I often wonder if the leaders who came before us recognized the pivotal things they set in motion, the far-reaching impact their actions would have, and how they helped shape America into a land of opportunity. President Lincoln’s legacy and impact is well-known and obvious, but he did so much more than lead this country during its most trying time. And it’s these smaller acts—those that are not typically taught in the history books—that I wonder about the most. Did he know what he was setting in motion?
In 1862, a year after the start of the Civil War, President Lincoln signed the law creating the U.S. Department of Agriculture—a place he called “The People’s Department.” Two years later, and just five months after giving the Gettysburg Address, he signed the charter establishing Gallaudet University—an institution that has helped thousands of deaf and hard of hearing students achieve their educational goals and fulfill their dreams.
While more than 150 years have passed since these events, both institutions—USDA and Gallaudet—with their rich histories and impact on our nation, are now also committed to a shared future of opportunity and service. Through a memorandum of understanding signed with my agency last week, students at Gallaudet University will have access to information, advice, and assistance in applying for internships and employment opportunities at USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).
This is also an incredible opportunity for USDA to share our mission with a talented group of candidates, and will help us hire future leaders who are committed to building on the legacy of both institutions. With over one-third of my agency’s workforce eligible to retire in the next few years, it is absolutely crucial that we are able to hire dedicated public servants to take their place.
The success of American agriculture is vital to the success of America. And it is vital that USDA—the People’s Department—cultivates a diverse and talented workforce that represents all of the people, communities, families, and farmers that it serves.
It’s not every day that you get to witness the next step in history, but I believe this agreement will add at least another chapter to the already rich legacy of both USDA and Gallaudet.