Exclusive: Dr. Jill Biden Visits Reading Area Community College
By Pat Ciarrocchi
READING, Pa. (CBS) -- Reading Area Community College got a White House endorsed boost this week.
The Vice President’s wife, Dr. Jill Biden, a veteran community college professor came to give a voice to community colleges partnering with businesses.
I had met the nation’s Second Lady, years ago covering then Senator Joe Biden of Delaware. She is dynamic.
When I showed her the cover of Newsweek, from August 23rd, 2008, she laughed. “That’s a blast from the past,” she said. The cover revealed a first picture of the new Barack Obama-Joe Biden democratic ticket.
Four years later, I asked her about what she knows now, that she didn’t know then.
With an easy smile and wave, Dr. Biden came into a mechanical engineering classroom where about a hundred students, teachers and business owners participated or listened to an hour testimonial as to the power of a community college education.
Dr. Biden agreed that it creates lifelines.
“The stories I heard today were so inspiring,” she said. ” They’re people who are displaced from their jobs… who were retrained and got new jobs. That’s what community colleges are doing.”
She met Leonard Mays who was laid off at 53 and turned to Reading Area Community College to be trained in electrical maintenance.
“I really feel that it helped me land a job that I got now,” Mays said. “Which was actually a better job that what I lost.”
Tiffany Bryant sat next to Dr. Biden. A little shy. Barely making eye contact with the Second Lady but told her story of being between jobs and needing money fast. She wants to be a dental hygienist, but with the help of scholarship money, she’s getting a certificate as a dental assistant first and should have a job by June.
Dr. Jill Biden likes to hear those stories. She says in 18 years in front of the classroom, teaching English, she can see the desire of these students in their eyes.
As Pennsylvania’s fifth largest city, Reading has seen a contraction of its manufacturing and retail businesses. Unemployment has improved from a high of 14 percent two years ago, to 10.9 percent now.
Though this hour long meeting wasn’t billed as a campaign appearance for the 2012 Obama-Biden ticket, convincing women to support Obama-Biden again in Pennsylvania is a priority.
Dr. Biden describes herself as part of the Obama Administration too.
“The President and the Vice President have always done a great job supporting women and women’s issues .. it’s very important.Look at what they’ve done for women. All they’ve done through health care … mammogram screenings.”
Nationally, recent debate has surfaced over the value of women working or staying at home.
When her children were young, Dr. Biden stayed at home. Now she says, she feels like she’s worked forever. As for other women?
“Everywoman has to decide what is right for her. And that’s the beauty of living in this country. Women have a choice.”
Just last week, Dr. Biden came to the University of Pennsylvania with First Lady Michelle Obama to announce an initiative where nurses around the country will train to better help military families deal with post traumatic stress from years deployment. It’s part of their “Joining Forces” effort, celebrating it’s first year in operation.
Dr Biden told me she does intend to campaign with her husband in Pennsylvania soon. It’s a state important to the Obama-Biden ticket in November.