President Bill Clinton’s shared some remarks from today’s U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Hiring Our Heroes job fair for veterans, transitioning servicemembers, and military spouses in Little Rock, AR, sponsored by Toyota and University of Phoenix.
More than 260 job-seeking veterans and military spouses attended today’s fair to meet with more than 60 employers.
As President Clinton noted in his remarks: “There’s obviously a mismatch in the way the record, the skills that people have been communicated to prospective employers and the way veterans and people transitioning out of the military and their families have been fed into perspective employers. And that’s what the Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s hiring our heroes initiative is all about….Eric (Eversole) told me that this is the 615th job fair that has been sponsored. Their goal in this project is to hire 500,000 people who are either veterans, in transition, or in military families. Already more than 200,000 people have gotten jobs from encounters just like the one you’re here to have today. And I personally think it is really, really important.”
Below is the full transcript of President Bill Clinton’s remarks on October 1, 2013, Little Rock, Arkansas:
Thank you, good morning and Sgt. Meyers it’s good to see you again. I want to thank Eric for the work that hiring our heroes does and for his service. I want to thank Don Esmond for the support Toyota has given. Toyota has consistently been the biggest supporter of this effort and we should give them a big hand, they’ve been great. And, I’d like to thank John Ramirez who is the vice president of external military operations with the University of Phoenix. I will be brief.
First, I was thrilled to be asked here, because it bothers me that veterans unemployment is higher than the overall employment rate for the American population. It bothers me that veterans, people transitioning out of the military and their families; who have already given so much, would have an unemployment rate higher than the national average. It bothers me because I know from personal experience, not only when I served as president, but since then, and the work that I do today, that people who served in the military acquire skills that are highly valuable in the American marketplace. And I know that we are filling job openings, that is jobs that have been advertised for hire, at only half the rate that we fill them in the aftermath of previous recessions.
And we have to do something about it. There’s obviously a mismatch in the way the record, the skills that people have been communicated to prospective employers and the way veterans and people transitioning out of the military and their families have been fed into perspective employers. And that’s what the Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s hiring our heroes initiative is all about.
So, I’ve been with Sgt. Meyer before, I wasn’t surprised to hear him say something fairly provocative like “you don’t think enough of yourself.” But it is true, an employer is like every other human being you can’t do something if you don’t realize it’s an option. You can’t hire somebody you don’t know about. And Eric told me that this is the 615th job fair that has been sponsored. Their goal in this project is to hire 500,000 people who are either veterans, in transition, or in military families. Already more than 200,000 people have gotten jobs from encounters just like the one you’re here to have today. And I personally think it is really, really important.
We are living in a time which must be frustrating to all of you, it is to me, but, whenever a country has a financial crisis, when the financial system melts down, it takes longer to get over than any other kind of recession. I went back the other day, before I met with a business group, and read a history of the financial collapses America had in 1873 and 1893. Now that may seem like a long time ago to you, but, in 1873 and 1893 we were China today. That is we were fast becoming the biggest economy; we were growing faster than everybody else and even then, it took 10 years to get over the crash.
The problem is we know a lot more today than we did then. We know how to match people, we have technology, we have information we did not have then, and it shouldn’t be taking this long to get people into the jobs. So by showing up here today you’re helping not only yourself and your families, but also your country. And, I will just close with this — we had a terrible storm in the Northeast where I live today with Hillary, and where my office is, and super storm Sandy, you all remember it, one of the oldest and best totally middle-class neighborhoods left in the United States that’s on a beach are the Rockaways in Queens, in New York City. And a lot of those people were totally wiped out.
My daughter raised 1020 people to go work there through our foundation network in 8 hours, thanks to technology. And I said to Chelsea, well this is a great deal Chelsea but if we show up there we are giving them four days notice it is hard to keep 1000 people busy for eight hours. And we don’t want to be guilty of false advertising. Nor do we want to leave jobs un-done. She said “oh dad, it’s no problem, I turned it over to team Rubicon, the veterans of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq who spend their time going from disaster to disaster because they know how to organize resources to get a job done in a difficult environment.”
And, I was amazed. They said “okay we need 500 people to go work in these houses in this order.” They took them there. They said “they just built a new children’s park on the beach and it’s buried in the sand.” It’ll take 150 people almost 8 hours to do. We showed up on time in the morning and 10 minutes till 5 they finished clearing the site. The kind of skills that you almost take for granted, that you acquire in your military service are needed at a time when efficiency is important, when productivity is important, when people showing up on time and giving a full days work for a full days pay is important. America needs you now, and you need America. These folks are America they showed up to help. I wish you well and I thank you for your service. God bless you.