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Statement by Secretary Vilsack on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

WASHINGTON, January 16, 2023 – “Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy continues to serve as a powerful source of inspiration and a catalyst for action for the American people. Today, people of all backgrounds in our Nation carry forth his dream: to bring justice where there is injustice, freedom where there is oppression, peace where there is violence, and opportunity where there is poverty.

“Founded in 1862, the story of the U.S. Department of Agriculture is concurrent with the history of America. Modernizing our institutions to reflect the beloved community that Dr. King envisioned is the work of our time. Under the Biden-Harris Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has committed to advancing racial justice, equity, and opportunity. To move from concept to action, we have stood up a USDA Equity Commission and created a Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer as part of our effort to ensure the workplace prioritizes Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility. We have mobilized a department-wide emphasis on removing barriers that prevent equitable access to our programs and services for all Americans, including an emphasis on ensuring USDA resources reach underserved communities and those who need them most. This is just the beginning of what must be a collective and ongoing effort to enable USDA to live up to its name as ‘The People’s Department.’

“Last week, I visited Savannah, Georgia and joined community members working together to cultivate a community garden and provide meals to seniors. By virtue of their volunteer service, fresh fruits and vegetables will make their way to families in need that would otherwise not have access to such foods. It was a small but mighty example of the power of connecting people to their community. Dr. King once said, ‘Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?’ I was inspired to see these volunteers living up to Dr. King’s legacy through the values of service, nutrition, equity, and opportunity and by beautifying the community that surrounds them.

“What Dr. King believed our Nation could become requires more than just reflection — it requires action. Today and every day, let us strive to answer Dr. King’s clarion call to serve and contribute. In the coming year, USDA looks forward to answering this call and continuing to build on the significant progress we’ve made towards building an equitable and climate-smart food and agriculture economy, increasing economic prosperity in rural and underserved communities, and ensuring all people have the opportunity to succeed in the communities they love.”


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