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Cabinet Luncheon

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block.

Christmas is behind us and the New Year is off to a wild start.  But today, I want to talk about the Cabinet Secretaries luncheon that we held on December 14, just before Christmas.  The luncheon was held at the Blair House – just across the street from the White House. 

Here is some history:  In 1981, the first year of the Ronald Reagan Administration, Transportation Secretary Drew Lewis scheduled a Christmas luncheon for the Reagan Cabinet members at the Madison Hotel.  Six of us attended, including Vice President Bush.  The event grew and by 1985, Marshall Coyne (owner of the Madison Hotel) and I became the lead team.  We decided to make it bipartisan and started including all Cabinet members from previous Administrations.  The next year, we extended the invitation to spouses.

This last December 14, we had more than 40 Cabinet members celebrating the holidays.  The Trump Administration had 10 Cabinet members in attendance, which was much more than any other Administration.  I was happy to see five Secretaries of Agriculture.

For entertainment, we have not had a speaker.  We ask for predictions from the guests.  Some predictions are very serious and some just make you laugh.

Jim Burnley said, “We will reach a trade agreement with China.”  I hope he is right.

Thurgood Marshall Jr said that there will be 21 candidates running for President in 2020.  A lot are talking about it now.

Alice Rivlin said, “On the issue of divided government, we will see the first step in bipartisanship.”  Well, I hope she is right, but we haven’t seen it yet.

“Army will beat Navy next year.”  I don’t know who said that, but I agree.

Jim Woolsey predicted that “the President of France will call a press conference and apologize to the U.S. for what he has said about President Trump and the U.S.  That will occur at about the same time that pigs fly.”

Alex Azar predicted, “There will be two more vacancies on the Supreme Court before the end of this Administration.”  And, I say:  If he is right, that is a big deal.  Trump has already filled two vacancies.

Finally, I said:  “Next year will be a lot better for farmers.  It can’t get a lot worse.”

John Block was Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1981-1985, where he played a key role in the development of the 1985 Farm Bill.  If you would like to review his radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go on-line to

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