pledges to hire 100,000 veterans and military spouses by 2014. That’s right, 100,000.”
Today’s pledge supports the “Joining Forces” initiative that Obama and Jill Biden, the vice president’s wife, launched earlier this year.
“That’s 100,000 jobs, that’s 100,000 veterans and spouses who will have the security of a paycheck and a good career,” the first lady continued. “That’s thousands of families that can rest just a little bit easier every night.”
Obama said the hiring pledge, including 5,000 positions for wounded warriors, came from two organizations: the International Franchising Association and the Military Spouse Employment Partnership. Companies such as The UPS Store, Microsoft, Home Depot and Citi are examples of businesses participating in the pledge.
“Companies large and small have stepped up to hire, retain and train our veterans and military spouses,” Obama said. “Every week, someone new is getting involved. Every day, we’re gaining more and more momentum.”
She pointed out that the announcement today, part of the Chamber’s “Hiring Our Heroes” event, is intended to be complimentary to steps that her husband, President Barack Obama, is taking to aid unemployed veterans, including a measure that passed in the Senate this afternoon, but has yet to pass the House of Representatives.
“In the American Jobs Act, he proposed tax credits for businesses that hire unemployed veterans or wounded warriors. This proposal is in front of Congress right now. They’re voting this afternoon, and I want to urge Congress to act on behalf of our heroes,” she said. “Each of these steps is going to make a real difference, not just for a veteran, but also for your businesses, and more importantly, for this entire nation.”
The first lady said the pledge “isn’t about making headlines” but rather ”upholding our sacred duty to our veterans and their families.”
“This is about who we are as individuals and as a country. This is about making sure that every person who wears our uniform knows that their fellow citizens have their backs,” she said. “We all know that there are thousands more veterans and military spouses out there looking for jobs, folks who just need a little help to connect with a hiring fair, to find a career that suits their skills.”
About 859,000 veterans are unemployed, and the jobless rate for post-9/11 veterans is an estimated 12.1 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“That just doesn’t seem right, and hearing something like that, it drives me to want to do more,” Obama said. “I won’t stop, and all of the people joining me here today won’t stop. We will keep working until this wave of support reaches every single veteran and every single military family in this nation. That is my solemn promise as first lady.”