Thank you everyone for being here. And thank you, Doc [Cooke, Director, Washington Headquarters Services]—for what you’ve brought, to this year’s campaign, and to the men and women of DoD, especially as we rebuild the Pentagon and fight a war. As Doc and I were walking down the hall just now, I happened to mention to him that this is my third CFC event in less than a year back at DoD. Now, Doc is a veteran of so many seasons running this campaign, even he’s lost count. And without missing a beat, he said, "For a rookie, don’t you think it’s a little early to start talking about records?" [Laughter.] Doc, Secretary Rumsfeld and I are very grateful—you offer us testimony that we have long years of service ahead of us. [Laughter.]
Secretary [of Veterans Affairs] Tony Principi, I want to thank you again for your leadership as CFC’s National Capital Area Chairman, and for your leadership of our nation’s veterans. When you were here in October to help us kick off this campaign, I told you about all the veterans who had been flooding us with their support and offering their services again. Almost four months later, the offers continue to roll in…. They understand, perhaps more than most, as you understand, a war veteran, the depth of commitment and patience we must have to win this campaign against terrorism. But we are committed and we are patient. And we will win.
Wilhemina Rolark [President and CEO, United Black Fund]—your name is right up there next to Doc Cooke’s when we talk about records and CFC participation—welcome. Distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen. And a special welcome to Uncle Sam—a real living legend who looks much taller in real life. [Laugher.]
It is hard to believe it has been almost four months since we kicked off this campaign. In early October, in the wake of the hour of our direst need, America had begun the hour of our greatest resolve. And since we met, our forces have been waging with great resolve the campaign against terrorism. Secretary Rumsfeld and I have often talked about their ingenuity, their daring, and their bravery. They have elevated service to its highest expression in Afghanistan, along with the other men and women who stand watch throughout the world and in our country here at home.
In his inaugural address, almost 50 years ago now, President Dwight Eisenhower told us that despite this sort of devotion to duty, still more is needed for America to succeed. He reminded us then that "whatever America hopes to bring to pass in the world must first come to pass in the hearts of America."
Certainly, the success of this year’s Combined Federal Campaign is a vivid expression of the depth of kindness and compassion that dwells deep within the hearts of Americans in the Department of Defense.
While our military men and women labor shoulder to shoulder with our dedicated civil servants to defend our freedom, their hearts have not forgotten those who will need the gifts of education, nutrition, and other life-giving support provided by the charities of CFC. Help that is always there—whatever the crisis, wherever and whenever it happens.
Last October, I decided to go out on a limb and make a prediction. Now, I know that was risky—seeing as how I’m somewhat new to this game, and we have all heard the advice against making forecasts. Even my favorite philosopher and part-time Yankee pitcher warned against the practice. Yogi Berra once said: "It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future." [Laughter.]
I went ahead anyway and boldly predicted we were going to surpass the record we set last year. And, thank goodness, we did. In the process, we proved the uncanny wisdom in Yogi Berra’s observation that "I always thought my record would stand until it was broken." [Laughter.]
Another sports legend we hear a lot about these days, especially here in Washington, is Michael Jordan. And today, I’m reminded of a game that took place long before the Wizards, during Jordan’s time with the Chicago Bulls. It also happed to be teammate Stacey King’s rookie year. In that particular game, King scored one free throw while Jordan amassed an impressive 69 points. After the final buzzer, a reporter asked King for his post-game wrap-up. And in a true tribute to teamwork, King said: "I’ll always remember this as the night that Michael Jordan and I combined for 70 points." [Laughter.]
In the same optimistic vein, "I’ll always remember this as the year Tony Principi, Doc Cooke and I—along with Wilhemina and several thousand other generous teammates—combined to set a new CFC record for the National Capitol Region. This year’s goal was $11.1 million dollars. The men and women of this Department gave $12.6 million dollars, a million and a half dollars over the goal.
And so, it's my great pleasure, on behalf of Secretary Rumsfeld, to commend this great team and thank all those who contributed to this campaign. It is indeed my pleasure to present the United Way with a symbol of teamwork to make Uncle Sam stand proud and even taller. [Laughter and applause.]