BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Walmart President and CEO Mike Duke introduced First Lady Michelle Obama at the Business Roundtable Wednesday with the following remarks:
"We are pleased to be joined by our guest today, First Lady Michelle Obama. Mrs. Obama speaks movingly about the service, strength, and sacrifice of our current generation of troops, veterans, and military families. It is a personal privilege to share some of her work and to start our discussion around creating opportunity for this new group of heroes.
"This is a critical moment for America's veterans. More and more of them are coming home in the coming years, and finding work in the civilian world has its share of challenges. Walmart has stores in America's small towns, big cities, suburbs and rural areas, and we see in these communities the difficulties veterans face.
"Walmart recognized we could make a difference, and we knew from experience that hiring a veteran is one of the best business decisions you can make. Veterans are strong leaders, team players, highly trained, and committed to service. So beginning this Memorial Day, Walmart will hire any honorably discharged veteran who wants a job with us in his or her first 12 months off active duty. We project that we will hire 100,000 veterans in the next five years.
"Many of you in this room already have fantastic initiatives underway, and we hope our commitment can be a catalyst toward even greater action. We are so fortunate to have a leader to bring us all together in First Lady Michelle Obama.
"Mrs. Obama and Dr. Jill Biden have created 'Joining Forces' to ensure our service members and their families have the opportunities they have earned. They believe strongly that our veterans give us a land of freedom, and we owe them a land of opportunity. Just listen to what they have accomplished through Joining Forces:
More than 2,100 companies have committed to hire or train more veterans and military spouses in the next five years;
17 states are speeding up professional certifications for military spouses whose families are transferred;
Hundreds of medical and nursing schools have committed to train the next generation of doctors and nurses in dealing with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries; and
Americans have honored veterans by volunteering more than 22 million hours of service.
"The First Lady is asking everyone to step up: business, civil society, government and nonprofits. And I can tell you she is a tremendous partner. Walmart is working alongside her 'Let's Move' initiative to make the food we sell healthier and our healthier foods more affordable, and we were honored to host her recently in a store in Springfield, Missouri. Her leadership will take this effort to a whole new level.
"Last week, Mrs. Obama's office held a meeting at the White House with more than 40 companies. We were proud to work with her team, and I know many of you took part. The First Lady is bringing the resources of the Departments of Defense, Labor, and Veterans Affairs and the entire federal government into this partnership to make hiring veterans as efficient and effective as possible.
"Because of her leadership and all of your leadership – we can move forward not just as individual companies but as a united business community. We can offer veterans a wider range of opportunities across different industries and occupations. And we can act with the urgency this cause demands.
"We can do more. We must do more. And there's no one better to speak to us about how we can help than our First Lady. Ladies and gentlemen, the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama."
Business Roundtable (BRT) is an association of chief executive officers of leading U.S. companies with more than $7.3 trillion in annual revenues and nearly 16 million employees.