Earlier this week, I attended the 2011 National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week Conference to accept the ‘Chairman’s Award’ on Secretary Vilsack’s behalf.
Over the decades, HBCUs have been critical in producing many of our nation’s great authors, intellectuals, civil rights and business leaders, inventors and teachers. There are thousands of USDA employees, from soil scientists to conservationists, who hail from HBCUs. And maintaining our HBCUs as thriving, top-notch, centers of higher-education is critical to preparing our nation’s future workforce and keeping America competitive.
That Secretary Vilsack was honored with this award, is a testament to his work to strengthen USDA’s relationship with HBCUs. As Secretary, he has worked to build a new era at USDA as a premier service provider and partner for all Americans, including those in minority and underserved communities.
Last year, Secretary Vilsack visited Alabama A&M and Tuskegee University to see firsthand an example of the good and important work that HBCUs are doing around the country. It was during these visits that he signed a Memorandum of Understanding — reaffirming our partnership with the 1890’s institutions and commitment to improving outreach efforts to universities, to socially disadvantaged farmers, and to poverty-stricken communities.
Through visits to HBCUs, and meetings with their students and president’s, Secretary Vilsack has received excellent suggestions on how USDA can continue to work with these institutions across the nation as they educate a generation of students ready to be civic leaders and help strengthen our national economy.
And representing USDA at this White House event showed me that the Obama administration remains committed to supporting our nation’s historically black educational institutions to ensure that all citizens have equal access to economic opportunities.