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Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

Remarks by Deputy Secretary Donald Remy

Deputy Secretary Marches in Selma for the 57th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday
March 6, 2022

On March 6, 2022, Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Donald Remy delivered remarks during the VA Deputy Secretary with other officials57th anniversary commemoration of Bloody Sunday in Selma, AL. On Mar. 7, 1965, leaders of the Civil Rights movement began their march from Selma, AL to Montgomery, AL, to call attention to state and local laws that disenfranchised Black voters across the South. Although the marchers were peaceful, they were met with violence from state troopers and others who tried to prevent the marchers from crossing county lines. The resulting violence shocked the country and ultimately spurred the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Below is the transcript of Deputy Secretary Remy’s speech during the event.

Good afternoon, Vice President Harris, Representative Terri Sewell, Secretaries Marcia Fudge, Pete Buttigieg, Miguel Cardona, Administrator Mike Regan, and so many other distinguished and honored guests and attendees.

I’m privileged to share this moment with all of you in this is hallowed ground—one of many battlefields in our country’s long fight for freedom and civil rights that continues to, this, day.

As a Black Veteran, I want to reflect upon one of the many folks who helped lead the March here 57 years ago, another Black Veteran named Reverend Hosea Williams.

John Lewis said that Williams was “one of the founding fathers of the new America who helped liberate all of us.” A founding father for the new America.

Well, before he was our founding father, he was a Staff Sergeant, a Veteran of bloody battles in World War II. Grievously wounded, Williams was a Purple Heart recipient. A man who gave so much to this country—to all of us a hero. But when he came home, he wasn’t welcomed as a hero.

VA Deputy Secretary with other officials

Even in uniform, Staff Sergeant Williams faced racism, Jim Crow, brutality. And when he marched across this bridge—shoulder-to-shoulder with John Lewis—he was beaten bloody ... for exercising the very freedoms he spilled blood to defend in the war. Beaten for marching for justice. Beaten for marching for equality and for the right to vote. Beaten because he was a Black man.

Righting those wrongs—and others—is what the march was about. It’s what we’re about still today. Building a better future with Vice President Harris and this Administration leading the way.

But words aren’t enough. Reminding people isn’t enough. Action and outcomes are the only things that will ever be enough. So, at VA we’re taking action to address racial inequities affecting the Black Veterans we serve.

We’re working to make sure all Veterans have equitable access to VA benefits and services. We’re embedding equity into everything we do to reduce—to eliminate—disparities in our system.  From mental, to maternal, to cardio care, we’re finding and closing gaps in Black Veterans’ access to health care. Researching disparities in PTSD ratings among Black Veterans. Removing factors causing disparities in kidney disease diagnoses among Black Veterans. Placing Maternity Care Coordinators at every facility to reduce maternal deaths, too common among Black women Veterans. Working with HBCUs to improve outcomes by creating a workforce that looks like America and the Veterans we serve

All Veterans—no matter their color—deserve the same, high-quality care.

We’re also working to ensure Veteran access to that most sacred right they fought for ... and so many died for: the right to vote.  What President Biden calls the very “foundation of American democracy.” So, we’re doubling down on the voting support we already provide—expanding access where we can and looking to do even more.

Already, we’re providing voting assistance for tens of thousands of inpatients and residents at our hospitals, nursing homes, and treatment centers. Already, we’re helping homebound Veterans and their caregivers vote. And I’m excited to announce right here that VA’s putting voting access right at Veterans’ fingertips—by linking to Vote.Gov on the VA websites Veterans visit every day. Sites where they get benefit information, medical information, and more.

In short, we’re fulfilling the President’s Executive Order on Promoting Access to Voting, to include exploring VA’s potential for designation under the National Voter Registration Act. 

There’s so much more to say, but it boils down to this.

For too long, too many Americans have fought too hard around the globe to protect our rights and freedoms only to fight brutal battles here at home for their own rights and freedoms.

Americans like Hosea Williams.

Sadly, many of those fights and battles continue to this day. At VA, those fights are over. In this Administration, those fights are over. We’re going to get Black Vets the care, benefits, and services they deserve – like all Vets. We’re going to help guarantee Vets their right to vote. We’re going to keep this country’s fundamental promises that have been broken for far too long. We’re going to serve them every bit as well as they served us and keep earning Black Veterans’ trust in VA.

We’re going keep marching. Together. Until we’re standing tall until our feet are firmly planted on the other side of that bridge.

God bless all of you

God bless our Veterans.

God bless the United States of America.