Nobody — neither politician, journalist nor comedian — ever lost a nickle kicking bureaucrats, or making fun of the government in general, and bureaucrats. Some of Hollywood’s most successful flicks involve crazed or rogue CIA or Drug Enforcement Administration agents who want to betray the country or destroy the world, or nutty generals or admirals.
The headline on an opinion piece in Sunday’s The New York Times, “Stop Calling D.C. a swamp. It’s offensive to swamps,” says it all. Who doesn’t hate DC, and by association you, even if you live and work in Dayton, Ohio? Guilt by association. Whatever works, it contributes to a false image.
So let’s take a week off from bureaucrat bashing.
Hollywood’s elites have the Academy Awards. The media’s elites have the White House Correspondents Association have their celebration. The federal workforce, which arguably is more important to the nation than movie or media stars, has Public Service Recognition Week now through Saturday.
It is modest and low-budget compared to the black tie Hollywood and D.C. events. People attend in T-shirts and running shoes. But they are the people, and the families of the people, who really run this country. More like keep it running.
PSRW kicked off Sunday with a 5k race on the National Mall here in D.C. It was a cool but a low-key, low-budget affair, and they gave me a t-shirt! PSRW will be celebrated in dozens of places, with a VIP and rank-and-file breakfast Tuesday and event Wednesday. But like so many things involving government workers it is low key and low budget, which is fine, but not the stuff of headlines.
Next time you are at 50,000 feet, hopefully in a pressurized aircraft, give silent thanks to the air traffic controllers who are tracking you and thousands of others across the country and ocean. And to the much-maligned TSA screeners who while defending all human rights, while taking a lot of verbal abuse, do a pretty good job of seeing that the wrong passengers do not get aboard. Also maybe give thanks to the people at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention whose early alerts and constant warning and updates maybe kept us from having a flu pandemic this winter. Most of the feds we all depend on, every minute of the day, are unknown to us. Most of us do not know what they are doing. But it is generally a very good thing that they are doing it.
Nobody can be singled out, but try this faceless bureaucrat on for size. Who are we talking about here: An Ohio-born Navy fighter pilot and deputy associate administration at NASA.
The answer: Federal civil servant Neil Armstrong who, in July 1969 became the first human to walk on the Moon. That’s sort of a big deal. I got to meet him a couple of times and, if you didn’t know you wouldn’t have guessed it was him. He was a pretty down-to-earth guy, no pun intended.
It is also neat to live and work in D.C. because, not in spite of, all the feds who are here. For years while driving to work I used to see another unsung civil servant , Michael Collins, jogging on Massachusetts Avenue. He looked like many of the guys in the neighborhood, maybe in a little bit better shape, but nothing special. He was also aboard the Apollo 11 Moon trip and a federal employee. Not bad for government work.
So look around you. Odds are you may know, work with or be, dare I say it, an unsung hero. Whether you think you qualify or not, have a nice week, seriously.