Inside Moravian
e-Newsletter of the Moravian College Campus Community 10/21/14
Reese sits between Michelle Obama and Jill Biden during his D.C. visit.

ABOVE: This summer Carole Reese (center), chief research officer and director of special projects, had the opportunity to meet Jill Biden and Michelle Obama as part of an interview for NPR’s “StoryCorps” program. (Photo courtesy of Reese)


Reese Joins Forces with Michelle Obama and Jill Biden to Discuss Supporting Military Families

By Alyssa D'Ippolito ’15

Many people may take a trip to Washington, D.C., to see the White House, but those excursions probably don't include a sit down meeting with Michelle Obama and Jill Biden. Carole Reese, chief research officer and director of special projects at Moravian College, was given the opportunity to meet with the First and Second Ladies of the United States to conduct an interview for NPR’s “StoryCorps” program.

When Barack Obama was campaigning for his first presidential term, Michelle Obama and Jill Biden hosted military family panels throughout the country because they wanted to improve programs to help the families of those serving overseas and at home. The women determined the best way to do that was to hear from those families directly. Reese, who was actively involved in the Democratic Party at the time, was nominated to participate in the panel on behalf of her husband, who served in the National Guard for 40 years and served as a combat medic in Iraq in 2005-2006.

One of three women on the panel, Reese spoke about the challenges facing families of National Guardsmen that don't live on a base.

"When our families are deployed, we are not all together. We don't have a military base to support us," Reese said. "You might be living in a neighborhood where your neighbors have no idea what you are going through.”

With the information collected from these discussions, Obama and Biden developed the Joining Forces organization whose theme is to help support military families in ways that go beyond just sending money. The objective is to recognize the stresses and challenges that these families are going through and provide support. Far too often these families can go unnoticed and overlooked.

They are as down to earth as they can possibly be and genuinely are concerned about military families.”

– Carole Reese

At its core, the program is about raising awareness for military families. Reese says simple tasks, such as offering to watch the children of military personnel so that their mother or father can go grocery shopping, are a wonderful way to help out. Being a caring and attentive neighbor can go a long way to providing families stability.

After the official launch of Joining Forces in April 2011, which she participated in, Reese was again invited back to the White House to speak with Obama and Biden as part of NPR's “StoryCorps,” an oral history project that collects and archives conversations on CDs available to the public in the Library of Congress.

"It was wonderful. They are as down to earth as they can possibly be and genuinely are concerned about military families," Reese said of Obama and Biden. "When they saw me, they gave me a big hug and they remembered the chats that we had as part of the military family panels. I thanked them for all they had done; that they had listened."

The recorded conversation was also aired as part of NPR's Memorial Day broadcast.

"It is such a gratifying thing for me to know that my story, which is so representative of the stories of military families, is preserved in a very special place in our history and that when future generations do research on this time, that I may be one of the voices they hear from,” concluded Reese.

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