Since you’re on this site, chances are you’ve found yourself—at least once—answering the question “So, what do you do?” with some variation of “I work for the government.”
I certainly have. And I wonder if the other person has ever thought, “Wow; thanks, chief. That really paints a vivid picture of how you’re justifying the appropriation of my taxes.”
They’d be right to think that. “I work for the government” isn’t good enough.
What if someone told you, “I work for a company”? That’s what you call a useless statement; it has no element of function—what does this person or their employer actually do?
If someone says he or she is a lawyer or a pilot or one of those creepy birthday party clowns, at least you generally know what their duties are and how they were trained.
“Government employee” doesn’t even give you that, but until recently, I think it told many people all they thought they needed to know: Oh, you do boring, lazy, paper-pushing work that comes with nice benefits and a well developed sense of obstructionism and redundancy. And many government employees were probably content to leave it at that.
It’s pretty clear that these attitudes are ripe for change. Young people say they are more interested in public service, and government, with motivation from the stimulus plan and demands from the public for transparency and interaction, is making a concerted effort to “prove it can work.”
And I’m excited about that. See, I really like my job. I believe in government work and the usefulness and service it offers the public. I want citizens to trust, embrace, and take advantage of it. I suspect most of you feel the same way.
So as a government employee, I hope you’re into your job enough to think it worth explaining to others. And as a citizen, I hope you don’t sell yourself short by not caring to know what your government does .
Imagine getting to a point where everybody knows how we serve them, and they want to talk with us about it. Where the products of government get them as excited (at least occasionally) as commercial products do. Where you’d look like an idiot for just saying, “I work for the government.”
I look forward to a society where I am that idiot. Will you join me?