Senior administration officials took up the mantle President Barack Obama threw down during his campaign to make public service cool again.
Scott Gould, deputy secretary at the Veterans Affairs Department, says each of his agency’s 300,000 employees makes a difference to the country’s veterans every day.
“Good government is a reflection of its people who make it that way,” says Gould during the official kick-off of Public Service Recognition Week on the National Mall in Washington Thursday. “Federal government employees respect the public’s trust in them. They embrace the credo that ethical stewardship of the taxpayers’ dollars and expectations are invaluable. They serve the public good.”
Martha Johnson, administrator of the General Services Administration, says public service employees are called to serve in a different way than a generation ago.
“It’s a dedication to making government work for all Americans,” she says. “It’s a choice by some of the most talented and courageous people to preserve and re-imagine our country into the future, and the commitment to work under the noble banner of public servant with honor and integrity.”
Steven Chu, the Energy secretary, celebrated not only his nerdiness, but all of his agency’s talented and cutting edge work.
“You are a remarkable set,” Chu says. “Some work on the most critical and most challenging problems facing the country from developing clean energy sources to cleaning up the legacy of the cold war to our nuclear security. And those are the guys just in the Department of Energy.”
And Johnson topped the celebration with a letter from the President honoring federal employees during Public Service Recognition Week.
“Federal, state and local government employees devote their time and energy to the American people and our country,” Obama writes. “Each day they provide essential services that protect us from harm, educate our families and keep us healthy.”
The theme throughout the speeches was not just about employees of today, but how to ensure the government gets the highest quality of workers in the future.
Gould says agencies should think of people as renewable resources.
“We are here now to celebrate today’s public service workforce, and to encourage a new cadre of service minded citizens to volunteer to serve in government and make their contributions to our country,” he says. “It’s my hope this week, Public Service Recognition Week, we will kindle the interest of potential employees to give government service a good hard look.”
Max Stier, president of the Partnership for Public Service, which co-sponsors Public Service Recognition Week, says the speeches show a different kind of commitment to federal workers from this administration.
“They are putting their time in to it,” Stier says. “The tendency is for the urgent to crowd out the important. People agree that public service is important, but it gets pushed off the table. These people are here. They are using their time. [Office of Personnel Management] Director [John} Berry and Administrator Johnson walked here with their employees. They are demonstrating their commitment by the most important factor possible by how they are spending their time.”
Public Service Recognition Week continues through the weekend on the National Mall–Friday is Student’s Day; Saturday brings federal human resource managers to talk about jobs in government; and Sunday is military exhibition day.
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