Within just two and a half days on the job, first lady Biden made it evident that she intends to take her job seriously.
There is a new first lady in the White House and she means business. While a role as significant as this typically comes with a certain learning curve, Dr. Jill Biden seems to be having no trouble understanding the intricacies of what's expected of her. In fact, she jumped feet first into her new job in a way few—if any—of her predecessors have. Even amid the hustle and bustle of Inauguration Day, Biden found the time to record a video message greeting the nation. The very next day, she met with the nominee for education secretary, hosted leaders of the nation's two largest teachers unions at the White House, and held an online conversation with 11,000 educators from around the country.
According to The Washington Post, Biden's impressive performance on the job so early on is to be credited to her handpicked East Wing team that has been carefully planning and scheduling her every move. However, the 69-year-old isn't afraid to deviate from the script either—as she proved on her second full day as first lady. Biden was reportedly originally scheduled for her first official outing that afternoon, a tour of the District's Whitman-Walker Health clinic to see how cancer patients were being supported during the pandemic. However, it came to her attention that National Guard members who were watching over the Capitol in the aftermath of last month's riot were sleeping in a parking garage.
After the clinic tour, Biden made an unannounced stop to visit a group of National Guard members who were out in the cold, bringing along cookies wrapped in red, white, and blue ribbon for them. "I just wanted to come today to say thank you to all of you for keeping me and my family safe," she told them. "I know that you've left your home states. The Bidens are a National Guard family," she added, referring to their late son, Beau, who served in the Delaware Army National Guard.
Within just two-and-a-half days on the job, first lady Biden made it evident that she intends to take her job seriously. Her visit to the National Guard members was a clear indication that she will be proactive in her role as an avatar of the administration. However, she is unlikely to limit herself as just the spouse of an American president. Her filled schedule and East Wing staff are signs that she intends to forcefully pursue her own priorities. "What this says to me is that this is someone who is so comfortable in this role," said Anita McBride, who served as chief of staff to former first lady Laura Bush. "It says, 'I am thrilled and honored to have this position. These are the things I care about. I intend to be active. I intend to be visible and I intend to be a partner in the work of this administration.' Dr. Biden walks into this having just been second lady four years ago and knowing exactly what she wants to do and, to a certain extent, what's expected in the role."
Meanwhile, Biden continues her other job teaching English composition at Northern Virginia Community College, which came back into session for remote learning on January 11. "I know how hard it is," she said in her second-day appearance at the online gathering of teachers. "Tuesday morning, before we got on the plane to come to Washington, I was actually teaching my class." Despite having two jobs, Biden's main issues—military families, education, and cancer resources—were clearly defined before her arrival at the White House. She has already reinforced her interest in those issues in the early weeks of the administration with visible gestures such as the Whitman-Walker visit, the virtual conference with teachers, and the cookie delivery for the troops.
Kim Thiboldeaux, head of the Cancer Support Community, got a call from Biden's team two days before the inauguration to discuss an event that would demonstrate the new first lady's commitment to cancer patients. Thiboldeaux had earlier received a private call from Biden to find out how cancer patients were being affected by the pandemic. "She said, 'Tell me more, tell me what's happening,'" Thiboldeaux says. "She wants to be educated, she wants to understand. She really goes deep on issues. You can feel she cares."