WASHINGTON, Dec. 1, 2016 – Tom Vilsack, the 30th agriculture secretary, today unveiled his portrait, which will be hung among his predecessors on the walls of USDA’s headquarters in Washington.
During an emotional ceremony, attended by several lawmakers and former ag secretaries, Vilsack teared up as he came to the end of his speech and thanked his wife, Christie Vilsack, for her support over the past eight years.
Vilsack isn’t leaving his post yet, but the ceremony turned into a goodbye speech after the former Iowa governor was lauded by people like Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts and Arturo Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers of America.
“People say, ‘Why did you stay eight years?’” Vilsack said after pulling a black sheet off the portrait that was painted by artist Rose Frantzen, a native Iowan. “It’s simple. I love the people I work with and the people I work for.”
The portrait shows Vilsack in shirtsleeves behind a desk in his corner office that looks out at the Washington Monument and the National Mall. He’s surrounded by meaningful objects and art, including a poster of the My Plate dietary guide that replaced the food pyramid under his watch.
As is tradition at USDA, portraits of former agriculture secretaries are shifted every time one leaves. The paintings surround the building’s large atrium on the ground floor and wind through the halls of the second floor. Vilsack’s portrait will push over the painting of Ed Schafer, the last secretary under President George W. Bush.
Former USDA secretaries Ann Veneman, Dan Glickman and John Block attended today’s ceremony and all have their own portraits hanging on the walls of USDA.
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