Sebelius Leaves HHS: 'This Is the Most Meaningful Work I Have Ever Been a Part Of'

'No one has ever had this before -- I got to be a leader of HHS during these most historic times'

"Well, I want to start by thanking you, Mr. President and Mr. Vice president, for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime to serve in this cabinet. I want to thank my HHS family, many of whom are here -- at least the health leaders are here -- for their incredible work. And my personal family represented today by our older son Ned and my wonderful daughter-in-law Lisa. My husband Gary is on the bench in Kansas today doing multiple hearings which he does each and every day and our younger son is in Ecuador but they're with us in spirit.

"The president has already made this case but I want to remake it. HHS is an amazing department. It is full of bright and talented and hard-working people who believe strongly in our important mission -- providing health care and essential human services to all Americans. Now, inscribed on the walls of the Humphrey building -- where your office will be -- are the words of the namesake. And what Hubert Humphrey said is 'the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children, those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly, and those who are in the shadow of life.' And that really I think describes what we do at HHS.

"From our work on birth to kindergarten initiatives, to providing for the elderly and disabled, our employees help their friend and neighbors every day. The researchers in NIH labs and scientists working to improve new drugs and devices are helping change the face of humanity by advancing new cures, research, and innovation. We're advancing public health in the U.S. and around the globe with anti-smoking efforts and promoting maternal and child health. Finally, behavioral health and physical health issues will be considered both part of essential treatment, and that's a big step forward.

"Our workers, as the president said, look out for a safe and secure food and drug supply in a global market. And our smart diplomacy, sharing health expertise and advances, win the hearts and minds of nations across the globe. We have done transformational work in tribal communities across this country that will never be the same again.

"So at any point in our history, that mission would be highly rewarding and some of the most important work anybody could do. But I've had an additional amazing opportunity. No one has ever had this before. I got to be a leader of HHS during these most historic times. We are on the front lines of a long, overdue national change, fixing a broken health system. Now this is the most meaningful work I've ever been a part of. In fact, it has been the cause of my life. And I  knew it wouldn't be easy.

"There's a reason that no earlier president was successful in passing health reform, despite decades of attempts. But throughout the legislative battles, the supreme court challenge, a contentious re-election and years of votes to turn back the clock we have making progress, tremendous progress. And critics and supporters alike are benefiting from this law. My professional work as a legislator and insurance commissioner and a governor have been tremendously helpful in navigating the policy and politics of this historic change.

"But at the end of the day health is personal. It's personal to all of us. Family illnesses and personal health challenges touch us to our core. I've spent time as a daughter navigating care for ill parents. As a mother and now a grandmother I've experienced and worried about prenatal care and healthy babies. We've had family health challenges as all of us have and finding the right care can be difficult, even when the best contacts and the right resources. So the personal reward for me at the end of the day are the folks who approach me, the strangers who approach me, at a meeting or pass me a note on a plane or hand me a phone with someone on the other end saying 'thank you.' Their stories are so heartening, about finally feeling secure and knowing they can take care of themselves and their families. Unfortunately, a page is missing. So I'm just grateful for having had this wonderful opportunity."

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