Thank you, Sylvia, for that warm introduction. Thank you, Joe Riojas, for taking on the CFC leadership this year.
Good afternoon to our guests and our colleagues—especially our hard-working chairpersons and key-workers.
It’s a pleasure to welcome Linda Washington, Senior Policy Advisor for Community Initiatives from the Department of Transportation, to VA to help us kick off our 2010 campaign.
Welcome, also, to Phillip Lynah, our ever-valuable loaned executive from the Department of Health and Human Services. We’re delighted you both could join us today, and I look forward to working with you over the coming months to make this year’s campaign the best yet for VA, for CFC, and, most importantly, for our fellow citizens who are counting on CFC-funded charities to make a difference in their lives.
Every great cause requires committed and capable leadership, and Assistant Secretary Riojas is shouldering the leadership for VA’s 2010 CFC campaign. I can’t think of a more selfless and inspiring leader. Thank you, Joe, for taking the helm this year. We topped last year’s $800,000 goal by an impressive 122%, reaching a final summit of almost $992,000 in pledges. With your help, inspired by Joe Riojas’ spirited leadership, there is no reason we can’t reach an even higher pinnacle this year. Our goal of $800,000, will, without a doubt, be met and exceeded.
This year’s CFC theme reflects the attributes of the men and women of our Armed Forces serving today, and the 23 million Veterans nationwide who put on our Nation’s uniform to protect and preserve our freedom. Their legacy is the enduring strength of the American spirit. That American spirit isn’t reserved exclusively for the men and women in uniform on the front lines in Southwest Asia, or protecting our homeland. The American spirit fills our communities, our families, and each one of us, with compassion and a desire to give. The power of that compassion dispels despair and isolation and hopelessness.
The CFC today is known to be the most inclusive workplace giving campaign in the world with the number of participating charities estimated at over 20,000 nonprofit organizations worldwide. Last year, you and your co-workers proved beyond a doubt that you care passionately, that you are generous, and that your commitment to others whose circumstances cry out for assistance extends far beyond your already valuable roles as citizens in service to America’s veterans. You are twice a citizen, and our country benefits from your generosity.
Allow me to fall back to my Navy days for an example of just how important your work at CFC will be during the coming months.
When a new Navy ship is ready to take to open water for the first time, there is a “coming alive ceremony,” a time-honored tradition where the crew takes up positions throughout the ship showing she is ready to go to sea. Bells are rung, pipes are sounded, and pennants flown to announce to one and all that the engines of a mighty ship are starting up, that power is surging through every fiber of the ship’s being, and that she is ready to take her place in the fleet.
When I was in the Navy, I appreciated the Sailors who worked below decks on our warships; from the great aircraft carriers, to the work-a-day oilers and fleet-resupply ships, to the fast-moving destroyers. The men and women who kept the engines and the electronics and galleys running seamlessly were rarely seen above deck. They missed many a beautiful sunrise and sunset, and, in some cases, didn’t see the sun at all for days at a time. But, without them, not a single ship would have come alive to sail in harm’s way in defense of Freedom; without their crews, the great admirals like Halsey and Nimitz, Spruance and Burke, would have commanded nothing, and they would have achieved no victories.
The CFC is not unlike a ship of the line. Today is the 2010 CFC’s Coming Alive Day. Today, we are piping aboard VA’s CFC leadership – with an Army General at the helm – and the complement of volunteer crewmembers who are going to help us achieve a great mission — men and women who will work behind the scenes, fueling the engine of CFC’s success without seeking the limelight for themselves.
During every CFC season, campaign chairpersons and key-workers fan out across VA’s many organizations to encourage all of us to contribute, to participate, to make a difference for the beneficiaries of CFC’s noble mission. What they know is that their work touched the lives of tens of thousands of our neighbors, and reached out with compassion to strangers who may never know their names, but whose lives were changed by our giving. They know that those who give also receive. Every single dollar VA employees contributed made our world a better place. We can, and we will, do even better this year.
President John F. Kennedy, under whose administration the CFC got its “Combined” federal mission, once said, “From those to whom much has been given, much is required.” Just our ability to participate in this campaign as federal employees, whether for a few dollars a month, or something more, is a sign that we are, indeed, the beneficiaries of a great nation’s wealth. There is quite a responsibility in that, and we are blessed with the opportunity to pay forward our good fortune.
These are trying times for so many of our neighbors and fellow citizens; the holidays are approaching, a cold winter is not far away, and uncertainty about tomorrow hovers over the lives of millions of men, women, and children.
I encourage all our VA employees to extend their generosity and lift up CFC’s beneficiaries through the “Compassion of Individuals, and the Power of Community.”
I look forward to this year’s campaign. Once again, my deepest thanks to Joe Riojas, Sylvia Dunn, Linda Washington, Phillip Lynah, our chairpersons and key-workers, and all our VA colleagues who will make this CFC season a true season of thanksgiving.
We have been given much; let us give much in return.