Tom Vilsack is Secretary of Agriculture.
As Secretary of Agriculture, I am inspired to serve because of the people I've met during my more than six years of service who have been positively impacted by U.S. Department of Agriculture programs and staff.
There are people like the families living in rural Putnam and White counties in Tennessee. Until recently, they had to haul water in jugs from individual wells because they did not have running water. Thanks to USDA employees, the communities were able to get a grant that allowed the small town of Monterey, Tennessee, to extend its municipal water supply five miles beyond town limits and bring potable water to its neighbors. Shannon Davis, a local resident who had hand-hauled water into her home for 15 years, told local USDA staff that "there are not enough adjectives to express how much getting public water means to my family. The smell of fresh water is wonderful."
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There are also families like Brittany Trujillo and her three-year-old daughter. As a single mom who works at a grocery store, homeownership seemed like a distant dream for Brittany. But thanks to a USDA home loan, Brittany was able to move out of her one-bedroom rental and purchase a three-bedroom, 1,280 square-foot home in Alamosa, Colorado. Today, Brittany is excited to decorate her daughter's bedroom with cartoon kittens, and to be able to provide her with a space all her own as she grows up.
And there are the students at Sinte Gleska University and Oglala Lakota College in South Dakota. Both colleges have strong programs focused on agriculture and natural resources, but many students have to travel far distances to attend classes, and some would not even be able to attend classes at all. USDA has helped to address that challenge. USDA employees worked with Sinte Gleska University to fund four vans to transport students to and from classes. Oglala Lakota College was able to purchase equipment and update nine remote instructional centers that will connect tribal members from across the Rosebud Indian Reservation to classes, even when they can't attend in person.
Stories like Brittany's, Shannon's and the college students in South Dakota are why I serve. Thanks to USDA employees, kids are eating healthy food at school; farmers have access to loans to help build their businesses; rural kids can go to school or visit a library that's been remodeled and modernized; rural veterans are able to achieve their dreams of owning a farm or business; broadband has been extended into rural communities; students at land grant universities across the country benefit from USDA grants that support expanded research and educational opportunities; beginning farmers get crucial information and resources as they start out in the business of farming; and moms and dads are able to get the training they need to find a good paying job and move off of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
None of those things would be possible without the committed public servants at USDA. They are doing good work impacting and positively touching people's lives every day. Like our farmers, who are often under-appreciated, it's appropriate to spend a minute to reflect on and appreciate their work.
That's why it's important to recognize federal employees and people in public service during Public Service Recognition Week. As we celebrate Public Service Recognition Week, I am honored to stand alongside the dedicated employees of USDA. Thank you for all that you do.