31 Dec 2012 - The Secretary Sez

Once a year I look forward to changing the name of this column from Samuelson Sez to Secretary Sez. For the past 36 years I have traveled to Washington, D.C. just before Christmas to sit down with the current Secretary of Agriculture to talk about the year ending and to look ahead to the new year. Last month marked my fourth visit with Secretary Tom Vilsack and I had to ask the question.

With a new four-year term for President Obama and a possible change in Cabinet Secretaries, would you like to continue as Secretary of Agriculture? His response made it clear that he enjoys his job and would like to continue as Secretary, but he quickly added that he serves at the wishes of the President. At the end of our 30-minute interview he shared his thoughts on Secretary Sez.

“Well, I want to thank you for this opportunity, and I want to first of all wish everyone who is watching/listening/reading today, a great Christmas holiday, happy holidays and certainly a prosperous and healthy New Year.

I feel privileged and honored to serve the President and the people of rural America, particularly in this United States Department of Agriculture. This is a great organization, a great department, that is really committed, nearly 100,000 strong to creating a stronger and more vibrant rural America that in turn can create a stronger and more prosperous America.

You know, I was reflecting on my 62nd birthday, not long ago and, recognizing what a great country it is that an individual like myself can start out in a Catholic orphanage early in life, be adopted into a family, celebrate Christmas with my adopted family, and even though we had struggles and difficulties, be able to get an education, marry a wonderful, wonderful woman, have two beautiful children, and now two beautiful grandchildren, and then have this great opportunity to serve. What a great country this is!

One of the reasons it is a great country is because of the people that live, work and raise their families in rural areas. I think it is important and necessary for our country to recognize and appreciate the contribution that rural America makes to the rest of the country. Not only is it the food, water and energy, and the jobs you help to create and grow and provide, but it is the value systems of rural America that I think is most important.

You send your young people to the military proudly; you serve this country in so many different ways. My hope and prayer is that in this year of 2013 that we can do an even better job of serving you and making sure that this country and all 305 million people in this country fully recognize and appreciate what a great group of people we have who live and work and raise their families in rural America.

Thank you and God Bless!”

In closing I would say that I think Tom Vilsack has grown solidly in the job over the past four years and would urge the President to keep him in the Cabinet to continue to serve American agriculture.

Thanks to Tom Vilsack for sharing his thoughts on Secretary Sez.