Jill Biden: America's new First Lady is starting as she means to go on

January 19, 2021

Jill Biden has spent three decades as a teacher - and she has vowed to carry on with her full-time job even while living at the White House.

"How great would that be?" she asked in an interview with NBC News from the campaign trail in 2019.

"What would that say about teachers? Wouldn't that lift up the profession and celebrate who they are? It would be my honour," she added.

An English teacher at a community college, she has two masters degrees and a doctorate in education.

She is so focussed on education that she has started as she means to go on, by setting up a special live stream of the inauguration targeted directly at America's students and young people.

But she's also her husband's chief protector, is noted for his trust in her judgement, is a grandmother - and an incorrigible prankster.

The 69-year-old has the benefit of already being familiar with the White House, having been America's 'second lady' while Barack Obama was in office.

"She's going in eyes wide open," said Myra Gutin, a professor at Rider University and author of several books about first ladies.

Jill Biden is no stranger to riding out a storm, saying that "my stoicism serves me well," and writing in her memoir Where The Light Enters: "I decided early that I would never let my emotions rule me."

She wrote: "In 1988, when Joe's first presidential campaign started to look bleak, people were constantly looking for cracks in our team. We all felt scrutinised, but I refused to show weakness."

She has physically blocked protesters from approaching her husband, and moved him away when reporters got too close during the coronavirus pandemic.

"She's not your average grandmother," granddaughter Naomi said on a video shown at the Democratic National Convention, recalling that Jill Biden once woke her up at 5am on Christmas morning to go "soul cycling".

"She's a prankster, she's very mischievous," Naomi added.

"When she goes on a run, sometimes she'll find, like, a dead snake and she'll pick it up and put it in a bag and use it to scare someone."

Her most recent role was at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), where she moved in 2009 after Barack Obama won the presidential election with her husband as his running mate.

So strong is her identity as an educator that when called upon to make the case for him at the Democratic Party's National Convention, she chose to do so from an empty classroom where she taught in the 1990s.

Afterwards, she was joined by her husband, who praised her qualities as a potential first lady.

When Joe Biden was newly confirmed as the Democrat's candidate to take on Donald Trump he said of his wife of 43 years: "Just think of your favourite educator who gave you the confidence to believe in yourself. That's the kind of first lady... Jill Biden will be."

Dr Biden was born Jill Tracy Jacobs in 1951 in Hammonton, New Jersey, and grew up near Philadelphia.

The Bidens married in 1977, after being introduced by his brother, Frank. At the time, she was a young divorcee and he was a US senator for the state of Delaware.

He was also a single father with sons Beau and Hunter after a car crash killed his first wife and their one-year-old daughter five years earlier.

Dr Biden has said Joe proposed to her five times before she accepted.

"I couldn't have them [Joe's children] lose another mother. So I had to be 100% sure," she explained.

The couple went on to have a daughter together, Ashley, born in 1981.

But tragedy struck the family again in 2015, when Beau Biden died of brain cancer.

He had spent time as an army officer and a major in the National Guard, and as a military mother and the daughter of a WWII veteran, Dr Biden has already begun to revive a programme supporting forces families that she had set up with Michelle Obama in 2011.

At a virtual meeting last week she told representatives: "We're going to build on what we learned during the Obama-Biden administration. We'll continue to listen and work with you."

The programme focusses on employment, wellness, and - you guessed it - education.

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