Disney Boardwalk Inn, Orlando, Florida – November 14, 2013
MRS. OBAMA: Well hello, everyone. It is a real pleasure to be with all of you today, not just because it’s at Disney. (Laughter.) Because when you turn off that highway, you just can’t help but get excited. This is a magical place. And I begged my Secret Service to let me go on some rides — (laughter) — but I don’t know if we’ll make that happen.
But I want to start by thanking Bob for that very kind introduction, and for Disney’s outstanding leadership on behalf of our veterans. Disney has truly gone above and beyond. They have created an entire initiative on veterans-hiring here at Disney, and they’re also hosting this wonderful summit to help other companies do the same.
And it’s this kind of generosity, it’s this kind of commitment that we were exactly going for through Joining Forces. That’s what it’s all about. So I just want to take a moment to give Bob and the Disney team another round of applause. (Applause.) Congratulations.
And of course, I want to thank all of you for taking the time to join us here today. And I understand that you’ve been busy this morning with panels and remarks, and I also understand you’ll be spending all afternoon learning new hiring strategies and best practices. And I also know that it’s not easy for many of you to take this much time away from your businesses, your work — particularly for those of you from small- and medium-sized businesses.
But I also know, as Bob said, there’s a reason that you chose to be here today. And it’s not just because hiring veterans is the patriotic thing to do — which it absolutely is. You’re here because hiring veterans is the smart thing to do for your businesses, because veterans are some of the most highly skilled, hardest-working employees that you will ever find.
And you don’t have to take my word for it. Just look at the research. A recent report from the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University states that veterans are resilient, they are good at team-building, they’re comfortable with diversity, they’re good at handling uncertainty, they have language skills and technical training — and the report goes on and on and on.
Many of you already know this from firsthand experience. For example, those of you who work right here at Disney may have encountered an employee named Glenn Tussing. Now, Glenn served in the Air Force as Chief of Future Joint Manpower Requirements. Now, with a title like that, you might wonder how on Earth did Glenn wind up here at Disney. But if you look at what Glenn was actually doing in the military, it makes perfect sense.
See, Glenn was a manpower expert. And for every mission he was assigned, he was responsible for figuring out the exact numbers and types of troops needed for that mission to succeed
— from the pilots, to the engineers, to the medical personnel. Then he would have to locate those troops, and then help them get where they needed to go.
So when Disney was looking for someone to manage the menus in Disney properties around the world, and then figure out the exact quantities and types of ingredients needed for every recipe at every meal, and then get that information where it needed to go, they knew that Glenn was their guy. (Laughter.) In fact, today, Glenn says he’s actually using the same types of databases and programs he was using in the military — although Glenn reports that here at Disney, folks smile a whole lot more. (Laughter.)
So it’s fair to say that our veterans have some highly marketable and highly transferrable skills, and chances are you won’t go wrong if you hire a veteran. But for many companies, that’s really where the biggest challenge lies — in the hiring process.
For example, where do you go to find veterans who are looking for work? How do you translate all those military credentials, those acronyms and jargon on their résumés into civilian qualifications? And once you’ve got veterans on board, how do you retain them? How do you ensure they have the opportunities and support they need to succeed?
So it’s really not for lack of interest that small- and medium-sized companies don’t hire veterans. Often it’s just a lack of information or resources. And as an employer, that deficit can make you hesitant, because when it comes to hiring a veteran, you want to get it right. And fortunately, that’s what you all have learned about today.
You’ve learned how to get it right. You’ve learned that veterans can bring valuable skills to every part of your business, from marketing to IT, to strategic communications and operations. You’ve learned that there are thousands of government job centers and nonprofits that are eager to help you bring veterans on board. And this afternoon, Disney is going to be teaching you how to successfully recruit and retain veterans all across the country.
So now it’s up to you to go home, put all these resources and all this good expertise to use. And this is the perfect time to get started, because in the coming months, as you know, more and more of our servicemembers are — be coming home and hanging up their uniforms, and transitioning to civilian life. And we’re counting on all of you to ensure that these veterans can get the good jobs they deserve.
That’s especially true for small- and medium-sized businesses. Because there are veterans in just about every zip code in this country, but not every community has a Disney. What every community does have, however, are local businesses like the ones that many of you represent. So companies like yours can actually hire veterans where they and their families live.
And remember — you don’t have to be a Disney or a Walmart and hire hundreds of thousands of people to make a difference. Maybe you can just bring one or two, maybe a dozen veterans on. And that’s okay, because every single one of those hires matters. And taken together, they add up pretty fast.
In fact, two years ago, the small- and medium-sized businesses in the International Franchise Association committed to hiring 80,000 veterans and military spouses. Pretty impressive, right? Well, just recently, they announced that they’ve nearly doubled that number by hiring a total of 150,000 veterans and military spouses in just two years.
So I know you all can do this. And once you’ve gone home and you’ve made your hires, we need you to reach out and help other small- and medium-sized businesses in your communities do the same thing. Share what you’ve learned here today. Answer their questions. Ease their concerns. Follow Disney’s example and pass this knowledge on to keep increasing the number of available job opportunities for veterans and military spouses.
And to the big companies that are here today, I just want to thank you. Thank you to those of you who have already done so much for our veterans. In just the past six months alone, you’ve helped us rack up nearly 100,000 hires. That makes for a grand total of more than 380,000 veterans hired since we first launched Joining Forces just two and a half years ago. That’s outstanding. (Applause.) That’s outstanding.
But of course, until every veteran in this country who wants a job has a job, it’s still not enough. So we need you all to really dig deep. We need you to double down. And that’s exactly what AT&T is doing. They’ve committed to doubling the number of veterans they hire. Starbucks —
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Woo hoo!
MRS. OBAMA: Yes, woo hoo! (Laughter.) Starbucks has just announced that over the next five years, they’ll be hiring 10,000 veterans and military spouses all across America. And just since Memorial Day, Walmart has hired 20,000 veterans — that’s 20,000 hires in less than six months.
So these are really impressive numbers. And what I want you to remember is that each one of these hires creates a ripple effect that runs through families and communities all across this country. Because when you hire one veteran, you’re not just giving a highly qualified employee the chance to help your company succeed, you’re giving one more American hero the chance to keep on serving his or her country. You’re giving that hero’s families the security that comes with a steady paycheck. And you’re modeling a certain set of values for your community and for your country. You’re sending a clear message that we honor those who sacrifice for us, and when they come home, we’re going to have their backs.
And in the end, that’s really my message to all the veterans here today. America has your back. And if you ever need to be reminded of how grateful this nation is and how much we care about you, I just want you to look around this room. As one example, you have got one of the biggest, most well-respected companies in the world hosting hundreds of other great American companies, and they’re all here because they want to serve you as well as you have served this country.
So I want to end today as I started — by, once again, saying thank you. Thank you to our veterans for your service and sacrifice, and to your families. Thank you to Disney for putting together this wonderful event. And thank you to all of you here today for everything your companies are doing and will continue to do on behalf of our nation’s veterans. And I look forward to working with you all in the months and years ahead.
Thank you so much. God bless. (Applause.)