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    Each February we celebrate the heritage, achievements and turning points for African Americans in the United States. This year we mark a pivotal moment in our history: 2014 is the 50th anniversary of President Johnson’s signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

    U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968, a follow-up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The 1968 act expanded on previous acts and prohibited discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, and since 1974, gender. Since 1988, the act protects people with disabilities and families with children. It also provided protection for civil rights workers. Photo Courtesy Library of Congress

    This year’s theme for the month, “Civil Rights in America,” celebrates that landmark legislation.

    As we at OPM work to create a Federal workforce that reflects the bright mosaic of the American people, we should take time to reflect on the trailblazers and civil rights leaders who chose to continue their service to the American people by becoming Federal workers.

    Just two years after President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, he appointed Robert C. Weaver as the first Secretary of the new Department of Housing and Urban Development.  Weaver’s Federal service dated back to President Roosevelt’s administration and he became the first African American to hold a Cabinet post.

    And we shouldn’t forget that such more well-known African American leaders as Thurgood Marshall, the first African American to sit on the United States Supreme Court and Colin Powell, the first African American Secretary of State were, in fact, Federal workers. Their service, and the example set by President Obama, can be traced back to that July day in 1964 when President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act.

    We must carry on with the work of making the Federal government a welcoming and engaging place for all Americans to work. We must make sure that young people making career choices, new members of the Federal service, employees in the middle of their Federal careers and those about to retire get the encouragement and tools they need to succeed.

    Here at OPM, leaders are working with the Blacks in Government organization to mentor BIG members and to help mentees reach their professional development goals.

    Throughout the history of the civil rights movement in America, people of African descent have formed organizations and coalitions to promote the battle for equal rights.  The Colored Convention Movement, the Afro-American League, the Niagara Movement, the National Council of Negro Women, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference carried the banner of equality when allies were few.

    In the modern era, groups such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Urban League, and the Congress of Racial Equality have fought for and protected equal rights.

    In his proclamation commemorating National African American History Month, the President calls on us to “honor the men and women at the heart of this journey – from engineers of the Underground Railroad to educators who answered a free people’s call for a free mind, from patriots who proved that valor knows no color to demonstrators who gathered on the battlefields of justice and marched our Nation toward a brighter day.” You can read the President’s full proclamation.

    So during this month and all through the year, we should take time to pause to reflect on where we have come as a nation in the struggle for equality, and what we need to still do to realize the full promise of that groundbreaking piece of legislation that 50 years ago forever changed the face of this great country.

     

     


    Last week, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) co-hosted the first ever Data Jam focused on jobs, labor & skills.

    Closing the skills gap and especially empowering the Federal Science Technology
    Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) workforce is key in our efforts to deliver on the core mission of OPM: to recruit, train and retain a world class workforce for the 21st Century.

    This event at the White House was a way to bring together innovators, entrepreneurs and experts in technology to brainstorm new uses of data as another tool in our tool kit for this effort.


    The number of Federal jobs that rely on STEM talent is amazing. More than 300,000 people comprise the Federal STEM workforce nationwide– from scientists researching cancer cures at the National Institutes of Health to astronauts putting satellites into space at NASA to web developers helping people access mortgage information at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

     These STEM workers are vital to the Federal government’s mission and OPM is determined to work with agencies to help them better recruit, train, and retain such talented professionals.  And its OPM’s responsibility to find innovative ways to better use the key personnel and applicant data that we guard even as we ensure the integrity and security of this information.

    That’s where this Data Jam and future meetings like it comes in. The first brainstorming session focused on six key issues:

    • Identifying skills & talent in real-time
    • Optimizing quality of work produced
    • Tracking flow into, through, and out of various career paths
    • Employee engagement and its impacts
    • Projecting future STEM needs
    • Diversity of the STEM workforce

    And the Data Jam elicited some exciting proposed solutions – from data visualizations to online tools to skills marketplaces. The participants committed to building some prototypes of these innovative solutions. We want to partner with entrepreneurs and innovators to develop tools that can ensure that the American people have a Federal STEM workforce that is more diverse, more capable, and more engaged than ever before.  

    Data Jam was only the first step. Later this year OPM and OSTP, in collaboration with other Federal agencies, will showcase some of the innovative solutions raised at Data Jam at the first Jobs, Labor & Skills Datapalooza.

    We want to hear from everyone who has an idea of how to better use open data to help us grow and expand the Federal STEM workforce. This is a goal we can achieve together.


    Today we take a moment to step away from our busy lives to remember the life and sacrifices of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It’s a day for the nation to honor the legacy and spirit of this civil rights giant.

    In his proclamation designating Jan. 20 as the MLK Federal holiday, President Obama urges Americans to come together for a day of service.

    “By volunteering our time and energy, we can build stronger, healthier, more resilient communities. Today, let us put aside our narrow ambitions, lift up one another, and march a little closer to the Nation Dr. King envisioned,” the president said in his proclamation

    I hope all Federal employees, each in our own way, will celebrate Dr. King’s life through an act of service to neighbors, friends and people in their communities who are in need of a helping hand. This is what Federal workers do: serve the people of this great country.

    Enjoy this holiday. And make it a “day on” not just a day off.

     


    I love visiting with Federal workers!

    This past week I had the special opportunity to travel to Ft. Meade, Maryland to meet and share donuts and coffee with some dedicated OPM employees from our agency’s Federal Investigative Office and the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO).


    I met such talented and engaged employees like Elaine Bosserman, who has been at OPM for 8 of the 12 years she’s worked for the Federal government. Elaine is a FIS investigative case analyst who evaluates personnel security and suitability background investigations to make sure they meet our national security and quality standards. And I visited with Cassandra, who has served her country as a Federal employee for 33 years. For the past 8 years, Cassandra has supported OPM’s mission by overseeing a team that performs a number of record checks in connection with FIS background investigations.

    My trip to Ft. Meade was my first visit in 2014 with OPM employees in the field, but it won’t be my last. One of my highest priorities as Director of OPM is to be a champion of Federal employees all across this great country. And I hope to carry that message personally to as many people in our Federal family as I can.



    Every January, Americans celebrate the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by stepping up and spending the holiday named to honor him by performing service in their communities. This year we will pay tribute to this great civil rights leader’s vision and accomplishments on Monday, January 20.

    The MLK Day of Service is a way for us to do our part to create Dr. King’s “Beloved Community.”  Each of us in our own way can reflect on his life by reaching out to those who need our help. We can do our part to carry on Dr. King’s dream of justice, equality and human rights for all Americans.

    Federal workers serve this great country each and every day. And on this special holiday we can showcase our involvement and investment in our communities. The MLK Day of Service is a part of United We Serve, the President's national call to service initiative. It asks all Americans to participate in our nation’s recovery and renewal by serving their communities in ways large and small. 

    I ask you to visit www.MLKDay.gov to find a project you would like to participate in. Also, if you have your own project in mind, the website provides toolkits that will help you with your effort. 

    And please, let’s not limit our community service to this one day. Let your service on this Federal holiday be a springboard for coming to the aid of your neighbors all through the year.

    The MLK Day of Service is a time when you can honor Dr. King’s legacy through service.  Remember, this is not a day off, but a day on.


    As our busy Federal workforce is beginning its work for an exciting and challenging 2014, I want to remind you that it is not too late to contribute to the Combined Federal Campaign.  Remember, the deadline for this year has been extended until Wednesday, Jan. 15.

    I want to thank everyone who has already generously donated and who have participated in the many events that agencies have held across the government to build interest in this worthwhile campaign.

    The generosity of Federal employees is tremendous.  I appreciate that these are tough times for many of us, but even a small donation can have an impact on the charities that are part of the CFC.

    So as you are finalizing your 2014 personal budget, please consider including a CFC contribution in your planning. The money you contribute can help make “the impossible” possible.

    For assistance in making a pledge, please contact your CFC key worker.


    January is National Mentoring Month and it’s a perfect time to spread the word about the values and possibilities of mentoring and celebrate the Federal workers who take the time to teach, inspire and help guide their colleagues in their careers.

    Throughout the Federal government, agencies are finding innovative ways to foster the goals of National Mentoring Month, which are embodied in the President’s proclamation: “America is at its best when we lift each other up, when we pursue our individual goals while never forgetting that we are bound as one nation and as one people…”

    I know I have been fortunate to have wonderful mentors along the way in my career and hope that colleagues whose lives I’ve touched have benefitted from my mentoring.

    At OPM, we are convening a roundtable discussion next week for employees to share their experiences and backgrounds and hopefully meet someone they can mentor or who can mentor them.

    The governmentwide Flash Mentoring Program, which the Chief Human Capital Officers Council coordinates, has provided opportunities and programs at agencies throughout the government to help employees get tips on mentoring and to learn about the benefits of mentoring. In fact, a Flash Mentoring session is scheduled for next week at the Department of Education.

    Since the Flash Mentoring Program’s first session in the fall of 2011, more than 600 federal workers have been mentored by more than 100 mentors and 27 agencies have participated in mentoring sessions.

    But mentoring doesn’t require a formal program. Look around you. Find someone who you believe can help you develop your career, someone who may have a skills expertise that you would like to acquire. And look for someone who you can help reach his or her potential, who you can partner with and coach.

    The President’s goal is to create a culture of mentorship throughout the Federal government. Let’s start now during National Mentoring Month and keep going during the year. Let’s make mentoring a way of life throughout this great Federal workforce.

     


    As we work on fulfilling our personal New Year’s resolutions, it was good to hear from Federal workers across the government about what their hopes and expectations are for OPM in 2014.

    Let me tell you about some of my priorities for the coming year and share one of your colleague’s stories that epitomizes the dedication and compassion of our Federal workforce.

    2014 is going to be an exciting year at OPM. We have a dynamic new strategic plan in the works and our 100-day plan to modernize our IT systems is well underway.

    This will also be a year that we champion the Federal workforce. As I travel around the country visiting Federal workers, I will be listening to them and sharing their accomplishments, their vision and their commitment to their communities and their country.

    One of you has given me a perfect example.

    In answering my call to share New Year’s resolutions, John Lee, an OPM colleague who works at our Boyers, Pa. facility,  suggested that we all get more involved in the community, in helping our fellow citizens in need. John and some of his colleagues did more than just talk about such service; they embodied it over the Christmas holiday. Here’s John’s post:

    In his memorandum six months ago on expanding national service, the President called on all Federal agencies to promote national service and volunteerism across the Federal government.

    Employees like John and his colleagues embody that call. My thanks to the Boyers team for their service and thanks to John for sharing.

    I appreciate all the responses to our call for New Year’s resolutions. Please keep your feedback coming. We want to hear from you on Facebook, Twitter or via email.


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