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Celebrating Public Service

By Ed O'Keefe

Today is the start of Public Service Recognition Week, a seven-day "thank you" to local, state and federal employees. Public servants use this week to educate the general public about their work and possibly joining the public sector. This week's major events on the National Mall are sponsored by the Partnership for Public Service, led by Max Stier, who has submitted the following op-ed to newspapers across the country:

Our economy is in turmoil. A deadly flu must be contained. We are fighting two wars. Our planet is warming. Health care costs and the number of uninsured continue to rise. China and India are emerging as economic rivals. Now, more than ever, the American people need effective government.

We will not have the government that the times demand and the American people deserve without talented public servants. To build this government, we must celebrate public service and restore government’s image as a place where our best and brightest join together to make a difference for our communities, our country, our world.
Simply put, good government starts with good people. Our nation is fortunate to have nearly 20 million dedicated citizens who work on our behalf as federal, state or local government employees.

But our public sector workforce stands at a crossroads. Government at all levels is about to lose many of its most experienced and expert workers, as the baby boomers who entered government during the Kennedy era prepare to retire.

There are serious questions about whether or not public agencies will be able to bring in the right people with the right skills to fill the looming talent gaps in the public sector.
New data from the Gallup Organization reveals valuable insights in government’s recruiting challenges and opportunities.

On the positive side, interest in government jobs is up considerably since 2006. Although interest in private sector jobs, work for nonprofits and self-employment is stable, there are double digit increases in the percentage of Americans who express interest in jobs with the federal government, as well as state and local governments.

This increased interest is being fueled largely by the economic downturn. When asked why they would consider working in government, the most common responses, by far, were good health benefits, good retirement benefits and job stability.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. But the challenges facing our public sector require workers who are looking for more than just a stable paycheck.

Today’s public school teachers need to give our children the math and science training they will need to compete in a globalized economy. Many of our first responders must become experts on counterterrorism strategies. Our regulatory agencies must hire economic experts who can understand sophisticated financial products and make sure the people on Main Street are not being taken for a ride by the folks Wall Street.

Nothing less than our best will do.

Unfortunately, negative perceptions of government will make it difficult to bring on the right people to meet government’s talent needs. Gallup’s research suggests that the top reason Americans would not consider a job in government is because government is too bureaucratic. Many also believe government does not offer jobs in their field and that it would be boring to work for government. And when given options, solid majorities believe the private sector does a better job of encouraging innovation and attracting the best workers.

To be clear, our government is not perfect and we should expect more from it, but we need to be constructive participants in making our government better, not disengaged critics. We should speak out when government gets it wrong, but we also need to recognize what is right in government.

We should recognize Robin Robinson, a federal scientist who is working to create a vaccine for the swine flu, having already developed a vaccine for the strain of bird flu that hit our shores in 2007. We should recognize Michael German of Atlanta who has built a coalition of 850 local officials to help homeless Americans, which has contributed to a 30 percent reduction in long-term homelessness. We should recognize Crystal Kaplan, a 35-year-old Foreign Service officer who led a multinational effort to resettle 100,000 refugees from the tiny Asian nation of Bhutan.

This week, we have an opportunity to recognize all of our public servants. As authorized by Congress, May 4-10 is officially “Public Service Recognition Week.” Communities all across the country are hosting events to recognize their local unsung heroes. The biggest celebration will be in Washington on our National Mall, where representatives from dozens of agencies and our armed services will be on hand to share their stories of service. All Americans should take this occasion to thank the public servants they know for their contributions.

Now is the time that we do a better job of telling the true story of government, the story of Robin Robinson, the story of Michael German, the story of Crystal Kaplan, the story of a place where ordinary Americans put service above self to do extraordinary things.

Max Stier is president and chief executive officer of the non-partisan Partnership for Public Service.

By Ed O'Keefe  | May 4, 2009; 10:15 AM ET
Categories:  Public Service  
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Comments

oh please ed.......who is this guy Max?

Public Service Recognition Week....give me a break.
1) Public Servants have forgotten they are INDEED public servants
2) come to right to work state of Arizona and see how human dignity in the workforce is lost.
3) good ole' boy networks and "girly-get-the-best-friend-a-job" groups at state government jobs exist big time
4) territorial"ism" at the desk : this is MY process and I won't teach it to anyone
5) we have done it this way for years, why change it?
6) rude supervisors that become yelling mothers behind closed doors because you are 10 minutes late to work
7) illogical directives with outrageous time lines so the boss can "write you up".
8) I don't do "coffee"
9) I don't file, it's beneath me, I've been here too long....

Don't paint the "pattern of behavior" of our USA current workforce as "dedicated and caring"
at all......
customer service got lost in the 90s.
manners and politeness was lost in the 80s.
they are in it for THEMSELVES, their SUVs, and their power trips.
And the ego trip of government workers make me gag.

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | May 4, 2009 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Crystal Kaplan, a 35-year-old Foreign Service officer who played a very minor role in a poorly planned effort to resettle 100,000 refugees from the tiny Asian nation of Bhutan, is another example of another low-level government worker, that is now wondering why the new Bhutanese in America (some 10,000 in the last 12 months) are experiencing 80% unemployment, chronic poverty in the USA, little to no social services or training, and facing the prospect of living in tents and boxes in the USA this coming winter - thanks to planners like Crystal Kaplan.

Posted by: BhutanFacts | May 4, 2009 7:52 PM | Report abuse

Come see what the Department of Labor has to offer at Public Service Recognition Week 2009!

In addition to exhibits that demonstrate the broad reach of its programs and services the Department of Labor will also showcase exciting job opportunities and give qualified individuals a chance to talk directly with current employees about working for the agency.

On Friday May 8th, the Department of Labor will be actively recruiting to fill a number of job openings. These jobs are real, and so is the need for talented and qualified applicants. No matter what drives you, the Department of Labor offers a chance to make a difference through your work.

Come visit the Mall on May 8th, see what DOL has to offer, and talk with current employees about how they are living their missions by working at the Department of Labor.

Check out www.dol.gov/psrw for more.

Posted by: droberts1 | May 5, 2009 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Come see what the Department of Labor has to offer at Public Service Recognition Week 2009!

In addition to exhibits that demonstrate the broad reach of its programs and services the Department of Labor will also showcase exciting job opportunities and give qualified individuals a chance to talk directly with current employees about working for the agency.

On Friday May 8th, the Department of Labor will be actively recruiting to fill a number of job openings. These jobs are real, and so is the need for talented and qualified applicants. No matter what drives you, the Department of Labor offers a chance to make a difference through your work.

Come visit the Mall on May 8th, see what DOL has to offer, and talk with current employees about how they are living their missions by working at the Department of Labor.

Check out www.dol.gov/psrw for more.

Posted by: droberts1 | May 5, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse


If you are uninsured and does not have insurance, you should check out the website http://UninsuredAmerica.blogspot.com - John Mayer, California

Posted by: janejim533gmailcom | May 11, 2009 5:16 AM | Report abuse


If you are uninsured and does not have insurance, you should check out the website http://UninsuredAmerica.blogspot.com - John Mayer, California

Posted by: janejim533gmailcom | May 11, 2009 5:17 AM | Report abuse

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