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Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

Remarks by Secretary Robert A. McDonald

A Message from the Secretary: 150th Anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address
Washington, DC
March 4, 2015

One hundred and fifty years ago today – March 4th, 1865 – the bloody Civil War was coming to a conclusion, and President Abraham Lincoln took his second oath of office.

The weather preceding President Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address was rainy, windy, and threatening. But as the President prepared to take his place on the steps of the Capitol, the clouds cleared, and the sun shone. One reporter called it “a well accepted omen of the better days just dawning on the country.”

In his speech, President Abraham Lincoln gave a wounded Nation a vision for healing, and he charged us to care for those “who shall have borne the battle” and for their families. That clear, broad mission still guides the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today. It is the noblest mission supporting the greatest clients of any agency in the country.

We answer that mission every day by living our I CARE Values – by interacting with Veterans and fellow employees with unimpeachable Integrity; by renewing our Commitment to the best outcomes for Veterans; through rigorous Advocacy characterized by profound Respect for those we serve; and by doing all of that with unparalleled Excellence in delivering the world-class benefits and health care that Veterans have earned.

That’s really why we’ve begun our transformation, MyVA. MyVA is a historic, Department-wide transformation making Veterans the center of everything we do. And it may well become the largest restructuring in the Department’s history. MyVA is about improving Veterans’ experiences, and it includes organizational reforms to unify our work for Veterans.

And it’s about improving our employees’ experiences – your experiences – and eliminating barriers to providing Veterans timely, quality care and services. We want to focus on our people so we can best serve Veterans. We’re going to improve internal support services and enhance our strategic partnerships. And we’re establishing a culture of continuous improvement so those of you at the front lines of service can correct problems you identify more immediately. Then, we can replicate your proven solutions across all facilities.

Reorienting us around the needs of Veterans, MyVA will revolutionize our culture and allow us to give every Veteran a seamless, integrated, and responsive customer service experience, every time. And we’ll measure our success by the only metric that counts – Veterans’ outcomes. MyVA is a product of your heartfelt dedication to the men and women who have served our Nation so selflessly and so honorably.

Our mission, established in President Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, is carved in stone on the walls of the Lincoln Memorial – and many VA facilities. We should all see that as an enduring emblem of our individual and collective devotion to Veterans and their families.

Thank you for your work, and God bless you all.

Robert A. McDonald