The Senator from Delaware rises to praise federal workers

With the return of Congress this week, one lawmaker intends to return to his weekly ritual: delivering a floor speech in the United States Senate in praise of a...

By Max Cacas
Federal News Radio

Ever since he was appointed to fill out the term of Vice President Joe Biden last year, Senator Ted Kaufman (D.-Delaware) has had a weekly ritual.

“What I’m doing is every week, I go down to the Senate floor,” he told Federal News Radio, “and I pick out a different federal employee, and talk about why they’re a great federal employee, and why federal employees are so well-qualified, and the kinds of sacrifices they make as federal employees, how smart they are, courageous, all the different things they do, that I think personifies federal employees.”

Kaufman, who served for over 20 years as chief-of-staff to then-Senator Biden, and then served four terms on the Broadcasting Board of Governors, says his weekly speeches on behalf of feds grew out of “something that’s been bothering me for a while.”

About 30 years ago, I began to detect a shift from people being anti-government, and people should be skeptical about their government, but not cynical. But some people began going over the top, and began criticizing the federal employees as being the problem. And my experience working here in the Senate, and in the administration on the Broadcasting Board of Governors, I had just met so many super-qualified federal employees, it just really bothered me.

Senator Kaufman has devoted an entire page on his Senate website to this task of paying tribute to federal workers. There is a Nobel Laureate, right next to a Presidential secretary. There’s a Delaware National Guard sergeant next to an Federal Aviation Administration risk analyst.

And then there are the stories — literally — ripped from the headlines.

Last month, one of Kaufman’s speeches honored three Pentagon security guards whose quick thinking resulted in the apprehension of a man who opened fire on people at the Pentagon bus terminal one evening.

Before that, in February, Kaufman honored Vernon Hunter, the Internal Revenue Service employee who was killed when a small plane was deliberately flown into the IRS office in Austin, Texas. Hunter was a decorated former Vietnam veteran, who had served two decades in the Army.

We asked Senator Kaufman how he selects the feds he honors.

“Well, there are lots of ways. I ask the agencies to help. I ask the public service employees organization (the Partnership for Public Service) about who they’ve recommended for their SAMMIES (Service to America) awards.”

Kaufman says he’ll continue going to the Senate floor to spotlight the best in Federal employees right up to the end of his current term, which will be the end of this year, since he has already decided he will not run for election to a term of his own.

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