So good afternoon. It's so wonderful to be here with all of you today. And let me start by thanking Sheila Casey, a true friend and champion for all military families, including mine. Thank you, Sheila, for your kind words and support over the years. It's been a pleasure working with you and your husband, General Casey.
Well, it's hard to believe that after five years, this is our last Joining Forces event. I remember the moment eight years ago, backstage in Springfield, Illinois, when Michelle and I decided we wanted to focus on this important issue together. It was that exciting day when then-Senator Obama announced that my husband Joe would be his running mate. Michelle turned to me and asked what would I like to work on if we won. And I told her that I wanted to tackle the issues that our military families were facing, and she said, "Me too!" (Laughter.) For me, I couldn't think of anything more fulfilling than serving those who have sacrificed so much for our country.
One thing we say in the Biden family -- and I know you all feel it in your hearts -- is that our country has one sacred obligation -- to equip those we send to war, and to care for them and their families during deployments and when they return. (Applause.)
Back in 2008, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were going strong. Hundreds of thousands of our troops were deployed. So I called the National Guard and said I wanted to help the families of military families whose loved ones were serving overseas. They connected me with Delaware Boots on the Ground, which was helping to match the everyday needs of our military -- they're here, that's why it's making me so emotional -- to match the everyday needs of military families with folks who could provide the service. If you need a tire changed, Boots was there for you. If you had a leaky roof, Boots was there. If you needed diapers or a new crib, Boots was there again.
Delaware Boots on the Ground made such a big difference for military families in Delaware that Governor Ruth Ann Minner declared on July 4th, 2007, Delaware Boots on the Ground Day. Remember guys? And after we were elected to the White House, I wanted to keep going. I wanted to keep doing all the things that I could for military families -- not just in Delaware, but all across our nation. Because, like Michelle, I had been so inspired by the military families, the incredible military families I had met and gotten to know over the years.
That's why, when we called upon you to help us shine a light on our military families, we wanted to raise awareness of the challenges that they confront and still confront that most Americans never have to face or can even imagine. Sending loved ones into harm's way. Enduring countless separations during training. Starting over on different bases in different towns again and again.
All of you in this room, from the veterans and military spouses we met eight years ago on the campaign trail to the nonprofits, schools, foundations, businesses, associations, civil servants and Americans of every stripe, have been with us every step of the way since we launched Joining Forces. You have been our lifeline to our military families. You've helped us better understand the unique challenges that they face. You've been critical in helping us find solutions to better support those amazing families. You've helped us remind folks that we can all make a difference, not just in word on Veterans Day or Memorial Day, but with good deeds and best efforts each and every day of the year, by doing what we do best.
As a lifelong educator and as a military mom, the way we reach out to our military children in our classrooms is especially close to my heart. That's why I've been so proud to work with organizations like the Military Child Education Coalition. Together, we launched Operation Educate the Educators to encourage teaching colleges to recognize military children in their curriculum. To date, more than 100 colleges and universities have signed up to train thousands of future teachers so that they are prepared to identify the challenges military kids face. (Applause.)
And one of the first groups that Michelle and I partnered with to launch Joining Forces five years ago was the National Math and Science initiative. Thanks to NMSI's college readiness program, we're helping to ensure that students at 200 military-connected schools in 33 states across the country are prepared for the rigors of college and a career.
I'd also like to thank the media, who has helped us share the story of the military family. And that includes everyone from Elmo and "Sesame Street," to "Reading Rainbow" with LeVar Burton, who have shined a light on military-connected children, as well as the History Channel, which has lifted up our veterans, servicemembers, and their families. And I'd especially like to thank CEO of History Channel, Nancy Dubuc, for being here today.
All of you have stepped up for our military and their families in your own unique ways. That's what you do. And that's why you're here today. Because Michelle and I want you to know just how much we appreciate everything that you've done and everything that you will continue to do to support those who serve our country.
And we all need to keep doing this work, because our military families will continue to serve and sacrifice. Our men and women in uniform will continue to deploy. Their spouses and children will continue to move from base to base, and eventually they will transition to civilian life. That's why this work matters. And we have to show them that we have their backs.
You know, I believe we couldn't have asked for a better champion for our military families than Michelle Obama. (Applause.) I know you all feel this. She is a woman like no other. (Applause.) Whip smart. Passionate. Loyal. For our nation, she's been a true role model, especially for young girls. She's raised two amazing girls on her -- of her own whose potential has no bounds. And she's shown the same warmth and care for her girls that she has with our grandchildren.
And from day one, Michelle was determined to make a real and lasting difference in the lives of our military and their families -- measurable action, not just words. She has had the courage to take on veteran homelessness, making the seemingly impossible possible. (Applause.) Naturally, freely, warmly she brings joy and hope often simply through a hug to the deployed caregivers and wounded warriors.
As a military mom, I am grateful for her service. I love her. We're family. Our First Lady, Michelle Obama. (Applause.)