“Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice; say that I was a drum major for peace; I was a drum major for righteousness . . .We all have the drum major instinct.”
Excerpt from The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Drum Major Instinct" sermon, given on February 4, 1968.
USDA employees came together for an inspirational ceremony last week to commemorate today’s day of remembrance and service for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Secretary Vilsack declared the first ever USDA Day of Service and challenged all employees to volunteer in their communities. Secretary Vilsack reminded the audience of Dr. King’s contributions to the Civil Rights Movement and the importance of keeping his legacy of service alive. He challenged everyone to make service a part of their everyday lives.
Keynote remarks were provided by Dr. William R. Harvey, President of Hampton University. Dr. Alma Hobbs, Departmental Management and Max Finberg, Director of USDA Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships recognized twelve USDA employees from around the country for their outstanding volunteer service with MLK Drum Majors for Service Awards, a recognition given to volunteers who perform extraordinary everyday acts of service with reliability and commitment, but who seldom receive recognition.
Afterwards, USDA employees in the Washington, DC metro area heeded the call from Secretary Vilsack by volunteering at area charities. Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan and a team of 18 employees were joined by the Corporation for National Service’s Director of Public Engagement and the Vice-Chair of the Arlington County Board at the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) where they helped bag fresh produce and oatmeal for distribution to AFAC clients. AFAC serves 1,497 clients on a weekly basis. Their Plot Against Hunger program works with local gardeners and farmers, schools, faith-based and community organizations to increase their client’s access to fresh produce.
Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsanger and Assistant Secretary for Departmental Management Pearlie Reed joined a team of 22 volunteers at the DC Central Kitchen, where they helped prep for the next day’s meal. Colleagues at the Food and Nutrition Service, led by FNS Administrator Audrey Rowe, served the Food for Others, and another 25 employees from the Research, Economics, and Education Division joined the Anacostia Watershed Society, where they helped with trash clean up and invasive plan removal. Food Safety and Inspection Service employees headed to the St. Camillus Food Pantry and others to Capitol Area Food Bank.
Back at USDA Headquarters, about 25 Executive Master Gardeners and invited co-workers attended the MLK Day of Service in the People's Garden, where 90 pounds of beets and giant turnips were harvested and donated soon after to DC Central Kitchen. They also composted plant debris, weeded and sowed arugula and collards for future harvests.
We heard from USDA offices throughout the country how their serve proved to be a valuable team building activity. Secretary Vilsack’s words that, “today reminds us that there are many opportunities to volunteer throughout the year” will continue to resonate among us.