Today, FLOTUS Jill Biden is in Birmingham, Alabama. Here are the most important moments through the eyes of the press pool who is traveling with her.
The First Lady was greeted in the beginning by the executive director of the James Rushton Early Learning Center. She thanked FLOTUS for coming, but it was difficult to hear behind the masks how the First Lady responded. Here are the quick remarks from the executive director.
FLOTUS stood in front of a bright blue sign that read, “Welcome First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.”
Press was then moved into a Pre-K classroom where about a dozen children, ages 4 & 5, sat around four small tables, all wearing masks. “I can’t believe there are so many people here!” one exclaimed. A few others waved to the press and staff.
“Welcome To The Owls Pre-K Dr. Biden!!” is handwritten with a marker on the whiteboard.
FLOTUS walked in shortly after, at 11:22 am CST. The kids were squealing with delight and shouting “hi” as she waved.
The executive director introduced Congresswoman Sewell and the Birmingham major first. “[Rep. Sewell] helps us get things we need for our school, so that’s really cool,” she said before introducing the First Lady, saying that she is a teacher.
“I’m Jill, nice to meet you,” the First Lady introduced herself.
Rep. Sewell added, “She’s also the First Lady. Isn’t that so cool?”
FLOTUS then sat down on a tiny chair next to one table of students, who were performing a science experiment. She took a pipet herself and worked on the science experiment, which is a lesson in chemical reactions, herself.
Press was escorted out at 11:32 am CST.
At the second stop in Birmingham, the First Lady is delivering remarks inside a gymnasium at the YWCA, standing behind a lectern bearing a sign that reads, “American Rescue Plan / Birmingham, Alabama.” She’s standing in front of a handmade sign with colorfully painted children’s handprints and the words, “Birmingham, AL Welcomes Dr. Biden”
FLOTUS is speaking to roughly 40 people seated on folding chairs inside, spaced in a socially distant manner. Those in the audience included elected officials, stakeholders, and members of the community.
Former Sen. Doug Jones and his wife walked in halfway through Rep. Sewell’s remarks.
Like the learning center, the YWCA runs a Head Start program. (The president’s stimulus package included $1 billion for these programs nationwide).
Ahead of the First Lady, Mayor Randall Woodfin spoke after brief remarks from the YWCA’s CEO. “When you think about what exists here in Birmingham, not just from a numbers standpoint but from the family’s standpoint, it is incumbent among all of us to fight childhood poverty,” he said, praising the stimulus bill for “taking a stab at childhood poverty.”
Rep. Sewell spoke next, declaring multiple times that she was the only member from the Alabama delegation to vote in favor of the American Rescue Plan. “It was Congressional Democrats who stood up for all Americans,” she said. “I’m so glad the First Lady came to Alabama to tell us that help is here,” the congresswoman later added.
Huntley spoke about the need for ‘moving the needle’ because “I was one of those kids that the needle was really for.” She talked about staying in foster homes, dealing with sexual abuse from family members and being the daughter of drug dealers. When mentioning the importance of teachers in her life, Huntley looked back at the First Lady, who cocked her head and smiled behind her mask.
The First Lady started speaking around 12:26 pm CST.
“Thank you, Congresswoman Sewell,” she began. “We’ve shopped together,” the First Lady added, as the audience laughed. “You helped my husband pass one of the most transformative pieces of legislation in decades.”
“Mayor Woodfin, God, it’s so great to see you again. Thank you for welcoming me to Birmingham. My husband is so grateful for your partnership and the work that you do in this city. So thank you,” she said. She acknowledged Former Alabama Sen. Doug Jones in the audience as well and thanked him for his support of her husband.
Biden spoke about the images from the pandemic that she won’t forget, including the “lines for food banks going on for blocks and blocks. And so many people have lost jobs and need that help, really for the first time. So many frontline workers, oh my gosh, showing up every day to keep food on our tables while their own cupboards are empty at home.”
FLOTUS acknowledged that she visited a Head Start center earlier in the day and talked about the issues facing those programs and families in Birmingham, like reduced hours, unemployment, and parents who are at the breaking point.
“This is hard,” she said, speaking directly to struggling parents. “I know that you would do anything for your child. You want to give them the world. Every parent does.”
“Help is here,” FLOTUS said as the audience applauded. She talked about schools reopening safely now and explained the child tax credit found in the American Rescue Plan.
The First Lady quoted Mr. Rogers, saying, “When the gusty winds blow and shake our lives, if we know that people care about us, we may bend with the wind but we won’t break.” She said that while the United States and Birmingham may be facing gusty winds, her husband cares about the American people. “This pandemic will not break us,” she said.