Yesterday, Mrs. Obama made a speech in front of the Clinton Global Initiative gathering. It surprised some viewers, judging from the twitter feed running next to it. There were “what does this have to do with Global issues ” tweets…. Human potential, that’s what!
She talked about harnessing human potential, and got downright specific about it – harnessing the potential of the Veterans and Military Spouses! She said:
Now, at first glance, I know this issue may seem too uniquely American in scope for such a global audience here at CGI. But right now, the human potential of America’s veterans and military families is both vast and woefully under-utilized, and that’s not just an issue for those individuals or for this country. It also significantly impacts what you and so many others are trying to achieve not just here in America, but around the world.
The examples she gave, of the servicemembers who have been building roads, going on humanitarian missions after every disaster, often being the first on the ground; working with diplomats, NGOs, local leaders… so why aren’t NGOs tapping that resource? why aren’t they realizing that this group of people has the boots on the ground, been there, done that resiliency and experience? Are they still living with that misconception that all the Veteran is going to do is shoot first, take names later? How shortsighted!
Mrs. Obama didn’t forget the military spouses, the ones that are the glue holding the families together. She compared the day of an FRG volunteer to that of a CEO – working with volunteers, communications strategies and coordination, learning about healthcare initiatives and new mental health counseling – and still keeping her family going without a staff to help out! Just because our resumes may show a lot of movement, doesn’t mean we aren’t dependable, committed, ready and willing to work!
She said it so well, I’m going to pull this in it’s entirety.
So the fact is that America’s veterans and military spouses have years of experience and training doing precisely the kind of work that all of you are doing every day across the globe. Are you building roads or schools or shelters? They’ve done that. Are you establishing health clinics in remote parts of the world? They’ve done that too. Are you trying to recruit and manage teams of volunteers? Are you working to get clean water into a village? Are you trying to move people to safety in the wake of a natural disaster? You see, that’s all in a day’s work for these folks.And that passion for serving, that commitment to helping others, that doesn’t just disappear when they return to civilian life. In a recent survey, 92 percent of veterans reported that they wanted to serve their communities and that it was important to them. And when asked what kind of service they wanted to do, 88 percent said they wanted to do disaster relief; another 86 percent wanted to help at-risk youth; still another 69 percent wanted to preserve our environment.You see, for these folks, service is the air they breathe. It’s the reason they were put on this Earth. And many of them don’t want to serve for just a certain number of years or a certain number of deployments — they want to make their whole life a tour of duty.
An Army veteran named Tom Tarantino put it best when he came to the White House just last week to meet with staff. He was talking about his experience transitioning from military to civilian life. And he said — and this is his quote — “When I left the service, I was looking for more than a paycheck. I was looking for a mission.”