All employees responsible for America’s future, says FDA official

By Beth Reece

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All government employees, Hispanic and otherwise, have a part in shaping the future of America, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration official told McNamara Headquarters Complex employees during a Hispanic Heritage Month observance Sept. 20.

“We must work hard to ensure that our future workforce will be ready to take the helm, and this is an incredible challenge for both the Department of Defense and our government worldwide,” said Mary Lou Valdez, the FDA’s associate commissioner for international programs.

This year’s theme, Shaping the Bright Future of America, is particularly relevant with so many changes occur today in all branches and at all levels of the government.

“With change can come uncertainty and a distinct need for clarity,” Valdez said, encouraging the audience to consider their personal and professional values and reasons for being in military and public service.

Organizations like the Department of Defense and Defense Logistics Agency are great at marshalling the talent, contributions and commitment of people with diverse backgrounds, she continued. In doing so, they make a positive difference at home and abroad by supporting such things as health and physical well-being, whether it be by rapidly mobilizing resources to assist after disasters or using research and development to come up with solutions for the future.

“You can bet that Hispanics at DoD are at the very core and forefront of these efforts. Our government is filled with talented, committed and innovative people. And we have a responsibility to ensure that our workforce remains the highest quality with compassion and creativity,” she said.

Valdez shared principles that helped guide her as a Hispanic leader. Borrowing the Keds tennis-shoe slogan “Jump a little higher and run a little faster” that was popular during her childhood, the El Paso, Texas, native said it’s important that employees consistently do their best.

“It’s less about competing with others and more about competing with oneself. It’s about believing: believing in oneself, trusting others and always remembering to pay it forward with the kindnesses that we received along the way,” she said.

Employees should also use fear to their advantage without letting it guide their actions. Valdez faced challenges early in her career while working with the World Health Organization and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She was privileged to be part of U.S. delegations to international organizations such as the United Nations Children’s Fund and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. These opportunities showed her the power of diplomacy and sound policy in a complex global environment.

“I learned firsthand how so many around the world are so eager to hear what our country has to say. We must commit to instilling a sense of awe and highlight what a remarkable responsibility it is to represent our country to our young people,” Valdez said.

Most people are drawn to comfort zones, but pushing professional and personal boundaries encourages growth, especially for Hispanics and others with diverse backgrounds, she added.

“We all know that we spend our waking hours at work. We owe it to ourselves and our government to make the most of it. And as Hispanics and Latinos, we owe it to those who come after us so they, too, can seize opportunity, embrace challenge and reach successes that truly matter to the individual, the community and the country we serve,” she said.

The event also included performances by the Grufolpawa Dance Group and the salsa band Sin Miedo.

More coverage of Hispanic Americans’ contributions to DoD is available in a Hispanic Heritage Special Report.