Michelle Obama

Remarks by the First Lady Michelle Obama and Former First Lady Laura Bush - Sep. 16, 2016

Michelle Obama
September 16, 2016— National Archives in Washington, D.C.
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These remarks were at an event at the National Archives.

MR. WOODRUFF: Well, what an honor is it to be here today. I have a chance—first of all, I want to tell both of you that my wife, who is also my commander—

MRS. OBAMA: As it should be. (Laughter.)

MR. WOODRUFF:—she wanted to say hi to both of you and what you're doing for the veterans out there. I also want to mention, I just had a chance to—and I had the chance to see President Bush at the Invictus Games, where it was such a clear indication of how absolutely committed he is to this. Certainly, Will Reynolds, who is an amazing person, who is out there winning everything—and I had a chance to talk to President Bush about what he's doing. President Obama, too, of course—he deeply committed to this.

And it's interesting, I just talked to Mrs. Obama backstage here, that I had a chance to see him in Laos. And one of the topics there, of course, was what he thought about Vietnam and the war there. And Laos, of course, too. We've got a lot of undetonated bombs that are still in the ground there.

And I asked him, all of those veterans, we looked at the time—he and I were born August 1961, so he's two weeks older than me. We asked about that, what was going on. And we looked at war so differently back in the 1960s and the 1970s because there were drafts, and certainly we were not attacked on our turf leading into that war. And I said, those veterans that did serve there in Laos and Vietnam, do you call them heroes? And he said, absolutely, we call them heroes. This is not something reserved just for the more recent wars with voluntary wars.

In my experience here—which, as Will said, one we never really expected, having been wounded in the wars—we've experienced a lot of not diminishing attention, but now the wars really came to an end-ish, as they say, there's not as much attention that's being given to those that served in the country. And I'd love to hear from you what it's like to be in the White House and to have that kind of power and influence on an issue that is extremely important.

MRS. BUSH: Well, I would say for sure one thing is worry. You worry in the White House when you know that there are troops in harm's way, and you think about them every single night when you get in bed. And there, where you're in the lap of luxury, really—beautiful house where your sheets are changed every single day—I mean, it really couldn't be more luxurious—and you think when you get in bed about our troops are laying out on the ground somewhere. And so I would say that the main thing about having troops in harm's way when you live there is that you worry about them all the time, every single day.

MRS. OBAMA: Well, and just we've had the honor and the experience to visit our wounded at Walter Reed and many military hospitals. And that is a sobering experience. I mean, one of the things that Barack and I have talked about is that when we first came into office, the first term, our visits would last for hours because there would be 25, 50, 75 folks that we'd be seeing, going room to room, many with devastating injuries. And now, today, just last week he went to visit, and he was there for 30 minutes, because there are fewer of our men and women who are being injured in war. And that feels good. I mean, that's something that a Commander-in-Chief thinks about before they pop off about going to war. Because when you've spent time on a base and you know these men and women, and you know their families, you don't just talk about war like there are no implications. It's serious business, and lives are changed forever.

So I would hope that any Commander-in-Chief that would have the privilege of serving would understand that these are real lives and real families that are impacted.

MR. WOODRUFF: When there is a story that does come out of somebody, or maybe a large group, the significant injuries in the war—is it long conversations that you have with the President, with your husband, that night?

MRS. BUSH: After visiting at Walter Reed or whatever, yeah, sure. I mean, we'll talk about them and think about those families. In many cases, the families were there with them, around them. There's one injured warrior that I know who now we still see who had such a severe head injury.

MRS. OBAMA: He was at the Invictus Games.

MRS. BUSH: We didn't think we would ever see him again; that that would be it. And he's one of the warriors that George has painted. And he painted him with this scar in his head that he has still, but with his little child on his lap. Because what a lot of warriors will say is that their families are what saw them through. One couple that George painted—he painted him, a portrait of him, but he painted his wife with him, because this man said his wife was always there, always with him. And he had also suffered a head injury, where he needed the help that she could get him. He's doing great now. But George didn't just do his portrait by himself, but painted her in it because he credited her with his recovery.

MRS. OBAMA: You know, Bob, I just wanted—meeting our servicemembers, spending time on military bases, fundamentally changes who you are as a civilian. And I know that was true for me, because when we—I was like most Americans. I had limited connection to the military community, and it wasn't until Barack's campaign in 2008 that I started meeting military spouses and hearing their voices, voices that you don't hear in regular conversation. And we talked about all the challenges that working mothers had—financial worries, worrying about raising your kids. But with these women mostly, there were the worries of multiple deployments, understanding that these families are moving their kids every two years in service of their country, worrying about whether there are adequate special ed programs in the schools they're moving to. And doing all of this with a grace and a pride that would—that blew me away.

And that's one of the reasons why I'm such an advocate for this community. I wish every American had an opportunity to sit down, to go to a base, to meet with families, to meet with servicemembers, to sit down with our veterans—because we would think differently about our challenges as individuals. Let me tell you, it makes me inspired to work harder. Because I think, as Laura said, here we are sitting in the White House; we have no reason to complain when we have 1 percent of our country serving and sacrificing for the rights and freedoms for the rest of us.

So that has been a profound opportunity for me, and one of the reasons why I will always champion these men and women and their families as long as I can breathe.

MR. WOODRUFF: It's interesting that—I'd like to talk about children, too, because both of you had the chance to have your kids live with you there in the White House, and both of you during times of war. I should mention also real quickly that—I didn't hear the full introduction, but Will Reynolds also has four kids. And he's gone through what he's gone. And it gives you a certain amount of different perspective on thing if you do have a child who's in the midst of something significant, and I would say most times moving, emotional, maybe even difficult.

But during these times, for both of you, what was it like when you had kids there when this was happening, and knowing very well that the Commander-in-Chief was the one ultimately responsible for this, and probably you're the first ones that they turned to?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I think back—Barbara and Jenna were freshmen in college when we moved to the White House. So they didn't live there. They'd been there, of course, so much—and their grandparents—

MR. WOODRUFF: There were invited to come. (Laughter.)

MRS. BUSH: Yeah. (Laughter.) They were invited to come. But they had been there as seven-year-olds when their grandparents moved there. So they knew the White House just like we did, because they visited them so often. But when I wrote my book and look back through my schedule, I saw that right after September 11th, the weekend after September 11th, that Barbara and Jenna came home to the White House. And I knew that they came home because they wanted to be with their dad, and they wanted to be with us. And they felt great insecurity, really, off at the University of Texas and off at Yale, freshmen, after the attacks. And they wanted to be there with him.

And then I noticed that a month or a month and a half after that, our childhood friends from Midland, Texas came. And I knew that those boys—men that we knew as boys—wanted to be with George; that they just wanted to be there with him. And I think that is really—no one talked about war. That wasn't the conversation. The conversation was, we just want to be with you. And I think that's really important, and I think that's the way the children are too. You don't want them to be worried about decisions their father makes. You want them to just feel the security and love that every parent wants their children to feel.

MRS. OBAMA: You just want home to be home. And you want that for the President, because they need that refuge with all that they handle over the course of a day. You want them to come up on that elevator, come on to the second floor when they open those doors to the residence, and they can breathe. They don't need kids hammering them with, "Dad, why don't you do this?" (Laughter.) Sometimes Malia and Sasha will do that. It's like, every now and then at dinner it's like, what were you thinking? (Laughter.)

But for the most part, home is home. And that helps keep kids normal. I've said this time and again: My greatest concern coming into the White House was making sure my girls came out whole and normal, and decent and kind, just like I would expect them to if we were living on the South Side of Chicago. And it takes work to keep White House life normal for the kids.

MRS. BUSH: When is it normal?

MRS. OBAMA: It's not normal. (Laughter.) You know, we pretend—

MRS. BUSH:—slumber party with 30 friends.

MRS. OBAMA: Oh, my goodness. And you try to pretend like it's normal. It's like, yeah, yeah, just ignore the guys with the guns. (Laughter.) I remember one parent-teacher conference at the lower school, and Barack went, and there were SWAT guys on top of the roof of the school. And Malia was like, "Dad, really? Really?" (Laughter.) "Do they really have to be up there?" And it's like, yeah, honey, they do. Let's just keep walking. Just keep going. Just keep going.

MR. WOODRUFF: But they've got to put up with that even after they leave. There's going to be security—

MRS. OBAMA: Well, the security—it's different for

MRS. BUSH: It's a different level.

MRS. OBAMA: It's a different level. So we don't want to talk about it too much, but it's not the same as what it will be for the former President and the former First Lady. And they're all singing, "Hey, we're out of here, and we get to ditch our agents pretty soon!" (Laughter.) But it's a different level of security.

MR. WOODRUFF: I'm really hoping that my four kids actually get back to normal when I leave ABC News. (Laughter.) Is that going to happen, too? But after I was hit, though, I had to tell my little kids—I said, all right, there's a new rule, I'm not going to go cover wars anymore. So now I'm over in Asia reporting. So I said, well, I can at least do stories about conflict. Conflict is not war.

We spoke about the—both of you have accomplished so much. Military Service Initiative, of course, which was your, Mrs. Bush. And of course, Joining Forces, that you worked on, as well. And both of you have worked together, I think, better than most. I mean, I think somebody said that you should tell the husbands to behave themselves compared to the others.

But what have you accomplished? More or less than you expected in terms of what you're doing for those veterans? And when I talk about veterans, I'm not just talking about those wounded in the wars. About 25 percent are considering to have been wounded. The rest have gone out with transitions when they come back, some to a new civilian world. But what have you done for them that's the most important, and is it more than you expected? Or less?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I think in general there there's just a feeling that people support that military and that it starts at the top. And it's very different, as you said, from Vietnam, when Vietnam—my generation, when they came home from war, were spit upon. And that's not the way it is now. And I think that's really great. I hope that our returning veterans really feel the gratefulness and the support of the American public.

And I know—you know this too, Bob; you're talking about it—the thousands of veteran support groups, little mom-and-pop groups that have sprung up all over the United States because people do want to support our returning vets. And the other thing we should look at is what an asset they are. There have been 2.5 million post-9/11 vets. And I think about another million will be transitioning out in the next year or so. And think about the asset that is for our country. These people who chose to serve, who volunteered to serve, and now they want to come home. And it's up to us, the rest of us, to figure out how we can help them keep serving in our communities and make a life with themselves that they're happy with, and deal with the trauma that a lot of them have, the trauma of war.

MRS. OBAMA: The thing I've been most pleased about with Joining Forces is that it's really been a call to partnership with all sectors—corporate sector, with our faith communities, with our schools, our educators, our medical community. And what we have seen is that when you ask, people step up without hesitation. And that's the power of our platforms, is that a lot of times, if Laura or I ask for help, people are very receptive. The business community has created millions of jobs for our veterans and our military spouses because of an ask that we made—millions of jobs, helping them get the training to be able to retain those jobs and to advance within those jobs. And the same is true for military spouses, as well.

We've been pleased with our local leaders who have answered the call to end veterans homelessness, which was part of our call with Joining Forces. The notion that we have even one single veteran living on the streets should be just considered a travesty to all of us. Well, there are many mayors, some governors, some states, who have essentially eliminated veterans homelessness because they've answered that call.

The Hollywood community has stepped up. We work closely with writers and producers who have helped to develop plotlines that involve our military families, our military community. Because part of integrating those stories into everyday life helps to normalize these men and women and their families, and familiarize the rest of the civilian community with those issues in sort of a non-preachy way.

So I've just been pleased—

MR. WOODRUFF: You've done your entertaining, as well. I think it was two days ago you were on Ellen DeGeneres, weren't you—at CVS?

MRS. OBAMA: Well, we weren't talking about veterans. I don't know what she was doing. (Laughter.)

MR. WOODRUFF: What is the purpose of that? You've been on television shows. You've been on—

MRS. OBAMA: Well, usually, when we do an appearance, Ellen—you sort of try to make things fun, because my motto is, you get people to laugh and then you can get them to listen.

MR. WOODRUFF: That is mandatory with her, yes.

MRS. OBAMA: Yeah, and with most Americans. I think people respond differently when there's a little humor, and people feel like you're opening—you're making yourself vulnerable. Then you seem less like the First Lady and more like a neighbor, a friend. But what we were able to do on her show was really to highlight a number of initiatives, including the work we've been doing with Healthy Eating, and the work that Steph Curry has been doing.

We had Bradley Cooper on to highlight 22Kill. Bradley Cooper, for example, has been a tremendous support around the issue of military health for our veterans and our servicemembers. And Bradley is kind of cute—(laughter)—and he's a little distracting. But if you stop and listen to what he said on Ellen—he was promoting the importance of ensuring that the suicide rates among our military members is reduced. And in order to do something about it, you have to know that it's a problem.

So people are watching Ellen. They're not always watching the nightly news, I'm sorry.

MR. WOODRUFF: Except ABC, of course. (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: Except ABC, of course.

MR. WOODRUFF: Just wanted to make sure you knew that.

MRS. OBAMA: But our view is, we got to reach people there they are and to tell these stories.

MR. WOODRUFF: But humor works. I know that we've seen this before. Nobody wants to talk seriously all the time, for those that have been hit. Humor is a great one. My wife always tells me I got rocks in my head—which kind of technically is the case.

MRS. OBAMA: You had those before, right? (Laughter.) I'm just—I'm just speaking for her.

MR. WOODRUFF: Oh, you spoke to her, did you? (Laughter.) That is correct. Of course, I use my aphasia when she asks me to go clean the garage. And I said, what is a "garage"? I don't even know what it. (Laughter.) But that works extremely well.

So much has been done—I know that in our experience, that early when the wars began well more than a decade ago, is we concentrate on those that come back on recovering to get out of the hospital and get the best treatment that they can. But also, the next step was to figure out a way to let them get back into their civilian world when they return to their community. And then of course the next one was jobs. And I think that the number—this may be right—is that I think that the rate of unemployment with the veterans now is lower than the civilian numbers, the rate for unemployment. (Applause.)

The other one, Mrs. Bush, was—and I know this is one of your concentrations, too, which is exactly what we've been learning over time—which is, I think most of the attention was largely to those that were visibly wounded. And now we have to realize there's a lot that are invisible. And why is that you pursuing that now is one of your major concentrations?

MRS. BUSH: Well, because that is really one of the most long-lasting effects of being in trauma like that. And so one of the things that George has done with both the bike rides and the golf is, a lot of people recover from those invisible wounds if they're playing a sport. They can do it with a sport. And so those are two things he's done. And, of course, that's the whole idea behind Invictus, and that is to have a sport to go to, to get over those invisible wounds.

But another thing—when I moved back to Texas, with a group of people I grew up with, we founded a conservation group called Texas By Nature. And we just hosted a conference on Monday at Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston about the benefits of being outside for mental health. And one of the people that spoke was a colonel who suffered from PTS, about how being outside, just even being able to see green—there's research, not a lot of research, that proves it. But they say that if you just go outside some.

And one of the researchers that talked, talked about this problem that a lot of people have where they ruminate over a problem. He called it rumination. And you spend a lot of time where something is going through your mind and going through your mind. And it's really even bad for your brain because you start to produce also of cortisol. And of course, that's what PTS can be, where you go through your mind the trauma, and you see your best friend being shot over and over and over. And to be able to get out of that, to be able to go outside and get out of it, or use a sport or some other way to get out of it, is very helpful with post-traumatic stress.

The other thing that George has tried to do is take the disorder—the "d" out of the PTS. It's an injury; it's not a disorder. And if people are—if they're diagnosed with a disorder, then they think it hurts them, that they won't be able to get a job if they have a disorder. But you can improve from an injury.

MRS. OBAMA: And that's the work that we need to do around mental health and how the military can be so helpful. Because mental health affects all Americans. One in five Americans is dealing with some kind of mental health diagnosis. And the challenge that we face is there is still a stigma. So people are not—they don't feel good about identifying and getting the help that they need. Sometimes it's viewed as weakness. And when you think about that, it's ludicrous. Like Laura said, it's an illness. Could you ever imagine claiming that a cancer patient seeking chemotherapy as somehow being weak? Or you would tell somebody with a heart disease to just toughen up. But that's sort of where mental health is.

And our military can play a big role in changing the conversation around mental health for the entire country. Because we know these men and women are heroes. We know that they're brave. We understand what's happened. And if they can be brave enough to step up and get the help they need, perhaps that will help some kid in some community who's depressed and maybe thinking about suicide. Maybe the research that is happening for our veterans and wounded warriors can be translated—

MRS. BUSH: Can help everybody.

MRS. OBAMA: Exactly. Can help everybody.

And that's one of the reasons, with Joining Forces, we've been working with something called The Campaign to Change Direction. And the goal there is to help the rest of the nation understand the five signs that they need to look out for when somebody has mental health, sort of like CPR training or training for use of a defibrillator. Yeah, that thing.

But everyone should be aware—employers, teachers, educators—so that when you see the signs, you know how to identify them and you can find the resources to get that person the help they need. And this is true for many military spouses, as well. It's not just the servicemembers. I mean, the stresses of being a caregiver, the stresses of being that spouse that is dealing with four kids while their spouse is deployed—I mean, we have to make sure that these individuals feels like they can reach out when they need help and that they're not drowning all alone.

So this is one of the many ways that the work that we do with the military community can be translated into positive impacts for the rest of the society.

MR. WOODRUFF: And I was going to ask you right before you said it, about PTS versus post-traumatic stress disorder. There was a movement that developed over time—exactly that. Because there was this stigma. When you talk about employment and just getting back to your world, is that that was one that people didn't understand and they were not going to hire somebody with one they cannot identify. And that has changed over time. I think the number of stigmas has really dropped down.

MRS. BUSH: But it really is important for people who are suffering in any way to reach out, for the veteran as well as for the family. And veterans are slow to say, I need help. They are tough. They pride themselves on it. And they don't want to jeopardize their chances of getting the job by saying, I need help. So I think there are a lot of ways. I've seen some ads, actually, on television about talking. One man told George about seeing his best friend shot next to him, and he said he couldn't get it out of his mind. And then he wrote him a letter afterwards, and he said, you know, I've never told anyone that. And George said, you waited until you told your former Commander-in-Chief, and you haven't told anyone else? Because those are things people need to be able to talk about. They need to have somebody that listens to them and that they can talk about and tell is, because that's how you slowly get over it.

MR. WOODRUFF: You know, you mentioned identification. Anyway, I want to talk about spouses. You mentioned spouse again, and children, because that's another one that—so many times we have heard this, especially early on in our world of the wounded, and all—whether wounded or not—is that the ones that don't get any attention or credit is the spouses, whether it's a man or woman, a husband or a wife. Those that served are the ones that get all the attention. And that's changing over time. And a lot of it is what you two are doing.

MRS. OBAMA: Yeah, I've had so much fun working with military spouses. You talk about highly skilled servicemembers. I mean, military spouses, they are smart, they're resilient, they are multitaskers. Amazing—to the tee. They are great spokespeople. They are great managers. They're great leaders. But many of them have had their careers disrupted because they're supporting a spouse. When you're moving every two years, how do you keep up with your job? One of the issues that we worked on with Joining Forces was military spousal licensing. So you imagine that you have a job that requires any kind of license—even an aesthetician or a social worker, you name it. If you moved to a base in another state, there was no reciprocity. So a lot of military spouses had to go through hours of retraining, spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to get recertified just to work in their profession.

MR. WOODRUFF: Is that nurses, too, doctors?

MRS. OBAMA: It involved any job with a license. There was no reciprocity. At the start of Joining Forces, that was one of our key issues. And we put a call out to all the governors. We has one of the first meeting at one of the governors conferences. And we were like, hey, come on, people, you can do this. And it was one of those things where a lot of the governors didn't realize their states didn't have reciprocity. They just hadn't thought about it.

So slowly we started to see state legislators. Because this is one of these—this is like a no-brainer, nonpartisan issue. This is a win-win. Just get it done. Well, from start until now, we now finally have all 50 states who have military spousal licensing reciprocity going. (Applause.)

But we would have never known that had we not had the conversations with these men and women, to hear their challenges, to see what they were going through, to find out what kind of things we could do on the ground. I mean, what would change their lives? And this is just one of them. And to talk about the military kids—I mean, the challenges of moving a kid, finding the right programs. If you've got a great special ed program that your kid is in, and you're moving to another base, you don't know if that school is going to have that same program.

So the level of advocacy and research, the skill that it takes to be a military spouse, to be able to get your kid—to keep your kid on track. If any parents out here—you just think about your kids and what it takes to get them from kindergarten to twelfth grade sanely, in one school. The average military kid attends seven, eight, nine, ten schools in their entire primary and secondary school education. And these kids are still graduating on time. They are still at the top of their class. They are still amazing. But there is a parent at home that's doing a lot of heavy lifting to make that happen, a lot of advocating. And one of Jill's initiatives has been working—Jill Biden, my partner in Joining Forces, a Blue Star mom in her own right—has been working with the education community on a range of these issues, as well.

So there's so much that we need to know about the challenges that military families face. They are holding up this country just as much as the men and women who are serving on those front lines. And they're just as proud and just at reticent to complain or ask for help. So it's up to us to step up for them.

MR. WOODRUFF: So that's why your President won the second term? So he didn't have to move the kids? (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: (Laughter.) The reason he won was that he wanted to make sure that his teenage girls had agents through high school. (Laughter and applause.) Men with guns. That was a great motivator.

MR. WOODRUFF: My kids—my wife and I moved to 10 different cities. And my son, by the time he was 11, it was his eighth city, and I wasn't even in the military. So at least I had some way to relate to it.

MRS. OBAMA: Was that the rocks in your head thing that happened? No, just kidding.

MR. WOODRUFF: How many times are you going to say that? (Laughter.) Okay, it's true.

The other thing that's interesting to talk about—First Ladies and the history, to see Cokie talk about it and great historians to talk about this—is that if you compare to what you're doing now as First Ladies, compared to what the First Ladies did before, it would be interesting to see in history some of them went to the war zones and worked, or dealt with those that came back; one almost physically with the blood. But the number of hours that you put into it, if you compared them, what do you think? Is it just much more unending in terms of the participation by First Ladies in all this?

MRS. BUSH: I think First Ladies have been pretty active forever, always.

MRS. OBAMA: Yes, just think Eleanor Roosevelt. Drop the mic on that one. (Laughter.)

MRS. BUSH: They used to think—well, they thought this about Lady Bird Johnson, isn't that sweet that she likes flowers? (Laughter.) The First Lady likes flowers. And she was really one of the very first conservationists that talked about using native plants.

MR. WOODRUFF: So that takes us then to the next step, which is—I know, Mrs. Bush, you're always doing this well after you left. What are you going to do when you go? What's going to be your priority in terms of all the work? You've done everything many, many initiatives even other than the veterans one. And I'm not going to ask you which one is going to be—what you're going to concentrate on the most. But how do you really think you will be involved in this as time goes by? Do you think this is going to be for the rest of your life for both of you?

MRS. OBAMA: Yes, absolutely. What else are we going to do? (Laughter.)

MRS. BUSH: The fact is you really have a podium, really, always. People still listen to Barbara Bush, don't you think? I certainly do. (Laughter and applause.)

Q Do you obey her? (Laughter.)

MRS. BUSH: So it's a really wonderful. It's just great for us to be able to have the opportunity to contribute to things and do things and keep working on what we're—and these are all issues that don't ever—you never get to just rub your hands. We took care of that.

MRS. OBAMA: Right, that's right. And say, done, finished.

MRS. BUSH: They're all things that you have to work on—literacy or whatever, forever.

MR. WOODRUFF: I know you mentioned. Go ahead—

MRS. OBAMA: No, I was just going to say to do this, you have to have a strong public service bone sort of built in you. A And I know that's true for me. It's true for my husband. Long before he ran for office, we left corporate law. And we were working with kids and mentoring. He was a community organizer. I worked for the city government. That's sort of what you do. And you don't stop because there's always something to do. So I can't imagine that I'll leave here and really kick my feet up and say, oh, well, good luck with that.

MRS. BUSH: Well, you will a little bit. (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: I'll do that a little bit. You're right. Yes.

MR. WOODRUFF: What's going to be your hobby? Mrs. Bush, you told me that President Bush is now taking painting on as one of his main things, and I think we're going to get a book in Wednesday, I mean in March, sorry—I would like you to have it on Wednesday day. (Laughter.) But we'll have it then. Did he did* a great painting of you?

MRS. BUSH: No. (Laughter.) He was not successful in a painting of me.

MRS. OBAMA: Oh no.

MRS. BUSH: But he has painted portraits of wounded warriors that he's gotten to know and has a book coming out in March with their portraits, and then he wrote their stories.

MR. WOODRUFF: And he's donating all the profit—

MRS. BUSH: Yeah, the profits go to the military service initiative.

MR. WOODRUFF:—to my foundation. (Laughter.) I was just joking about that.

MRS. BUSH: I mean, there is life after the White House—not quite as luxurious. Believe in me, no new sheets every day. (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: That's okay. (Laughter.)

MR. WOODRUFF: So then we're going to have a brand new administration coming very soon. You can't win any more terms, it's not Roosevelt anymore.

MRS. OBAMA: That's fine. (Laughter.)

MR. WOODRUFF: Your kids are going to have to move and do something. But what—do you have some advice to the next First Lady or First Gentleman that comes into the White House about how to deal with initiatives, generally, but largely for operating out of the White House. I know there's a lot of remarkable organizations that are doing so much for the veterans. They have a chance to go and they visit the White House and it changes their attitude a lot. But is there anything specifically that you would tell to the next—

MRS. OBAMA: I would hope that, as with previous administrations, that this next administration will prioritize our servicemembers, our veterans, and our families. It should be high on the list. I mean, there is something that everyone can do to support this community, but the Commander-in-Chief, the First Family, the Second Family, the Vice President—they have an obligation to set that tone—I think Laura said that earlier. With this platform, you can raise the bar high on this issue. So I would hope that this responsibility comes with the house, and that every administration will try to top the next one in what they do for these men and women. Whatever you call it, whether it's Joining Forces or you name it something else, but the work of making sure that this country never forgets the service and sacrifice, particularly when it comes to our Gold Star families, that we hold them in our hearts, that we don't just honor them with words but we do things that impact their lives. As much as Laura and I have done, there's still so much work to be done, everything is not fixed. So there's plenty for the next administration to do and I think—I would urge all of our veteran's organizations—our Blue Star moms, our Gold Star families, everyone—to keep the pressure on the next administration. Hold them accountable. Ask the same important questions that you've asked of these presidencies to make sure that we never go back to the time of Vietnam War, where a veteran comes home and they're afraid to even identify as a servicemember.

I'll never forget—when I realized we were having an impact was the time we went to a VA center and there was a gentleman, Mr. Black, who came up after our conversation about what was going on at the VA center, we had highlighted it, and he said, you know, I have never been more proud to be a veteran than now. He said, I used to never tell anybody that I was a veteran because I never knew what their reaction would be. And he said, now, every day, I don't leave the house without something that identifies me as a veteran because I don't care where I am, people are going to stop me, they thank me. They say, thank you for your service, we're so proud of you. He said, now I don't leave the house without something that identifies me as a veteran.

And that just—that warmed my heart. And that's something we have to think about for all these men and women who are going to be transitioning. Our women veterans—there will be more and more women veterans out there. We have to hold them up and let them know that we're grateful.

MRS. BUSH: And a lot of the Vietnam vets now will also be coming back to go into the VA because they're the age to do that, and some of them may have injuries, brain injuries, that were never really identified before. So we'll start to see I think a big number of Vietnam vets now coming into the VA hospitals.

MR. WOODRUFF: Right, and I think people just assume there's really no battles going on, but we're going all over the world with more conflicts and more special ops and CIA and underground kind of operations. That's going to continue for a long time. And hopefully we're not going to have another major war again.

But sometimes I say—this is a little bit maybe too emotional about it, but I never looked back about—the good thing about getting blown up, if there is such a thing, is that it's been so satisfying, so fulfilling to have this relationship with a group of Americans who have served and have done so much, partly because they volunteered, my own 25-year-old son and my 22-year-old daughter don't have to join the military unless they really want to.

But how has that been for you? I know this as well—to some degree, it's an obvious answer to it, but have you ever cried much?

MRS. OBAMA: Oh, God, yes. I cry all the time. But it's more tears of pride. I am moved by this community—moved deeply. Because when we talk about pride of country, when we talk about citizenship, when we talk about all the things we want—we want a strong defense, we want to beat back terrorism—all of this is resting on the shoulders of this one community. As I said, 1 percent of the country who is stepping up to serve to protect the freedoms of us all. And we can't just talk strong defense if we're not taking care of these men and women—not just during their service, but after.

So, yes, I do get emotional. I get emotional when I see a young man with all his limbs blown off at Walter Reed, and I see a young family sitting there. And I wonder, what are they going to do? And then a few months later, I see that young man with his prosthetics and the next month, I see him walking, and then next year, you see him competing in the Invictus Games. It clutches your heart in a way that you can't imagine.

We've been able to follow those journeys, to watch people go from traumatic injury to victory. And there is a strength and a power to that, that you just can't—

MRS. BUSH: And just a resilience of people and of America—our whole country. I think it's very—we're so lucky to live where we live.

MR. WOODRUFF: Which is another reason why it's so important for you to concentrate on the invisible wounds, too, because our medicine advancement—I'm actually working on an hour for PBS about this, about how medicine—that's been another thing about the war, is that one of the positive aspects of it is medical advancement.

So now the civilian world of medicine is now saving lives never before. People say if I was hit five years before I was hit, I would not be living right now. But it does create other invisible wounds that last forever. So it's going to need even more, and that's one thing you're going to concentrate on when you go, which is remarkable.

I want to thank both of you for what you're doing. I haven't sadly done the research of how much previous First Ladies have done for the veterans. I know that we have brand-new wars that were sort of after the Cold War before, but you have really, again, you've done more than anybody expected and your influence has been remarkable.

So I just want to thank you personally, and I think from everybody here, for doing what you're doing. (Applause.)

Speech from https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/09/16/remarks-first-lady-michelle-obama-and-former-first-lady-laura-bush.

Video available at https://www.c-span.org/video/?415360-1/michelle-obama-laura-bush-discuss-role-legacy-first-ladies.