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Here’s Looking at You, Kid – You’re a Government Rock Star

In high school, I was a cheerleader. Pom poms and football games were my Friday night. That might not sound like a good time for many, but for me, it was the ultimate.

Why? Because I honestly believe that people perform better when their good work is recognized – and I loved rooting for others to do their best. As we know, that rarely happens in government.

But you and I know that government does remarkable work — work that changes the way the world works, work that saves lives, work that finds cures for diseases and protects our borders. Something needs to change. We need to find a way to honor public servants. Just like Bogart told Bacall in Casablanca, “Here’s looking at you, kid.” We need to say cheers to public servants.

One organization making the effort to highlight government innovation is the Partnership for Public Service. Every year the PPS hosts the Service to America Medals (Sammies) to honor some of our nation’s most innovative public servants. This year there are 43 finalists in seven categories.

Tom Fox, Vice President for Leadership and Innovation at the Partnership for Public Service, told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program that these types of award competitions matter because highlighting government success stories can help change the public perception of government.

“There are incredible acts of leadership that are happening all across the federal government. Those leaders aren’t getting the recognition they deserve,” said Fox. “Budget are tight, perceptions of public service are on the decline, so we feel like it’s essential to surface these good government stories and to recognize folks for the really exceptional work that they’re doing on our behalf as taxpayers.”

The Sammies are often called the Oscars for federal employees. “In order to be nominated a more senior leader or colleague has to take just the few minutes to complete an application. Even if you are not a finalist, it’s nice for someone to know that someone has taken notice,” said Fox.

What makes the Sammies unique is the emphasis on career employees and employees who are taking risks or doing small things to make a difference at their agency. Nominees are not agency heads or political appointees — they are the people in the middle of everything.

“We have a group from the Smithsonian Institution that was nominated because they are creating 3D digital images of some of the most iconic treasures from the Smithsonian’s vast collection,” said Fox. “They are making archives accessible to students, teachers, historians across the country. It’s just a wonderful way to open up these resources to everyone across the country, and frankly to the world, but it starts with one team trying it out.”

Another person recognized was Sonny Hashmi, who is the acting CIO at the General Services Administration. His accomplishment? He put GSA in the cloud. “I like the story even more because a lot a times our Sammies winners will have some breakthrough medical discovery, or they will be launching satellites from NASA, but in this instance Hashmi is being honored for a management decision,” said Fox. “This is a prime example of where it’s not just efficient, but it’s cutting edge.”

These stories showcase why government matters. “If not for the government, it’s likely no one else would be doing this work that’s essential,” said Fox. “It is essential that we surface these really wonderful public servants and tell the story of what government does, not what people think it does or doesn’t do.”

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