What was your life’s big moment?

A short blog post doesn't do justice to the Presidential Rank Award recipients.

Not a follower of college football, I was nonetheless caught up briefly by the last-week’s-news phenomenon of Georgia beating Alabama in the national football championship. Television footage showed some of the Georgia players in tears of joy in the immediate post-game pandemonium. I thought, for some of them, this might be the high point of their entire lives.

Not to dwell on football, which I do like, but I had the same thought reading the obituaries of New York Jets great former receiver Don Maynard. Injured in the 1969 Super Bowl III, he nevertheless ran out as a decoy. He thus helped the win even though he didn’t catch a pass from Joe Namath in that particular game. Maybe his greatest moment was the immediate prior game, the 1968 AFL championship game, when he caught the game-winning pass to defeat the Oakland Raiders.

In sports, people have a relatively short time to achieve distinction. Maynard had a long pro football career, 15 seasons. Us regular people work at a career for 30, 40, maybe 50 years and never achieve notoriety. Just don’t equate that with lack of success, something easy to do in our age of hyper-celebrity. Someone joked to me the other day, “How come you’re not like…” and named a famous — and in my view vacuous — TV news personality. I answered, “Exactly. I’d have to be like…” and threw back the same name.

I’m always inspired by people who achieve distinction not by pursuing fame and recognition for its own sake, like, say, the Kardashians, but rather by doing great work, actual work. That’s why we’ve been booking and airing interviews with a handful of the 230 Presidential Rank Award recipients. Operating largely out of the public limelight, these members of the Senior Executive Service comprise an important vertebra in the government’s backbone. Some receive awards for lifetime achievement, others for single events.

Case in point: Dr. Steve Kappes. This  Agriculture Research Executive is neither an influencer on Twitter nor a million-follower poster on Instagram. He does know how to butcher a steer, so there. His long list of published research and his inspiration of hundreds of other scientists is one reason the U.S. has a safe and abundant supply of beef.

Today you can hear my interview with the deputy administration of the Health Resources and Services Administration, Diana Espinosa. Fundamentally a public agency budget expert, she has learned the health mission of HRSA, within Health and Human Services. She shouldered a load of hay — to borrow from Agriculture — in leading the distribution of a part of pandemic relief aimed at healthcare workers. It amounted to $178 billion.

There will be more to follow as we book them. What’s that old saying, about everyone being famous for 15 minutes? This is one place where people doing great work can have that moment in the sun.

Presidential Rank Award winners do get a nice chunk of dough, 35% of their salary at the distinguished executive level, 20% for meritorious executive. Plus a gold or silver pin. And a gold or silver embossed certificate signed by the president. Sometimes presidents dispense with the awards, as President Obama did in 2013 and President Trump did in 2020.

But there’s something missing. Championship sports teams get parades in their home towns. Stars of stage and screen get fancy, if stilted, televised ceremonies. In fact, in countless fields where people get awards, there’s the element of public display, even if the prize itself is only a Lucite doodad.

Whether because of COVID germs or lack of sponsorship of the chicken dinner, the public presentations of the PRA winners hasn’t happened for a couple of years. The White House and OPM posted nice blog stories, but didn’t bother to even post awardees’ nomination essays. The people ended up simply as a list of names nicely presented on a contractor-created PDF. That seems inadequate. They should have a fete, like the Service to America Medals recipients. It wouldn’t be the high point of a recipient’s life, but maybe a proverbial cherry on top of a career.

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Robert O’Shaughnessy

The first time an NBA game was “rained out” was in 1986. Games are always held indoors; this one in Seattle was cancelled due to a leaky roof at the Coliseum, home of the SuperSonics.

Source: History Link

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