“A New Era of Responsibility,” Honoring the Deed of 1888


By Robert L. Rosebrock

In his inaugural speech, President Barack Obama called for remaking America with a "new era of responsibility" and Veterans are particularly inspired with his own responsible choice for Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, General Eric K. Shinseki.

In preparing himself for his new role as Commander-in-Chief, President Obama has declared that his Presidency will encapsulate the revered qualities of President Abraham Lincoln. This is an inspiring pledge and Veterans are subsequently trusting that he will honor and fulfill the promise that was included at the end of President Lincoln’s second inaugural speech, declaring that our nation must “care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan.”

Thus, with this profound promise, President Lincoln established a "new era of responsibility" that charged our nation with the moral responsibility to care for America’s Veterans, particularly those who have borne the brunt of our military’s battles.


President Lincoln’s legislative agenda for his second term as Commander-in-Chief included building Branches of "National Soldiers Homes" across America to provide a safe haven for those Veterans who needed to heal from the rigors of fighting during the Civil War. 

Unfortunately, President Lincoln never lived to see his morally responsible vision fulfilled. Nonetheless, on March 3, 1888, more than two decades after Lincoln’s death, John P. Jones and Arcadia de Baker patriotically deeded nearly 400 acres of pristine land in western Los Angeles "to be permanently maintained as a National Home for disabled Volunteer Soldiers."

For over a century, every generation of America’s citizenry and the politicians who were elected and entrusted as the stewards of this hallowed ground, had honored the Deed of 1888. To the contrary and during recent years, the VA bureaucrats in consortium with local politicians have shamelessly bowed to the pressures of the wealthy and powerful members of the neighboring Brentwood community to lease parcels of this land for commercial and special interests.

This privileged wheeling-and-dealing includes the VA leasing 21 acres for an athletic field to Brentwood School, one of the most expensive private schools in the nation; leasing two Veterans’ theaters to a Hollywood entertainment company for a public cultural center, leasing numerous buildings to UCLA for "research," leasing more than 10 acres to Enterprise Car Rental and Tumbleweed buses for vehicle storage, leasing the rights to an oil well to Breitburn Energy, a private concern with the royalties going to the Department of Interior, plus countless other misuse and abuse of Veterans land.

In a recent no-bid, long-term “sharing agreement,” the VA leased 16 acres of Veterans sacred land at the corner Wilshire and San Vicente Boulevards, considered to be worth nearly one billion dollars, to a wealthy special interest community group for a public park, "rent free." The group, “Veterans Park Conservancy,” (VPC) is not a sanctioned Veterans organization, but a self-serving homeowner’s group.

When Sue Young, the executive director of VPC (and not a Veteran) was asked in the November 2007 issue of the “Brentwood News” how she was able to essentially expropriate this 16-acre parcel of Veterans land "rent-free" for a public park, she responded: "Because this arrangement was unprecedented, it required lengthy discussions and compromises with Veterans Administration in Los Angeles and Washington. The agreement also called for approvals at the highest levels, i.e., Secretary Nicholson, and the involvement of the Congressional delegation."

Clearly, “unprecedented, lengthy discussions and compromises” against the Deed of 1888 only underscores that the Congressional delegation was not acting in the best interests of protecting Veterans land, particularly since Veterans were not included in the “lengthy discussions” behind closed doors in Washington D.C.

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was reportedly caught on a wiretap explaining that President-elect Obama’s Senate seat "is a f***ing valuable thing, you just don’t give it away for nothing."

So, what’s the difference between an Illinois Senate seat and 16 acres of prime real estate in Brentwood? Make no mistake, a 16-acre parcel of land fronting Wilshire Boulevard had to provoke some California politicians into saying, this "is a f***ing valuable thing, you just don’t give it away for nothing."

It’s common knowledge and common sense that this land was not just given away "rent free" by the VA to a group of wealthy homeowners for a public park, because “unprecedented compromises” were made. No, something had to be paid for it … by someone … to someone … somehow … somewhere. The only thing that is now known is that it did not go to America’s Military Veterans. So like the days of yore, find the trail and follow the money.

Tragically, during the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush Administrations, Veterans’ sacred land was pillaged and plundered for the benefit of wealthy campaign donors. The abuse and misuse of the revered National Veterans Home are simply disgraceful. The violations and the dishonoring of the Deed of 1888 are so shameful that it would make Abraham Lincoln "turn over in his tomb." 

“A New Era of Responsibility”
During a speech on August 21, 2007, in Kansas City, Missouri, Presidential candidate Barack Obama proclaimed: "Keeping faith with those who serve must always be a core American value and a cornerstone of American patriotism. Because America’s commitment to its servicemen and women begins at enlistment, and it must never end."

At a 2008 Veteran’s Day tribute, President-elect Obama rightfully and morally proclaimed: “Let us rededicate ourselves to keep a sacred trust with all who have worn the uniform of the United States of America: that America will serve you as well as you have served your country.”

Barack Obama has certainly been talking the talk of Abraham Lincoln and if America’s 44th President wants to truly emulate our 16th President and walk the talk, then he must fully honor the Deed of 1888 by immediately rescinding the public park agreement that the VA has with VPC.

If President Obama wants to separate his Administration from the irresponsibility of the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush Administrations who aided and abetted in these egregious land heists at the National Veterans Home, then he must take bold and swift action to cancel all "enhanced leases and sharing agreements" and return this sacred Home to the noble vision of the Great Emancipator.

A simple Memo from President Obama to General Shinseki stipulating: “During my Administration, we are Honoring the Deed of 1888.”

Unless President Obama fully honors the Deed of 1888, he can never truly say that he is embracing the great qualities of Abraham Lincoln and that this is a new era of responsibility.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robert L. Rosebrock is U.S. Army Veteran, Vietnam War-era, HQ USARHAW, Schofield Barracks. He is Co-Director of We the Veterans and Director of The Veterans Revolution, and a Member of the American Legion Press Association.



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U.S. Army, 1965-67, Schofield Barracks, Hqs., U.S Army, Hawaii. Director, The Veterans Revolution, Captain, the Old Veterans Guard, and Director, We the Veterans.