First lady Dr. Jill Biden was married at the age of 18 to her first husband. Eventually the relationship collapsed, and she found herself divorced with no income and home in her mid-20s. While getting over the breakup was painful, it also taught her a financial lesson she will never forget — and it’s one she imparts to her students at Northern Virginia Community College today.
“[I tell the women] I mentor at my community college … they have to be independent, because you never, ever know where what’s going to happen in life,” Dr. Biden told Mika Brzezinski during an extensive interview at a Know Your Value event at the White House on Wednesday. The first lady made the remarks in front of a live audience of executive women and their mentees.
Dr. Biden, who declined her parents’ offer to let her move back home after the divorce, instead saved enough money to rent a one-bedroom town house and finished the classes she needed to graduate. She went on to become a teacher and eventually married Joe Biden in 1977.
“You have to be ready and be able to just be independent, have your own money,” she added. My mother always said, ‘Always put money aside for yourself. Make sure that you have that.’ And after going through a divorce, and having to be dependent on someone else, I was in college. So, I learned very quickly. And it was a very harsh lesson.”
Dr. Biden, 72, has long held on tight to her own career as an English teacher while her husband served as senator, vice president and commander-in-chief. She made history as the first, first lady to hold a paid job outside the White House.
Dr. Biden, who kicked of Forbes and Know Your Value’s inaugural “50 Over 50” list two years ago, also spoke to Brzezinski about juggling her professional and personal life, the secret to her successful, 46-year marriage, how she’s feeling about the pivotal year ahead and more.
Below are highlights from the interview:
On why Dr. Biden continues to teach at Northern Virginia Community College:
“It’s something for me … I raised a family, because I had three children. I went to school to get advanced degrees … And so teaching is just mine. It’s who I am. It gives me joy. My students make me laugh. They make me look at life in different ways. And so I love working.”
How she’s feeling about the pivotal, next 10 months:
“I feel confident … I know that the campaign is going to be tough. But I am confident we’re going to win … You have to look at Joe and what he offers: wisdom, experience, steady. And then you look at the other side: Chaos. Crazy. So there are your two choices.”
The secret to her successful 46-year marriage:
“The secret is not to take one another for granted… Every night, I still light the candles [at the dinner table] …I always have put flowers on the table. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. And put your phone away and come talk to me …If you if you pick up your phone, I get up and walk out.”
On coping with the GOP attacks against her family:
“…It’s not easy when you see your children especially attacked. I think Joe and I have been in politics for so many years that, you know, we’re you kind of get used to it, but … when it’s your kids or your grandkids you know, there used to be a respect for not touching people’s kids. Right? But that’s no longer true.
On her greatest joy serving as FLOTUS:
“I think my greatest joy has been really the ability to travel around and … lift up people. I think no matter whether it’s celebrating teachers … or whether it’s going to some disaster and people are just holding on tight because there’s been a tornado or a fire and they just, you know, all hope is lost and just trying to lift them up and give them hope. And I think that’s my greatest joy is seeing how I can make a difference in helping people.”
Her favorite emoji:
“The turquoise heart”
Her go-to comfort food:
Early bird or night owl?
“Early bird, for sure.”
What her grandchildren call her:
Her most strongly-held belief:
“That acts of kindness really matter.”
Explaining ‘fexting’ with her husband:
“So when you’re in the car and you’re texting right and you’re fighting with your husband and there are secret service agents in the car with you … It’s fighting over text because you can’t verbalize it.”
Her morning coffee order:
“Black … It's easy. You know, I learned that during the campaign”
Joe Willie or Mika: