July 28, 2009 at 1:11 pm #76643
From the New Orleans BayouBuzz
President Obama Aide: John Berry, In New Orleans Cite Federal Employees
A New Day for the Civil Service
The day that President Obama asked me to lead the Civil Service into the 21st century was the proudest moment of my life; a new high point in a career of Federal and public service. I was inspired to take this path by the example of my grandfather, who served as a Justice of the Peace in a small mining town.
My grandfather came from humble beginnings and used his position of public trust to serve his community. He often told me the most heart-wrenching part of his job was when coal companies would bring people into court. Too poor to heat their homes, they would be caught collecting the stray lumps of coal that tumbled off of company trains. By day, it was his duty to take back the coal and reprimand his neighbors. But, by night, he would take my mother with him from house to house to return the coal to those same neighbors. He wanted her to see that justice extended beyond the courtroom.
For my grandfather, public service didn’t end when he left the office, and for President Obama, public service goes well beyond the bounds of any job description. This belief is engrained in our nearly two million Federal public servants who perform jobs with critical impacts on our country and our communities every day. Unfortunately, they don’t always receive the respect and recognition they deserve.
For over three decades, a bipartisan assault on the Federal workforce has hurt morale and ultimately hurt our country. We’ve been called “out of touch,” “unaccountable,” “lazy,” “blood-sucking,” and worse. As we have dramatically seen on the Gulf Coast, failed leadership is often the roadblock to safety and success, not failed service by Federal employees.
You may not realize the positive impact that Federal employees have on your life here in Louisiana. Over 88% of Federal workers are outside of Washington, DC – including a substantial number of your neighbors who are working for you right here. Through the Department of Agriculture’s Southern Regional Research Center, New Orleans is leading the world as a cutting-edge center for the scientific application of agriculture. Federal workers in Louisiana are responsible for developing strategies that combat insect infestations for the entire country. They are the guardians who combat erosion in our coastal wetlands, rebuild our levees, inspect our imports and food products and protect us from terrorism.
I believe that Federal employees shed their blood, sweat and tears every day for this great country – and for Louisiana. From the 1995 bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, to the terrorist attacks of September 11th, to the Forest Service firefighters, to those Federal employees who kept working for their country even after they lost their homes in Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, their service has been outstanding. Indeed, in the last decade, over 2,000 non-combatant Federal civilian employees have lost their lives serving our country. That is sacrifice that should be celebrated and supported.
I believe in supporting our Federal workers and the work they do on behalf of all of us. The Louisianan employees at the Department of the Interior’s Minerals Management Service are a great example. Early each morning, inspectors depart New Orleans to verify the safety and environmental impact of oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. Their service protects the ecological system of our coastline and ensures steady revenue for Louisiana. Federal geologists in Louisiana are finding new energy sources while Federal archeologists have helped to rescue Louisiana’s rich history through the location and preservation of sunken vessels whose treasures have built the collections of Louisiana’s museums and inspired the minds of countless children.
When I joined the Administration, President Obama entrusted me with the enormous responsibility of transforming our Federal government into a 21st Century workforce; challenged me to educate the American people on the essential work that federal employees perform daily to improve their lives and their communities; and tasked me with reforming our government so that we can recruit the best and brightest to work on behalf of the American people.
This will not be easy and will require us to think differently and look for unique solutions that inspire our innovators. We must also remove the bad apples who have been given the chance to improve but haven’t done so. In the coming months, I will travel the country to listen to the Federal workforce, and I am starting here in New Orleans. I’m also taking the time to learn from innovative leaders in the private sector, unions, academia and veterans groups. I’ll be doing this because the Federal government should incorporate the best solutions to meet our current challenges. I believe that Federal workers in Louisiana are some of those leaders offering innovative leadership and solutions. Honoring their work is one of the ways that the Federal government will become the model employer for the 21st Century.
July 28, 2009 at 2:48 pm #76645
Good luck. And BTW, The Public Manager (http://www.thepublicmanager.org) would be eager to help get the best practice stories out as you attempt to rebuild the public's trust in government. In fact, we have a conference coming up in Washington DC this Novmeber - Strengthening Trust in Government: Openig Dialogues, Building Collaborations.
President & Editor-in-Chief
The Public Manager
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