First lady Jill Biden is opening up about what it's like balancing the responsibility of being in the White House while still teaching in a wide-ranging cover interview for Vogue's August issue.
Biden, who has been married to President Joe Biden for more than 40 years and been a teacher for more than three decades, said that it was important for her to do both jobs. Whether she's grading papers on Air Force One or leading Zoom classes from a hotel room, she said she's pushed herself to continue working her day job.
"I heard that all the time during the campaign. Like, 'No. You’re not going to be able to teach as first lady,'" Biden told Vogue. "And I said, ‘Why not? You make things happen, right?’"
Biden said that it's also been important to her to "never waste" the platform she holds as first lady.
"When I became Second Lady (in 2008) — and there was so much I wanted to do — I always said, ‘I will never waste this platform,'" Biden said. "And now I have a bigger platform, and I feel every day, like ... What could I give up? That I would want to give up? Nothing. If anything, I feel like adding more things, but I know it's not possible, because you want to stay centered, because you want to do things well. And there's so much to do. There is so. Much. To. Do."
The president said that Biden always seemed to know what she would do if she had the platform she currently has, recalling her hesitance to be the wife of a United States senator early in his career.
"It was clear to me that she knew exactly what she would do if she were first lady," he said. "And so she came in, I think — knowing the experience of being vice president, knowing the power of the presidency — knowing that she could change things."
Amid the pandemic, there certainly is plenty to keep the first lady occupied. She's appeared at vaccination sites to reassure those nervous about getting the coronavirus vaccine and made speeches about the American Rescue Plan, emphasizing its importance to families. Biden has also spoken about the expansion of child tax credits to direct payments, which would give millions of families thousands of dollars each year, and restarted "Joining Forces," a support initiative for military families that she launched with former first lady Michelle Obama during former President Barack Obama's first term.
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President Biden said that his wife's busy schedule has made it difficult for the two to spend as much time together as they once did. While they used to be able to escape to a local bed-and-breakfast in Delaware once a month, their current schedules make such one-on-one time impossible.
"I miss her," he said. "I'm really proud of her. ... She's been traveling all over the country. And doing major events for me ... and for the country. And so I'll find that I’m working on a hell of an important speech and I’m distracted. And then I may not be working on one and I want to go and hang out with her, and she’s working on an important speech! Or grading papers. We have to figure out a way — and I mean this sincerely — to be able to steal time for one another."
Biden said that there's truth to what her husband said about their chaotic schedules, but the couple is trying to set aside time for each other as much as possible.
"We have to, I think, try a little harder to make time for one another," Biden said. "Even the thing about having dinner together: Sometimes we eat on the balcony; last night we ate in the yellow Oval, upstairs. It's just part of the day that we set apart, and we still light the candles, still have the conversations, still put the phones away."
Biden said that another priority of hers — on top of teaching, politics and spending time with her husband — is making the White House feel like a home for herself and her family. While the White House has received clearance to land Marine One, the presidential helicopter, near their Delaware beach house, Biden said she wasn't sure how much time her husband would be able to spend on the beach, so she wants to make the White House itself feel comfortable.
"I guess our home base has sort of stretched from Delaware to Washington," said Biden. "It's just bigger now ... I want the White House to feel comfortable. It's like my beach house, where you feel like you can just come in, and your bathing suit is sandy, but it's okay to sit down on the chair. I want people to feel that way, that they're comfortable, that it's their house. Not like, ‘Oh, I can’t touch this.’"