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Remarks at the White Oak Laboratory Proud Memory Garden Dedication

Dr. Margaret Hamburg
Commissioner of Food and Drugs
September 30, 2011

It’s an honor for me to be here to help dedicate the "White Oak Laboratory Proud Memory Garden." And I would like to congratulate all of you—especially the Board of Directors of the White Oak Laboratory Alumni Association, its President John Tino, and our event organizer Deanna Zook.  I also want to thank the LabQuest Partnership and its Chair, Betsy Betz; the General Services Administration; and FDA staff—who generously gave of their time and talent to make today possible.
 
I truly can’t think of a more fitting tribute to the Navy’s legacy of service at White Oak than a garden.  For this is a place where, for more than 50 years, Naval research flourished… scientific advances bloomed …and memories were deeply rooted.

Walt Whitman, one of America’s greatest poets, also served his country—and the military—as a nurse in northern Army Hospitals during the Civil War.  His poem, "I Hear America Singing," describes the workers of America singing their individual songs as they go about their daily tasks.

But the message of that seemingly simple poem is much greater.  From the cacophony of their diverse and different work, there emerges the single harmony of a people who—ultimately—are helping to fulfill a single mission:  to advance America.

I note that because, in so many ways, I think it’s a perfect metaphor for the transition of the White Oak Laboratory to the FDA.  Like the individuals in Whitman’s poem, the work of the two institutions may seem very diverse.  The challenges may seem very different.  But both have labored to fulfill a single mission on the same campus:  to advance America by protecting and defending the American people.
 

To support that mission, under the FDA, this campus will continue to sustain the proud tradition of research started by the Navy more than 60 years ago.  To support that mission, this campus will continue to advance and promote the best science and technology. And to support this mission, this campus will continue to strive to serve the American people….

….The housing of the FDA at White Oak may seem like a change in the work performed here—but it’s really a continuation of the mission pursued here.  …And it’s a mission we’ll continue to pursue in these challenging times with "all hands on deck"… That’s why it’s so fitting that we’re in this venerable space.

Maya Angelou—one of America’s greatest living poets—has said that “How important it is for us to recognize our heroes, and she-roes.”   Today’s ceremonies celebrate all those heroes, and she-roes, who walked and worked here yesterday.  But they also recognize that the work of heroes and she-roes continues today.  It’s the work of all the employees of the FDA—whose multitude of tasks, like those of the workers in Whitman’s poem, merge into a single harmony, a single mission:  To protect and defend the American people by preventing disease and promoting health.

Once again, to everyone who made this day possible, congratulations, and thank you.