Good morning everyone. I am so pleased that we are taking the time to recognize some very deserving people—folks who took an important and meaningful mission and turned in a superlative performance that greatly exceeded all of our expectations. Today’s recognition is so much more special because they were able to convince so many of their fellow workers to join them—despite the economic downturn—in doing the right thing for countless of the less fortunate—men, women, children, and charitable organizations.
The late Alex Haley, world-renowned author of Roots, and a Coast Guard Veteran in his own right, used to encourage, “Find the good and praise it.” Well, that is going to be easy this morning because the “good” is right in front of us. It includes everyone in the Department of Veterans Affairs Central Office (VACO) who participated in the 2008 combined federal campaign. It includes the outstanding leadership and management of the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) program by Edith Parrish and our three executives: Michael Morgan, Office of Diversity and Inclusion; Stan Stewart, Office of Policy and Planning; and Tom Watson, from the Department of the Treasury.
Out from these individuals extended a comprehensive contact program into all our offices and cubicles that ended up being the goodness of 2008’s outreach to our friends, our neighbors, and our communities through CFC. i am immensely proud of them and their determination, and equally proud of all of you for responding.
There is no higher calling in life than service to others in need. The author Herman Melville wrote, “We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men . . . Our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.”
We are all privileged to be among the fortunate at a time when so many face day-to-day difficulties. I learned long ago that with privilege comes responsibility. Where we can, we should be willing to share our good fortune with the less fortunate. And nationwide, CFC provides an easy way to contribute. With the number of participating charities estimated at over 20,000 nonprofit, charitable organizations, it is the most inclusive workplace-giving campaign in the world.
Just six years ago, VACO crossed the $500,000 threshold for the first time. In last year’s combined federal campaign, we gave more than $886,000 to our favorite causes and charities.
Year-in and year-out, VA’s charitable giving through CFC has met or exceeded our targets. In 2008 alone, we met 127% of our goal, with an average 68.4% employee participation rate. Nineteen VACO organizations reached or exceeded a 75 percent participation rate. In baseball, a .300 batting average makes you a long ball hitter. When an organization hits .750, as we did, that’s Hall of Fame performance.
That’s what the CFC does so very well; it provides the opportunity to give gifts of hope, opportunity, and charity in the finest sense of those words. Each one of you has made those gifts possible.
In giving, we also receive. Every year, when VACO employees hand in their pledge forms, they experience the deep sense of satisfaction that they have done something important for the larger world, the world beyond 810 Vermont Avenue.
From bringing education resources to our inner cities, to helping harness the power of medical research; from providing service animals to the visually impaired, to helping a non-profit fly a cancer-stricken child to a distant medical center for specialized treatment—your time and effort strengthened our sense of purpose in ourselves, in each other, and in the communities we serve.
Come September, we will begin this year’s campaign and seek to turn in another superlative performance. But for this moment, let us celebrate 2008’s record performance and honor the campaigners who delivered such goodness for the well-being of our friends and neighbors. I am honored to serve in a department that contributes so selflessly to CFC’s mission, and I’m most proud of the people here at VACO, who, year after year, take on the humanitarian responsibility of digging deep to share compassionately with those in need.
Now, with Edith’s help, I am very pleased to help present awards to our chairpersons, the CFC support staff, and our VACO organizations in recognition of your tremendous work in support of VA’s 2008 Combined Federal Campaign. God bless you all for your hard work and generosity.