VA updates mission statement by dropping Abraham Lincoln quote

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

Abraham Lincoln delivered his second inaugural address on March 4, 1865. One quote from the address was adopted by the Department of Veterans Affairs – “To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan.” In today’s world of hypersensitive speech requirements, Honest Abe’s words are no longer relevant. The quote only includes a male pronoun, implying that only males serve in the military. The quote has been used since the department adopted it in 1959.


Everything has to be gender-neutral these days. Who knew gender neutrality would be demanded of historical speeches from the 1800s? Yet, here we are. Sorry, Abe. The quote is out.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough announced on Thursday that there is a new, modern-day statement that reflects generational change among veterans. Women, who became eligible to serve in the military in 1948, are now covered in the official mission statement.

The new mission statement is, “To fulfill President Lincoln’s promise to care for those who have served in our nation’s military and for their families, caregivers, and survivors.” “Their” has replaced “his.” Is everyone happy now? This kind of move will never end. Erasing history by changing quotes according to the verbal expression du jour is a mistake. Abe Lincoln was not fluent in Woke. The VA insists that veterans have complained for years that the mission statement does not feel inclusive. McDonough just happened to wait until Women’s History Month to make the announcement. He was surrounded by women veterans during a news conference at the Military Women’s Memorial in Arlington’s National Cemetary. There is nothing subtle about the Biden administration’s obsession with checking identity boxes.


The change in language comes after years of demands from advocates who argued that the agency’s old mission statement only acknowledged men’s service in the U.S. military forces, and failed to reflect the experiences of veterans’ families, caretakers and their survivors.

McDonough announced the change at a news conference held at the Military Women’s Memorial in Arlington’s National Cemetery, where he was joined by female veterans. The secretary noted that the change comes during Women’s History Month. Female veterans, he said, “serve their country honorably and admirably, but may not have felt welcomed as they walked through the doors of VA.”

“So today, we take a step forward, one step, and there’s many, many more to go,” McDonough said. “Today, we’re bringing our mission statement into the moment, embracing the fullest meaning of President Lincoln’s sentiments, promise and unquenchable passion.”

To be clear, I’m not against recognizing women veterans. All veterans are to be thanked for their service. All veterans deserve to be cared for by the VA. It’s just a bit much when everything has to be gender-neutral. I wonder if someone like Martin Luther King, Jr. had said the original quote and the VA adopted it as a mission statement would it still be changed? Or is cancelation reserved solely for white people, in particular white men? It’s just hard to imagine that veterans are so sensitive that a Lincoln quote using the word “he” triggers female veterans as they walk by the mission statement as it hangs on a wall. YMMV.


Why is McDonough doing this now? If this is such a pressing matter, why didn’t he do it as soon as he began work in his position as Veterans Affairs secretary? If women have been complaining for years (and the article makes a point of saying the Trump administration didn’t make this change) why wait until 3 years into the Biden administration? Why wasn’t the change made during the Obama-Biden administration? It wouldn’t be because this is leading into the 2024 presidential election and Biden is desperate to hang on to women voters, would it? There are no coincidences in politics.

The WaPo article that I read about this change tsk-tsked the VA secretary under President Trump for daring to say that this amounts to canceling history. Because it does.

Advocates have long called for the department to make its mission more inclusive of women and nonbinary veterans, but efforts to do so stalled under former president Donald Trump’s Veterans Affairs secretary, Robert Wilkie, who claimed that changing the language would amount to an erasure of history.

“The words that brought us here should not be diluted, parsed or canceled,” Wilkie said in August 2020.

And while Wilkie was defensive of the mission statement’s historical origin, the portion adopted by VA is not the most memorable line in Lincoln’s speech. That is: “With malice toward none with charity for all with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation’s wounds.”


Yes, the whole speech is a good one, that’s the point. It’s Abraham Lincoln. He held the nation together. He wasn’t about dividing Americans. Good heavens.

About half of VA facilities display the plaque with the mission statement on it.

Kaitlynne Yancy, the government affairs associate director at Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, noted that the change is necessary to make VA more accessible to “any veteran that does not identify as a cisgender male.”

VA estimates that the words are displayed outside roughly 50 percent of its facilities nationwide, and Yancy said the change will make it so “every person that walks through the front doors of the VA facility feels welcome from that first interaction.” The agency said the new language will replace the previous version in these facilities over the coming months.

Yancy said she understood why some may be made uncomfortable by the change, noting that these are Lincoln’s words, but she noted that the military Lincoln was talking about back then does not “fully represent the military that we have right now.”

By definition, history is the past. The past is never going to sound like the present. The country – and the military – in the 1800s was very different than today. However small of a change it may be, this is just one more thing being done by Team Biden to “transform” America into a woke Utopia. It’s tiresome.


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