Robert A. McDonald Remarks at John & Jill Ker Conway Residence Ribbon Cutting

Good morning. At the end of my tenure as Secretary, there’s no celebration I’d rather share in than this, joining all of you to help give Veterans a home.

Kevin Morton [Director, Washington DC VA Medical Center], great to see you here.

What a beautiful space, this patio—a peaceful retreat where Veterans can relax, reflect, and enjoy each other’s company. I’m told they’re a tight group. The Home Depot Foundation donated it, and then Home Depot employees volunteered and built it, landscaped it. So, thanks to The Home Depot Foundation for once again partnering to help Veterans.

Let me recognize a local community non-profit. It’s thanks to the work and generosity of good people at A Wider Circle that Veterans living here have furnished apartments. Mark [Bergel, Founder and Executive Director of D.C.’s A Wider Circle], thank you.

And I’ll introduce VA’s social services team stationed here at Conway. Their families are Veteran families. Their parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, and cousins have served during peace and war—World War II, the Gulf War, and Iraq. So these three ladies know what it means to care for Veterans and their families. They’ve been doing it their whole lives.

Amanda, Nina, Ideanne, please stand. Thank you for embracing Veterans. God bless you.

The view on North Capitol Street, looking down the road and seeing the United States Capitol, it’s incredible. Think of the symbolism of that view.

I first imagined how Veterans could walk out, look down North Capitol [Street] and see that beautiful dome, a symbol of all they sacrificed for in their service to the Nation. It’s heartwarming.

But that wasn’t the right perspective. Imagine this, instead.

From the Capitol, Congressmen look to the west and see the Washington Monument. Beyond the Washington Monument are the hallowed grounds of the World War II monument, the Korean War Memorial, and the Vietnam War Memorial. Beyond those monuments and memorials our representatives and senators see the Lincoln Memorial. Inside, there’s that powerful rendering of President Lincoln looking to the east with a stern, solemn, compassionate expression.

It’s as if he’s keeping watch over the Veterans of Vietnam, Korea, World War II—just as he watched over his beloved Union soldiers who saved our country in the Civil War. It is as if he’s repeating again and again to our Congress and, by extension, every American, sacred words etched in stone from his Second Inaugural Address: Care for those who have “borne the battle” and their families.

That’s VA’s mission—the most noble mission in government. It’s my mission—as VA Secretary, as a Veteran myself, and as an American benefiting from the rights, privileges, and opportunities Veterans sacrificed to preserve and protect, for every American. Sacrificed for the sake of the simple truth that “all men are created equal.” Sacrificed for the sake of those unalienable rights we cherish still today—“Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Sacrificed for “a more perfect Union” that brave young men and women still volunteer to defend. Amanda’s brother First Lieutenant Carl Johnson is defending it in Iraq right now. He’s been there over 9 months. He’ll be home in a couple of weeks.

Here’s the point, and I don’t know to what degree this is by human design, or the divine. But part of the genius of putting the John & Jill Ker Conway Residence right here on North Capitol Street is so Veterans living here can look to their south and see the Capitol.

But it’s all the more genius, magnificent, meaningful, and powerful because Congress can look to their north to see this place—a high example of exactly what President Lincoln meant when he charged the nation to care for those who have “borne the battle,” and their families.

That’s why we’re here today.

Thanks to all of you for your passion, your compassion, and your deep devotion to Veterans. It’s been my honor to serve as their Secretary.

Recent Posts

Bob McDonald Nominated for WPAOG Chair of the Board

The 2021 West Point Association of Graduates (WPAOG) Nominating Committee recently met, with the primary task to select and recommend to the Membership, nominees for open governance positions. The Committee had a difficult task because many highly qualified graduates had submitted nomination packets. Nomination Process In accordance with the organization’s Bylaws, the Nominating Committee was […]

Different Leadership Styles in Business and Beyond

Recently, I had the opportunity to be a part of the “march back” to West Point with the class of 2025.  It was interesting to see the different dynamics between this new class and my class of 1975.  Information, stories, and sage advice were shared with these future leaders about different experiences they will face […]

What is The Center of Your World Map?

As a leader it is always our responsibility to escape our own ethnocentricity, work to understand other people’s culture, and empathize with their context to improve their lives.  As the Chairman, President & CEO of The Procter & Gamble (P&G) Company I would go into the homes of consumers all over the world, watch them […]