On Wednesday Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman gathered her faithful team and bid farewell to them before leaving to become the executive director for UNICEF.
Veneman expressed her appreciation for the opportunities she'd been given, for the partnerships the USDA has forged and the progress made together within the agency. "To borrow a line from the old Peace Corps commercials, 'it has been the toughest job I've ever loved.'"
She recalled the cow that stole Christmas. Since taking office in 2001, Veneman says the whirlwind of activities was "enough to make us want to take a long nap." The Department was able to face a litany of animal and plant diseases and pests, the attacks of 9/11 and the threat of bioterrorism; and a rapidly evolving, increasingly global marketplace.
"Our accomplishments are only possible because of the team behind them, and we have an outstanding team," she says. "I am always impressed at the ability of USDA, not just to adapt to change but to anticipate it. When new challenges emerge the resources of this Department are mobilized on a dime. Over and over again when there is a crisis USDA is on the front lines-- whether it is an outbreak of animal or plant diseases or a natural disaster like a forest fire, hurricanes or the recent tsunami. We are problem-solvers, leaders and innovators."
Veneman says the work of the past four years isn't ending, just "taking another form" as she prepares to head the United Nation's Children's Fund. She adds, "There will be new challenges and new faces, but there will continue to be common goals and opportunities to work with old friends."
A full transcript of Veneman's Farewell Speech is available online.