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Jill Biden encourages veteran education in speech at Student Veterans of America virtual conference

Dr. Jill Biden speaks with military families outside of a private residence in Norfolk on Sept. 24, 2020. (Jonathon Gruenke/Daily Press/TNS)
February 26, 2021

First Lady Jill Biden delivered the keynote address at the 13th annual Student Veterans of America (SVA) National Conference virtually on February 19 and 20, in which she praised members of the SVA and encouraged military veterans to pursue educational opportunities provided to them by the U.S. military.

“SVA, its chapters and members, all of you have been a force for change across our country. You are the voice of a generation who has carried the incredible weight of our wars for over 20 years,” Biden said in the virtual speech. “You speak up for each other. You get things done. And you show your brothers and sisters in arms what’s possible.”

“We know that when you have the chance to succeed, you lift up those around you, as well,” she continued.

In her speech, Biden talked about being in a military family, acknowledging she and President Joe Biden’s son Beau, who served in Iraq with the Army National Guard. Biden also recognized her father, a Navy signalman in World War II, whose service she said changed the course of her life.

Biden recalled how her father would take her and her sisters to visit a memorial that bore the names of those who fought alongside him in the war. The family would polish the names, a small gesture from her father to keep the “communion with his brothers in arms” and the “bond that they had with each other and the sacrifice that they had made.”

“He, and the men he fought besides, made our world a safer and more just place,” Biden said.

The First Lady went on to praise the GI Bill, legislation that provides veterans returning home from war with a number of benefits, including the opportunity to earn a college degree.

“That was my family’s American dream: a life where military service meant educational opportunities,” Biden said.

“As a teacher myself, I have taught many veterans transitioning from military service, worried they would not adjust to civilian life…I’ve seen them not only adjust but thrive and become leaders in their communities,” she added.

The two-day event featured a number of presentations and panel discussions by the University’s Office of Veteran and Military Affairs and the Institute for Veterans and Military families.

Like Biden, the national conference highlighted the theme “Leaning Forward Together” and focused largely on a successful transition from military service into civilian life, including translating military jobs to marketable skills.