(This story is being reposted from The Quint’s archives to mark the swearing-in ceremony that’ll see Joe Biden and Kamala Harris take oath as the next president and vice president of USA. It was originally published on 9 November 2020)
Breaking a 231-year norm, Dr Jill Biden is going to be the first First Lady to have two jobs – as America’s FLOTUS and Northern Virginia Community College’s professor of English.
First-Lady historian Katherine Jellison said to USA Today that no previous FLOTUS has been “allowed” to have a work and family life. “Maybe the time has come when Americans will be more accepting of the idea that a president's wife can simultaneously be a first lady and a working professional”.
In the eight years she served as Second Lady, when Joe Biden was vice-president to Barack Obama, she continued teaching English. Though Jill is not the first to graduate from Second Lady to First Lady, she is the first to balance her career with her new responsibilities.
A Revered Professor
Dr Jill Biden holds a Bachelor's degree and doctoral degree from the University of Delaware, as well as Master's degrees from West Chester University and Villanova University.
According to an interview with Vogue, most students were initially unaware of her identity as being either a senator’s wife or as Second Lady as her secret service agents were dressed like college students. However, as First Lady, they are unlikely to stay undercover.
“Teaching is not what I do. It’s who I am”, she said, proceeding to hold her national convention speech from a classroom in Brandywine High where she earlier taught.
When asked if she could do it all, Jill Biden told CBS, “I would love to. If we get to the White House, I'm going to continue to teach.” She also created history by being the first Second Lady to hold a paying non-political/ legal, outside-the-Beltway job. In a Vogue interview, she said that “The beauty is that you can define it however you want," And that’s what I did as Second Lady – I defined that role the way I wanted it to be. I would still work on all the same issues.” It is presumed that her agenda will prioritise education, military families, and spreading awareness about cancer.
Despite encouragement, first-lady expert Betty Caroli in an interview to USA Today has her doubts about the next FLOTUS to have it all, saying that Eleanor Roosevelt thought she could and failed, and responsibilities have increased since.
Life with Joe Biden
On their love story, USA Today reports that Joe Biden was a widower with two young sons when he came across Jill’s picture in an ad in 1975. It took five proposals before she agreed to marry Joe Biden in 1977, for she didn’t want his sons to lose another mother.
The Bidens have five grandchildren, aged 14-25, who stole the attention at Joe Biden’s first speech as president-elect.
Jill took leave from teaching for a year to campaign for her husband. In an interview to CNN, she said that this was a “critical time for me to support him”. She was on the road and in virtual events throughout, making headlines in October. Jill Biden defended her family against attacks by Trump’s campaign to The View. “I don’t like to see my son attacked” (about allegations against son Hunter) “but to me, these are distractions”. She highlighted family yet again in her tweet “He will be a President for all of our families” after the Democratic candidate was named President-Elect.
First-lady historian Myra Gutin wrote that FLOTUS can provide a window into the White House, highlighting the character of the president and his family, reported USA Today. Having long accomplished FLOTUS’ top priority to humanise her husband and promote his agenda, Jill Biden now focuses on executing a different priority: one of unconventionally pursuing her career as the ‘woman who can have it all’.