NAPLES, Italy – First Lady Jill Biden fostered an atmosphere of storytelling during her visit to a Defense Ministry school on Monday, sharing her own memories before encouraging students to do the same.
âNot everyone knows what it’s like to be you,â Biden said during a cheer rally at Naval Support Activity Naples Middle / High School. âYou face unique challenges and your stories are not being told. ”
A student who invited her to speak recounted the bullying he had suffered in previous schools because of his sexuality. He said he was insulted and thrown in the trash because he was gay.
But things changed after he arrived in Naples, the boy said.
âIt’s a heat,â he said of the support and acceptance he found in his new school.
He received a standing ovation from his peers, as well as encouragement from Biden.
âIt’s really a family at this school,â said Biden, who is also a teacher with a doctorate in education.
One girl who addressed the crowd recounted the difficulty of moving around repeatedly and the anxiety she felt each time. Another boy said knowing he was American gave him a source of pride and strength.
First Lady Jill Biden, left, kisses a student during a speech at the Naples High School / College Naval Support Activity in Naples, Italy, November 1, 2021 (Fred Gray IV / US Navy)
First Lady Jill Biden speaks at Naples Middle / High School at Naval Support Activity Naples, Italy, Nov. 1, 2021. Biden visited students, parents and community members as part of his initiative to the White House Joining Forces, a program that supports service members and families of veterans, caregivers and survivors. (Fred Gray IV / US Navy)
Biden told the audience she was inspired to stand up for military families by the hardships her own grandchildren faced when their father, Major Beau Biden, who died in 2015 from cancer, deployed with the Delaware Army National Guard.
The students’ stories showed strength, resilience and adaptability, she told the audience, which included parents, school employees and military personnel.
The first lady also spoke to students on a previous tour of the school, which included the robotics lab and a kitchen. In a cooking class, she shared stories about her Italian heritage and her grandmother’s culinary prowess.
âShe would cook noodles and hang them on the racks to dry them,â Biden said while wearing an apron she put on to make dumplings with the students.
His visit to the school lasted just over an hour. She also met with Navy and military officials before leaving Naples.