An educator for over 30 years, Dr. Jill Biden, Second Lady of the United States and wife of Vice President Joe Biden, has long been a champion for improving the lives of women and girls through education. On her recent trip to Asia, during which she visited South Korea, Vietnam, Laos, and Japan, education was a central focus.
The first Second Lady to visit South Korea, Dr. Biden was quoted in Vogue Korea as saying that “women and girls in the Republic of Korea have made tremendous strides over the past few decades” but “no country has achieved gender equality, not the Republic of Korea, not the United States,” signaling the opportunity for both countries to work towards making gender equality a reality. On July 18th, Biden met with the Minister of Gender Equality and Family, H.E. Kim Hee-Jung, then gave remarks at a reception hosted by the Ministry on the subject of educational empowerment for women and girls.
Dr. Biden’s next stop was Vietnam, on a visit that would have not been possible just 20 years ago. In Hanoi she met with Ms. Mai Thi Hanh, wife of Vietnam’s State President Truong Tan Sang, to express just how far their respective countries had come since normalizing their bilateral relationship just two decades ago. While visiting Ho Chi Minh City, Dr. Biden attended a teaching workshop for 74 high school English teachers, telling them they are “amazing” and offering tips for classroom structure and student engagement.
Marking the 60th anniversary of US-Laos bilateral relations, Dr. Biden became the first White House official to ever visit Laos. On her historic visit to the country she visited the US-supported library boat program, which provides children in over 75 remote villages with books provided by the Luang Prabang Public Library and Cooperative Learning International. In a similar vein, Biden met with Sarah Gordon-Gibson, Director of the World Food Program in Laos, to learn how a $27 million pledge from the US embassy in 2014, to be distributed over three years, has helped increase school attendance by providing much needed lunches and snacks to children in remote villages.
In addition to promoting education during her trip, Dr. Biden also focused on supporting the service men and women in the US military who are stationed in Asia. While in Vietnam, she visited the US Department of Defense’s POW/MIA Accounting Agency, telling them they are the “unsung heroes” who work tirelessly to bring missing troops home to their families. In Okinawa, Japan, Dr. Biden concluded her Asia trip by meeting with service members and their families at Kadena Air Base as part of her Joining Forces Initiative.
Sarah Wang is the Event Coordinator and a Program Assistant at the East-West Center in Washington.