On the weekend before Monday’s Presidential Inauguration, special events took place throughout Washington, D.C. I was there to cover the Inauguration for TIME For Kids, and I started the trip off on Friday with a very special assignment: a visit to the White House to talk with First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden. I was one of four kid reporters invited to an intimate roundtable discussion.
When I arrived at the White House, at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the street was lined with empty bleachers waiting to be filled with spectators for Monday’s Inaugural Parade. The city seemed to buzz with anticipation. Once inside, I checked in at the press area near the West Wing and waited in the White House Press Briefing Room. We were soon met by the First Lady’s assistants and taken to a section of the White House few people get to see. As we were seated in our places, my nerves and excitement were building. And then, the First and Second Ladies walked into the room and sat on either side of me.
The focus of our talk was Joining Forces, an initiative the two women co-created to encourage Americans to take action and find ways to honor and support our veterans, service members and military families. Mrs. Obama said her first exposure to military families was during the President’s 2008 campaign, and she was moved when she discovered how the service of one family member ripples through the family as a whole. “I was overwhelmed by that level of sacrifice,” the First Lady said. Many Americans focus on the soldier who’s on the front lines, she added, “but in all reality, it’s the whole family that has to step up and make huge sacrifices.”
Dr. Biden has first-hand experience with that: Two of her sons serve our country. One is in the Army, and the other will be joining the Navy soon, she said. After their husbands were first elected, Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden were pleased to discover that they both wanted to provide support and encouragement to military families who experience stress during their time of service.
Mrs. Obama encourages all citizens to “commit to an act of kindness” that will help a military family. Dr. Biden talked about the small acts of grace which helped her when her son was serving in Iraq, like prayer requests in their church bulletin, shoveling snow-covered driveways and making meals for others. While the Biden’s were lucky to have family close by, “lots of service men and women don’t have that type of support system,” she said.
The Inaugural weekend is focused on the theme of service to others. Two of the highlights on Saturday were a National Day of Service and a Kid’s Inaugural Concert intended as a thank-you to military kids and families, hosted by Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden.
Near the end of our visit, Mrs. Obama told me that she is “humbled” to share Monday’s swearing-in ceremonies and Inaugural Parade with a national holiday: Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which celebrates a man who dedicated his life to service. She added that the Obamas are honored “to have anything that happens to us linked to somebody as great and impactful and important to our country as Dr. Martin Luther King.”
After our hour-long talk concluded, we exited the White House through the East Wing of the residence. As we departed, I couldn’t believe what had just happened. Interviewing Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden was one of the most exciting experiences of my life, and Inaugural weekend had only just begun.
TFK Kid Reporter Bridget Bernardo reported from Washington, D.C., for the President’s second Inauguration. Click here to read her report from the National Day of Service. Click here to read her report on the Kid's Inaugural Concert. Click here to read her report on Inauguration Day.