Colleen Searson Schumacher: Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden, I don't know much about the organization Joining Forces but I think supporting military families is so important today. Could you give some suggestions of small things we can do to help? I mentioned small things because I know a lot of people who have limited time but still want to help in any way we can.
BIDEN: Well I think, for me, I'm a military mom. One of the things my church did for me is they put my son's name in the bulletin so that everybody prayed for him every Sunday. Then one Sunday we had a card in the back of the church for all the military families, and everyone in the congregations signed their name and said thank you for your service and we gave those to the families. So that's one of the things someone did for us as a military family.
OBAMA: We would encourage people to go to JoiningForces.gov because it's a wonderful website that really gives a lot of good examples of ways big and small that people can help. And there are stories from people who have done things as well that can spark some ideas. But the one thing we try to tell everyone is do what you do best. You don't have to be a military expert, you don't have to live near a base, you don't have to have some specific skill. I mean the truth is if people take what they're most talented and passionate about and apply that in their communities with the families in their communities, so for example, if you're a cook, there are families that need a good meal every now and then. If you're an accountant, military families need pro-bono accounting services. But the website will help people find the families and the organizations in their area, because I think that's one of the keys. We have to find the families where we live, and doing that through our churches, through our schools, making sure we know who's out there in our own communities, and then doing what we do best for them.BIDEN: Because one of the things you have to remember is that the National Guard and reserve families are in neighborhoods. They're not in bases; they're not wearing uniforms. So, they're just your local fireman, a teacher, whoever. So, you can go to your school and say OK, what military children are in my son's or daughter's classroom, and how can we reach out to them. I know, like for instance in several schools, a lot of the teachers are reaching out by Skyping, doing parent-teacher conferences over Skype with deployed parents, so that they can see how their kids are doing in school. And I know for my little granddaughter's class, her teacher actually took a picture of Bo's unit and put it outside of the classroom, so that everybody knew, all the kids knew, every day, that Natalie's dad was at war. So they're really small things. I mean you can get your book club together and sign cards or write letters to the troops, you know. Go to your strength. Jason Abbruzzese: Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden, what are some materials that are most valued by our service members overseas? What should we be sending/donating? BIDEN: When my son was in Iraq, I sent packages all the time, and one of the things I sent, I would bake brownies, because he loves brownies, and I would send running socks, because he was running. Just local newspapers, so he could see what was going on in the community, and he really appreciated that. So those are some of the things, and you can send candy, or playing cards, just things that will take up the time. OBAMA: And people shouldn't underestimate how important it is for these troops to just get a warm note; a warm note of thanks and appreciation. Again, our trips and their families are not complicated people who demand much of anything. They're proud of their service, they don't ask for help, and they're always grateful for any little show of appreciation or thanks. I know getting a card from a classroom of kids would brighten their day. So, again, it doesn't have to be anything big. A lot of it is just showing our thanks. Jarret Schumacher: Let's get to what the American people really want to know. Pitcher or DH? What is the purer form of baseball? BIDEN: We're together on this! I'm a Phillies fan, so I think I'm a National League purist. We both say they have to hit! OBAMA: They have to hit, they have to hit. Jim Gourley: How can we most efficiently and effectively facilitate public support of veterans? OBAMA: Yeah, I think that's one of the big components of Joining Forces, is really shining a light on the stories of our military families. The beauty is we live in a country where we're just overflowing with goodwill for our troops. I mean I don't think you would meet an American in this country who is not somehow proud of our troops. Our goal is to really channel all of that goodwill into concrete action. And so again, we encourage people to go local. Start in their own communities, start in their own churches, start in their own schools, in their own neighborhood clubs. Whatever institutions or organizations in their own workplaces, where they can find and identify family in their midst. Whether they're re-service, whether they're people who served or whether they're veterans, and then find a way to lift them up. Help tell their stories within those communities, because the stories are always inspiring. I haven't had an interaction with a military member or a veteran or a family member that has not left me in awe and ready to do more. So, Jill and I are really trying to do that through Joining Forces. I mean, we have a voice, but the truth is the voices of these family members are the most powerful. We saw that when I did Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. And the story of the family and what they were doing in spite of their own needs. There are thousands like that in communities all across this country. And it is our obligation as individuals to make sure that we're lifting those stories up, and then acting. This is not just shining a light, but it's also a call to action, as well. Tonya Fisher Nash: How can we effectively encourage employers to hire military spouses? OBAMA: This was the announcement that my husband and I made, where we received a commitment from a range of companies that have agreed to hire 25,000 veterans and military spouses over the next two years. And that's the kind of commitment that we're looking for from businesses large and small. One of the greatest challenges is for businesses to understand how do they translate military skills into the civilian jobs that are available. Because the truth is our military members, our veterans, they're some of the most highly trained, highly skilled people. And spouses; when you think about what they have to juggle -- the average military spouse is working a full-time job: They have kids, they're basically single parents dealing with multiple deployments, they've moved an average of seven, eight, nine times, and they've had to change jobs, and many of them are volunteering in their own communities and are leaders in their own communities. I mean these are the kind of skills that we want in our businesses, but we have to work with our employers to help them understand, how do we interpret a military spouse's resume and not see seven moves as a red flag rather than a reality of military life. BIDEN: But the spouses, I mean as Michelle said, are really hard-working, they're flexible, they handle so much, they know how to figure out a problem, the answer to a problem. So they make great employees, and I think that really the number of companies that are coming forward is just growing every day. It's working. I mean, Joining Forces, people are starting to listen and say, 'Yeah, you're right.' OBAMA: But we want more people to do it. We want businesses in local communities to really think about making space in their hiring process for veterans and for military spouses, and again, that's the kind of support that we can provide through Joining Forces, really finding employers that want to step up, pairing them with each other, finding ways that they can pass on best practices in terms of hiring. Our husbands, through their administration, the government has made hiring veterans and military spouses a priority, and we hope to see that in businesses and companies and organizations throughout the country. We want them to do the same, because we're going to see hundreds and thousands of troops coming back home from these wars, and even in a tough economy, we want these troops to come home to some kind of stability, because we owe them a debt of gratitude, and they shouldn't have to come back to a country after fighting for our freedom, and then have to fight for a job. BIDEN: And don't forget education. Through the new GI Bill, now spouses are covered. So if they want to go continue a degree, or start a degree, now they're covered under the GI Bill, so that's another route that spouses can take. Matt Bezerman: Mrs. Obama, we know that you and your husband are White Sox fans, but what does the President plan to do to finally get the Cubs back to the World Series? OBAMA: Well the truth is that we live in a mixed household. He's a White Sox fan. I grew up a Cubs fan, because my father, even though we grew up in the South Side, loved the Cubs. And I grew up every morning coming home from school at 3:30, the game would be on, we would watch Jose Cardenal. He was usually batting by the time I got home, and that was a way that me and my father really bonded, so I still have a close affinity with the Cubs. With that said, with both of our teams, we just continue to pray. We continue to pray and to hope. The beauty of Chicago fans is we're used to it, and we love our teams win or lose -- sometimes it's a little bit more lose than win. But we will continue to pray. CCCDems (Twitter Question): #AskMichelle What can young adults in Chicago do to help support Joining Forces? OBAMA: I love that question because young adults can play a really important role. One of the most fun things that I did this year was to tape a show iCarly, which is a popular show among teenagers, particularly in my household, as well. It was a show on military families. ICarly is a military kid, and it's a show, it's going to air the first of the year. It kind of illustrates the way that young people can support their friends who are in military families. So again, this isn't a call to action just for grownups and businesses and organizations. There are thousands of military kids out there that are going through just some tremendous sacrifices on their own. Imagine, there are kids who have been raised most of their lives with a parent or two deployed. Many military kids have gone to nine or 10 schools over the course of their lifetime, and had to maintain their grade-point average and still trying to get into college, trying to make new friends, trying to join extracurricular activities. And where young people can come in, in their schools, in their clubs, on their sports teams, to look out for who the military kids are, again in their midst, and make sure they're finding a way to bring them in, under stand the challenges that they face, be that friend, add that extra reach, extend that extra hand, that helping hand, and we also encourage young people to go to JoiningForces.gov. This is the technology generation. I tell them to go to the website, again there are many ideas, many organizations right in their own communities in Chicago that are doing this that they can connect to. But they can do this in their own churches, in their own schools. Again, look where you are. That's what I would encourage young people to do because they can play an important role in making the kids of these families really feel like they're not alone. BIDEN: And I actually met two teenage girls who went to a military family's conference, and they started talking with one another about how difficult it was to have a parent who was deployed, and they actually started a mentoring kind of service or kind of club for other teenage girls because they saw the problems that they had when mom or dad was away. And so now they're reaching out, just like Michelle said, they're reaching out to teenage girls and saying, 'You know what, I went through that, too, and this is what I did,' or, 'This is how I can help you.'