I Am Public Service – Great Work, In Your Own Words

By now, you are wondering “What’s that banner ad that says iampublicservice.org?”

Many of you have clicked on it and learned that it’s a new site that we’ve launched to highlight and honor the heroic work of public servants like you. Here’s a screen shot:

A recent survey by Gallup and the Partnership for Public Service revealed that only 37% of Americans believed that government employees are performing at what they would consider a “good” or “excellent” level. We would like to change this public perception as we share the stories of public servants in their own words.

On the same day that the initial Gallup/Partnership survey results were released, there was an Opinion article in the Detroit Free Press entitled, “Be Grateful for Public Servants, Maybe Become One Yourself.” Consider the following excerpt:

“In this moment of political opening in reaction to economic crisis, people seem to be realizing that we need public servants, people whose goal is promoting and protecting the common good…My grandpa, Saul Levin, served on the Michigan Corrections Commission. Saul’s brother, Theodore, was a federal judge, and Uncle Ted’s son, Charles, served on the Michigan Supreme Court. My dad, U.S. Rep. Sandy Levin, and my uncle, U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, have quietly become the longest serving brothers in the history of Congress.

But it’s none of these men who set me to wondering whether we’re about to see a public service renaissance. No, it was my mom, Vicki Levin, not famous and never elected to office. For almost 30 years, until she was forced to retire in the spring for health reasons, Mom worked hard as a federal employee — a classic “Washington bureaucrat.”

But I don’t think I ever appreciated what her work meant to her and to others, not fully. Back when I lived in the Washington, D.C., area, I tried to convince Mom to retire so she could spend more time with my four kids and her other grandchildren. After all, she was in her early 70s. Why not kick back? Mom bristled at the idea, saying her work and her relationships with colleagues were central to her life.

When her battle with breast cancer forced her to retire in April, we all learned just what Mom was talking about — and just how much public service can mean. Letters of tribute poured in from colleagues, dozens and dozens of research scientists at universities from coast to coast. Many scholars, some now department chairs, told detailed stories about how they got their research start with Mom’s help, or how she co-authored a paper with one scientist that is still her most cited work, or how her committee was the intellectual salon of their field.”

Levin provides a link to the stories from his mother’s colleagues and goes on to share more about his mother’s incredible work as a public servant.

Wouldn’t it be great to create a place where we all tell the stories of people who are making a difference through public service? That’s the hope of http://www.iampublicservice.org.

Over the holidays, would you be willing to share your story? Between now and January 5, 2009, we are hoping to collect and select the best stories to include in a book to be presented in coordination with the arrival of the new Administration.

Let’s inspire our nation and restore trust in government by promoting the great work of public sector personnel that are adeptly addressing the many challenges that face us as a nation!

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Paulette Neal-Allen

Andrew, I think that’s a really great idea… there’s no category for “I keep everyone else’s computers running so that you get your checks on time / firefighters get to your house when they’re supposed to / etc.”… We call our department Management Services, but that’s just because Infrastructure was already taken by our Public Works-type folks.
Anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing what y’all come up with!