After months of teaching writing and English to community college students in boxes on a computer screen, the first lady resumes teaching in person Tuesday from a classroom at Northern Virginia Community College, where she has worked since 2009.
She is the first first lady to leave the White House and log hours at a full-time job.
“There are some things you just can’t replace, and I can’t wait to get back in the classroom,” she recently told Good Housekeeping magazine.
The first lady has been anxious to see her students in person after more than a year of virtual teaching brought on by a pandemic that continues to challenge the Biden administration.
A working first lady is a “big deal,” said Tammy Vigil, a Boston University communications professor who wrote a book about first ladies Michelle Obama and Melania Trump.
The nation’s early first ladies did not work outside the home, especially when home was the White House. They supported their husbands, raised children and performed the role of hostess.
Some first ladies acted as special ambassadors for their husbands. Eleanor Roosevelt was especially active, traveling around the U.S. and reporting back to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose activities were limited by polio. She advocated for the poor, minorities and other disadvantaged people, and began writing a nationally syndicated newspaper column from the White House.
More recent first ladies, like Laura Bush, who was an elementary school teacher and librarian, had stopped working outside the home after having children and were not employed when their husbands were elected. Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama were working mothers who decided against continuing their careers in the White House.
Jill Biden, 70, is forging a new path for herself and her successors.
The first lady has said she always wanted to be a career woman. She taught at the Virginia community college during the eight years that her husband was vice president and was not about to let the added responsibility of being first lady force her to give up a career she so closely identifies with.
“Teaching isn’t just what I do. It’s who I am,” she says.
Women made up nearly half, or 47%, of the U.S. labor force in 2019, according to Catalyst, a women’s workplace advocacy group.
Leaders of the nation’s largest teachers’ unions are pleased that one of their own is now in a position to help influence the administration’s education policies and raise the profile of a profession in which many have long felt unappreciated.
“She sees it up close and personally and now, in the position as first lady, not only does she give voice to that from a place of understanding, she has an opportunity to create a platform and to have influence,” said Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association.
President Joe Biden told teachers attending the NEA’s annual meeting that he learned about what they were going through by watching his wife as she learned how to teach online.
“It gave me an appreciation firsthand that I thought I had, but I wouldn’t have had had I not seen it,” he said at the July meeting. “And then going out and teaching — she was working four or five hours a day, getting ready to teach, putting her lesson plans together … a different way.”
In 1976, a year after she met and began dating then-U.S. Sen. Biden, Jill Biden started teaching English at a Roman Catholic high school in Wilmington, Delaware. She later taught at a psychiatric hospital and at Delaware Technical Community College.
She earned two master’s degrees and a doctorate in educational leadership during those years.
After Joe Biden became vice president in 2009, she joined the faculty at Northern Virginia Community College. She continued to teach there after he left office and throughout his 2020 presidential campaign, including virtually after the pandemic hit.
Her virtual teaching continued as first lady, from her office in the White House East Wing or hotel rooms when she traveled to promote administration policies. She grades papers on flights.
“It shatters the norms of what first ladies do,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.
Jill Biden tries to keep her political identity out of the classroom and has said that many of her former students in Virginia had no idea she was married to the vice president. She also did not talk about it. Secret Service agents accompanied her for security, but she had them dress casually and tote backpacks in an attempt to blend into the campus environment.
But being first lady, for which there is no job description or pay, comes with a much higher level of visibility, security and scrutiny.
First ladies make numerous public appearances — with or without the president — to promote their own or the president’s issues, garnering coverage from national and local news media. Vogue magazine splashed the first lady on the cover of its August issue.
Jill Biden will teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with travel on days when she is not in the classroom. Her employer, the commonwealth of Virginia, requires everyone to wear face coverings indoors on Northern Virginia Community College campuses, regardless of vaccination status. The first lady is fully vaccinated.
The school is offering fall classes in a variety of formats, including fully remote, in-person on campus and a hybrid.
Anne M. Kress, president of Northern Virginia Community College, said she looked forward to welcoming the students and faculty, including Jill Biden, for the fall semester and expressed gratitude for their commitment to “excellence in instruction and equity in opportunity.”
“Their belief in our students is deep, real, and transformational,” Kress said.
The sexism that led to the Elizabeth Holmes trialBreakout
Elizabeth Holmes’ biotech company was once considered the hottest startup in Silicon Valley. But for lab techs working in Theranos’ blood lab, it didn’t exactly feel like a dream job.
Holmes claimed to the world that she had invented mini blood testing machines that could revolutionize healthcare.
But the blood test machines failed so frequently that staff had to work around-the-clock recalibrating, lab tech Erika Cheung testified in court Friday.
“We had people sleeping in their cars because it took so long,” Cheung told the jury.
Blood lab results were supposed to take two hours to complete. But Theranos’ machines often produced false blood lab results, and recalibrating the machines took two or three days, Cheung said.
After a federal investigation into the lab, Holmes was charged with defrauding investors and patients.
Her defense attorneys are trying to convince the jury that Holmes had no idea her invention gave bogus blood test results.
In court Friday, prosecutors chipped away at the defense by calling ex-Theranos employees to testify.
Senior scientist Surekha Gangakhedkar testified that Holmes was in fact aware of problems in the blood lab. Gangakhedkar said she met with Holmes directly on a regular basis. When she found out that Theranos was moving forward with accepting patients, she left the company.
“It made me uncomfortable. I didn’t think that was the right decision,” Gangakhedkar testified.
Cheung testified that she was afraid of the company’s executives. When Theranos’ human resources director called her, even the HR director sounded scared, she said.
“When I heard (the HR director’s) voice and how scared she sounded, it just reminded me of how scared I was working for that company. I had a right to not speak to them.”
After she left the company, Cheung received an email from the company’s legal team threatening her with a lawsuit for defamation. The letter also accused her of leaking confidential information, including trade secrets.
Text messages made public record recently by prosecutors expose private exchanges between Holmes and Theranos COO, Sunny Balwani, when their company was coming under fire.
There are texts about seeking to silence medical professionals and Theranos employees who were raising red flags to federal authorities and journalists.
“We’ll get them,” Holmes texted Balwani on May 13, 2015 after a lab gave her company a bad review.
In one text exchange, the duo was trying to figure out which of employees were leaking information.
Balwani wrote to Holmes, “I am narrowing this down in CLIA. Down to 5 people. Will nail this mr fr.”
‘Justice for J6’ updates: Sparse crowd met with massive police presence at right-wing rally
The “Justice for J6” rally was billed as a protest for defendants being detained in connection with the January insurrection at the Capitol.
At least 610 individuals have been federally charged for their involvement in the Jan. 6 riot at the United States Capitol, according to the Department of Justice. Most of the roughly 60 who remain behind bars are suspects prosecutors and judges have identified as posing a credible and ongoing threat to the public’s safety.
Many of the same far-right groups and individuals who promoted the original Jan. 6 rally-turned insurrection this time warned supporters to avoid the demonstration at all costs. Former President Donald Trump called it a “setup” but also released a statement supporting those charged.
With the House and Senate both out, no lawmakers were at the Capitol on Saturday. But preventative security measures were taken, including the reinstallation of temporary fencing around the Capitol complex.
Man with gun detained at rally, police say
A man who allegedly had a gun at the rally has been detained and charged with unlawful activities, Capitol Police said.
A witness told police they saw “what appeared to be a handgun” on a man in the crowd at 1:30 p.m., Capitol Police said on Twitter. The man did have a gun, police said in a followup tweet.
“At this time, it is not clear why the man was at the demonstration,” police said.
Up to 450 people turn out for rally
About 400 to 450 people were “inside the protest area” Saturday, Capitol Police said after the “Justice for J6” rally concluded.
That number did not include law enforcement, police said.
The rally fell short of expectations, with organizers having secured a permit for 700 attendees.
Organizer Matt Braynard thanked demonstrators who showed up for “trusting” him.
Despite the turnout, the event drew a large law enforcement and media presence. Capitol Police said Friday they were working with over 27 agencies from around the region to secure the event.
Rally concludes without any known major incidents
The “Justice for J6” rally wrapped up Saturday afternoon after about an hour of speeches, without any major known incidents.
Authorities had warned of possible threats of violence at the event, and Capitol Police officers could be seen in riot gear standing on the perimeter of the crowd as people gathered in front of the U.S. Capitol.
Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert Contee also said in a video message Saturday that the department had security “covered” for the event and was ensuring that people could “peacefully express their First Amendment rights.”
Capitol Police said they arrested a man for a weapons violation shortly before the rally kicked off. He allegedly had a knife. Additional details were not immediately available.
No other arrests have been reported at this time.
The Capitol Police Civil Disturbance Unit also responded to a group of protestors and counter protestors near the Capitol and “separated the groups without incident,” police said.
Man with knife arrested, Capitol Police say
Right before the rally kicked off, Capitol Police say they arrested a man with a knife for a weapons violation.
The arrest happened at 12:40 p.m., authorities said. No other details were immediately provided.
Knives are one of over a dozen prohibited items and activities on Capitol Grounds, along with firearms, mace, ammunition and other items.
In the days leading up to the rally, DC Police posted signage in the area of the rally that stated: “All firearms prohibited within 1000 feet of this sign.”
Ohio Republican Congressman Anthony Gonzalez Won’t Seek Reelection
Ohio Congressman Anthony Gonzalez will not run for reelection when his term ends next year. The 16th district representative made the announcement on Twitter Thursday night.
“While my desire to build a fuller family life is at the heart of my decision,” Gonzalez wrote, “it is also true that the current state of our politics, especially many of the toxic dynamics inside our own party, is a significant factor in my decision.”
In January, Gonzalez was one of ten Republicans who voted to impeach then-President Donald Trump, accusing him of inciting the mob at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
“These are fundamental threats not just to people’s lives but to the very foundation of the Republic,” he said in a written statement explaining his vote.
Gonzalez faced harsh criticism from his party including calls for his resignation. In May, the Ohio Republican Party’s Central Committee voted almost unanimously to censure him.
In his late Thursday Twitter statement, Gonzalez expressed gratitude to those who continued to support him.
“Please know that every word has meant the world to me,” he said, “and given me hope that the chaotic political environment that currently infects our country will only be temporary.”
Gonzalez stood by his concerns about the storming of the Capitol at a City Club of Cleveland event after his censure. He said his party should not spread falsehoods about the 2020 election.
“Continuing to perpetuate falsehoods, especially ones that are dangerous that led to the violence on Jan. 6, is a recipe for disaster for the party, but it’s also horribly irresponsible,” he said.
Gonzalez also voted in favor of creating an independent commission to investigate the Capitol riot.
A former White House aide, Max Miller, entered the race to challenge Gonzalez in the 2022 primary. And Trump held a rally in Lorain in June to support Miller and other GOP candidates. He took direct aim at Gonzalez.
“He’s a sellout, a fake Republican and a disgrace to your state,” Trump said. “And he’s not the candidate that you want representing the Republican Party.”
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