Biden gives California woman a pep talk as he revives the weekly White House address

Michele Voelkert talks to President Biden
In a image from a video posted on YouTube by the White House, Roseville resident Michele Voelkert talks with President Joe Biden.
(The White House)

President Biden gave a pep talk to a California woman who was laid off because of the COVID-19 pandemic, during a conversation the White House said is part of an effort to help him engage more consistently with regular Americans.

The White House on Saturday released a 2½-minute video of Biden’s long-distance telephone conversation with Michele Voelkert, identifying her only as Michele.

After losing her job at a start-up clothing company in July, she wrote Biden a letter. He read it, then called her.

The Roseville woman told Biden, “It’s been a tough time” trying to find work.

Biden, who spoke from his Oval Office desk, replied that his father used to say a job is about dignity and respect as much as it is about a paycheck. He described his $1.9-trillion coronavirus relief plan, which calls for $1,400 payments to people like Voelkert, and other economic aid for individuals and small businesses. There’s also money to help distribute COVID-19 vaccines.

“I’ve been saying a long time, the idea that we think we can keep businesses open and moving and thriving without dealing with this pandemic is just a non-starter,” Biden said.

The Sacramento Bee said it spoke to Voelkert, 47, after the call. “It was the opportunity of the lifetime,” she said. “I’m still riding high.”


The conversation is part of an effort to help Biden, who has largely limited his travel because of the pandemic, communicate directly with Americans, the White House said. The president flew to Wilmington, Del., on Friday to spend the weekend at home with his family.

“There is a time-honored tradition in the country of hearing from the president in this way,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Friday in previewing the video. She referenced Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “fireside chats” and Ronald Reagan’s establishment of a weekly radio address.

The radio address method eventually grew to include a video version viewed over the internet. The practice, however, became moribund under former President Trump.

Psaki said Biden’s weekly address would be produced in a variety of forms.