First lady Michelle Obama joined 13 wives of military servicemen Friday evening for a roundtable gathering at the Rhode Island National Guard headquarters in Cranston. Later that night, she appeared at a fundraiser for her husband at the East Side home of Joseph Paolino Jr., a former Providence mayor and U.S. ambassador to Malta.
After greeting the women with hugs in Cranston, Obama said the purpose of the meeting was to draw attention to the plight of military families. "The main piece of this is really making sure America knows the unique challenges that you face," she said. Obama added that Joining Forces — the initiative she and Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, have spearheaded — focuses on efforts to hire military spouses and help the children of servicemen and women pursue their educational goals, even as the upheaval of military life forces them to frequently switch schools.
Two military wives — one the wife of a member of the Navy and the other of a Marine — thanked Obama and highlighted issues important to the spouses of servicemen and women. Amy King, a native of National City, Calif., spoke of the strain repeated moves and her husband's combat injury have placed on her family.
The press was then asked to leave the facility so that the first lady could speak privately with the women.
According to a pool report, issued by the reporter who was allowed to remain with the first lady, Obama later traveled to Paolino's home, where guests included Brown President Ruth Simmons, University of Rhode Island President David Dooley and Gov. Lincoln Chafee '75 P'14, as well as Rhode Island Democrats Rep. David Cicilline '83 and Sen. Jack Reed.
Guests paid at least $1,000 for tickets to attend, and donations were as high as $38,500. For a $5,000 contribution, donors could take a picture with Obama. Money raised that night went to the Obama Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee that benefits both President Obama's 2012 reelection bid and the Democratic National Committee, which sponsored the event.