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Remarks at the Official Portrait Unveiling of Former HHS Secretary Price

Alex M. Azar II
HHS Staff, Federal Officials
November 19, 2019
Washington, D.C.

Secretary Price cared deeply about serving the American people and advancing President Trump’s healthcare agenda. Today, I want to thank him in particular for the work he did in several areas that are still bearing fruit for the department and the American people today.

As Prepared for Delivery

Good afternoon, everyone.

Thank you for joining us on this special occasion: adding another portrait to the walls of our Great Hall and honoring the service of the 23rd Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Tom Price.

I want to thank the other Dr. Price, too, Betty Price, for being here today.

I also want to thank the many others who’ve come from outside HHS for this occasion: Housing and Urban Development Secretary, Dr. Ben Carson, and his wife; former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus; and members of the House and Senate.

I also want to thank the many members of Secretary Price’s team who’ve returned here today to mark his service—as well as the many members of Secretary Price’s team who only had to came downstairs, as they’ve remained here as part of the HHS team.

It is difficult to comprehend the breadth and importance of leading a department like HHS until you’re actually in the job.

I know Dr. Price was humbled and honored to be at the helm of this great department.

I can only imagine what a distinct honor it was, as a physician in particular, to lead the department that protects and enhances the health and well-being of every American.

There are also certain common lessons and experiences that Secretary Price and I do share.

I’m told that, soon after arriving at the department, he had the occasion of signing a memorandum of understanding with a foreign health minister, and the department brought out a bunch of commemorative Secretary’s pins as gifts—which turned out to be Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell pins.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised when, soon after I started, we ordered a new set of Secretary’s challenge coins for those kinds of occasions—and we received an entirely new batch of Secretary Tom Price challenge coins.

So, now, I have my fingers crossed that there isn’t another portrait of Secretary Burwell behind the curtain on stage here today.

Secretary Price cared deeply about serving the American people and advancing President Trump’s healthcare agenda. Today, I want to thank him in particular for the work he did in several areas that are still bearing fruit for the department and the American people today.

First, he brought a new focus to HHS’s efforts in tackling the opioid crisis. President Trump recognized the crisis for what it was: a true emergency. In response, Secretary Price led the rollout of HHS’s agency-wide, science-based strategy to combat the epidemic.

He oversaw the first disbursement of major grants to states to help expand access to prevention, treatment, and recovery services, and that strategy launched in 2017 continues to guide our work today.

Second, Secretary Price led our response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, historically devastating storms that brought death and destruction to parts of the southeast and the Caribbean.

Speaking as someone who has been involved in leading HHS’s response to natural disasters, I can imagine what it was like to lead HHS and ASPR in these situations—and everyone here should be proud of how the department responded to those disasters in particular.

Third, Secretary Price took the lead on putting patients at the center of our healthcare system. He worked hard to make patients, not paperwork, the priority, by reducing provider burdens that too often get in the way of focusing on patients and providing quality care.

Today, those efforts have now led to historic reductions in the time physicians are spending on CMS paperwork.

In a similar vein, Secretary Price also laid much of the groundwork for new flexibilities and affordable options to relieve the burdens of the Affordable Care Act.    

Finally, an HHS secretary can’t think only about outward facing policy; he or she must also focus on being a good steward of the department and its people. That was the thinking behind Reimagine HHS, which Secretary Price launched as HHS’s response to the request for each Cabinet department to propose a reform plan.

He put a particular focus on having HHS’s civil servants take the lead, applying their deep knowledge of the department to improving our management practices. ReImagine HHS has already yielded benefits in areas including acquisitions, grants management, and regional office organization. Thanks to the way it has harnessed the ingenuity of the HHS team, the work of ReImagine HHS has been recognized as a model across the federal government.

Those are just a few of the many areas where Secretary Price made an impact here at HHS and on the lives of the American people. So, thank you, Secretary Price, for your dedicated service to the American people.

Today, we will bestow on Secretary Price a few symbols of his service. One of those is on stage with us here, his chair from the White House Cabinet room, which Secretary Price’s colleagues have generously chipped in to purchase for him.

I am told that these Cabinet chairs are much more comfortable when you sit in them and you’re not on national television, potentially on call to rattle off how the department has been making progress on any given public health issue.

Secretary Price, you will have to let me know if that’s the case.

Another symbol of the Secretary’s service is the portrait that will now hang on the walls of the Great Hall, alongside the Secretary’s 22 predecessors.

I know that’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for, so let’s unveil the portrait.


Along with the portrait, we will now present you with the decommissioned flag of the Secretary.

[Commissioned Corps officer presents flag.]

It’s now my honor to turn things over to Secretary Price for his remarks.

Please join me in giving him a warm welcome back to HHS.

Content created by Speechwriting and Editorial Division 
Content last reviewed on November 21, 2019