WASHINGTON — July 21, 2010 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today released the following statement in response to his conversation with Shirley Sherrod:
"Today, I reached out to Shirley Sherrod to apologize. I also told her I was sorry for the pain this caused her and her family and friends.
"I reacted too quickly. I should have taken the time to listen and learn.
"While I cannot change what happened, I can try to make something out of this difficult incident.
"As we know, Shirley has a unique and compelling story to tell. She and her family endured discrimination and overcame adversity. Fighting to advance justice and equality, she has helped farmers who were struggling to keep their land, fought for women in need of social and economic justice, and African-American men and women who faced discrimination. As USDA's Georgia State Rural Development Director, she worked to promote economic opportunity for all people by enabling job creation and business growth. And Shirley has shown tremendous character through the events of the last few days.
"Shirley and I talked about a unique opportunity at USDA. With all that she has seen, endured and accomplished, it would be invaluable to have her experience, commitment and record of service at USDA. I hope she considers staying with the department.
"I did not handle this situation well. I will continue to review the circumstances that brought us to this day and I am committed to making sure it does not happen again.
"As part of this effort, I also want to renew my firm commitment to put behind all of us the USDA's past record on civil rights. While we have made some progress over the last 18 months, more work is needed."