First Lady Dr. Jill Biden hosted a documentary screening and reception with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation at the White House on Wednesday afternoon, as part of the Joining Forces initiative.
“Unconditional: When Minds Hurt, Love Heals” centers on mental health, a pervasive issue that impacts millions of Americans. Through the lens of three families, two of which have military connections, the film highlights how rediscovering the power of love can be transformative.
The film chronicles the Thomas family as they prepare for the terminal cancer diagnosis of Kate Hendricks Thomas, while the Bushatz family navigates the challenges of a veteran father grappling with the memories of his time in Afghanistan and their impact on his family.
The soirée commenced with a cocktail reception, prefaced by a prelude of classical melodies echoing through the Jackie Kennedy garden. The first speaker to take the stage was Richard Lui, director of the documentary film. “I gotta say for this everyday kid who’s barely made it out of community college, this is really quite something for me,” awestruck by screening his movie at the White House.
” You just got invited to the most exclusive movie theater in the world. Counted 42 seats in total. You will join Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Ava DuVernay, Oprah Winfrey who have had the film screen in this very same room, the White House family theater. It is just surreal and having the first lady on the same stage as well,” he said beaming with excitement.
He then introduced Nikki Stevens, who is a caregiver and military spouse. “My husband John left the Marine Corps in 2006 with the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress. Because our nation had not yet acknowledged the emotional toll of war, I did not immediately think of myself as a caregiver, just as a wife helping her husband overcome a really difficult time,” she said.
She went on to tell the story of her husband suffering a grand mal seizure. She was helping her kids get ready for their day when she heard a crash upstairs. She found her husband on the ground suffering with a seizure. “Stevens opened up about how, in addition to grappling with the emotional weight of watching a loved one suffer, she had to sacrifice a lot in her personal and family life.
The First Lady said that the event she was hosting was symbolic of letting them all know that they are not alone.
“That’s why we launched Joining Forces, the White House initiative to support our military and veteran family, caregivers, and survivors,” said Biden. ” It’s why Joe signed an executive order to make it easier for caregivers to get the mental health services they need and for families to get financial help when they have to give up time at work to care for a loved one.”
After the speech concluded, the guests were ushered into a private theater room for a screening of “Unconditional: When Minds Hurt, Love Heals.”
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