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This past weekend I had the honor of giving my first ever commencement speech to the 2014 graduating class of the University of Texas at Brownsville. What a great event!
This time of year is one of celebrations for many families across America, including many of the children of our 2 million strong Federal workforce and some Federal employees who I know are working and going to school at the same time. Congratulations to you all.
While in Texas, I also had the chance to meet with students, faculty and community leaders in Brownsville and at the University of Texas at Pan American.
I told them why I’ve dedicated so much of my time in the past few months talking to students and educators like them. It’s simple: there is almost no more important people to reach than those who will become the our workforce of the future.
I wanted them to know about the many opportunities out there for them, whether they want to work in Texas, or California, or North Carolina. I wanted them to know that there are opportunities available now – Pathways internships and entry-level positions at the Department of Agriculture, Veterans Affairs and the Army – all in Texas. I wanted them to consider public service.
Delivering a commencement speech can be intimidating. But this wonderful crowd of nearly 700 graduates and thousands of their families and friends was welcoming and inspiring. More than 90 percent of the UT Brownsville student body is Hispanic. And 70 percent of Saturday’s graduates were the first in their family to go to college. So was I.
Families and friends revel in the accomplishment of a college degree. But it can also come with some anxiety. What now? Where do I go from here? It can be a scary prospect. But also an exciting one.
I urged the graduates to take their time and when they are to ready think about the next step in their lives. I told them to refuse to take no for an answer, that if you never let go of what ignites your passions, you will find a way to do what you love.
I gave one final piece of advice to the UT Brownsville Class of 2014. It’s advice I gave my own workforce in my first week at OPM.
Don’t just think about what’s possible. Strive for the impossible.
You never know what you will accomplish.
What a week!
This year we took Public Service Recognition Week (PSRW) to a new level. Each year, PSRW is our opportunity to thank Federal employees for all of the work they do for the American people. This year we did things just a little differently.
We went big on social media. On Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram we asked Federal employees to thank their colleagues, friends, and neighbors using the hashtag #FEDSpirit. We received so many creative, funny, and heartfelt thank you’s.
On Tuesday I was invited to throw out the first pitch at National’s Park as a part of Federal Employee Recognition Night. We invited five of the employees that were recognized for their #FEDSpirit to join me on the field for the first pitch. While it wasn’t the best night for our home team, it was a truly great night out with each other.
You don’t see that every day.
And right here in OPM we’ve been showing our spirit throughout the building and in our offices around the country. We’ve been taking pictures showing off our #FEDSpirit. We’ve shared food and ice cream. And we’ve taken the time to give our employees brown bags, webcasts, and other useful information. These kinds of activities didn’t just happen here. Every government agency honored their Federal employees in their own way.
It’s important to honor not only the work Federal employees do, but the
people who do it. The people who care for our veterans, manage federal
programs, and fight forest fires. The people who keep our skies safe,
our water clean, and our mail flowing. The people who discover new
medicines, protect our children, and represent us around the world.
They put in the extra effort to get the job done.
I wrote an Op-Ed this week to highlight their great work. Variations of it ran in the Washington Post and in other newspapers around the country.
I’ve been traveling the country for the past few months meeting with Federal employees from nearly every agency and hearing their concerns, their dreams, and their ideas. And I always say thank you.
I am getting the word out in every way I can. I want Federal employees to know just how much they matter.
I don’t believe we should thank our Federal workforce only once a year. All our Federal employees deserve thanks and recognition year round.
So join me. Help us keep it up. Take time to thank you colleagues, your friends, and your neighbors.
I am so honored to lead such a dedicated, talented and strong workforce.
Happy PSRW. Thank you for all you do each and every day.
Each May since 1977 we have celebrated the achievements and contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to the American Story. During Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month we recognize the culture, traditions, history, and generations of AAPI community who have enriched America’s history and will be instrumental in its future success.
Members of the AAPI community were Chinese immigrants. It was their difficult manual labor that the transcontinental railroad was built in the late 1860;s Their efforts helped connect this great country, from the Pacific coast at San Francisco Bay to the existing Eastern U.S. rail network at Council Bluffs, Iowa, on the Missouri River.
Members of the AAPI community are federal employees and leaders of government. Christopher Lu is Deputy Secretary of Labor. Norman Mineta served as the Secretary of Transportation for President Clinton. Dr. Steven Chu served as President Obama’s Secretary of Energy.
Like America itself, the AAPI community draws strength from the diversity of its many distinct cultures.
The theme of this month is “I Am Beyond.” The phrase captures how Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander descent have always sought to excel beyond the challenges that have limited equal opportunity in America.
What a wonderful message for us all. Nearly five years ago President Obama established the White House Initiative on AAPIs. The Initiative addresses disparities in health care, education, and economic opportunity by ensuring Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders receive equal access to government programs and services.
In his proclamation commemorating AAPI Heritage Month this year, the President calls on us to “…recall our hard-fought progress, let us resolve to continue moving forward. Together, let us ensure the laws respect everyone, civil rights apply to everyone, and everyone who works hard and plays by the rules has a chance to get ahead.” You can read the President’s full proclamation on the White House's website.
As a former educator and community leader, I know the value of bringing together talented people with diverse ideas and perspectives to improve any organization. This is especially important for the Federal government. The complex and important work of government requires a diverse and inclusive workforce that is representative of the many important perspectives, talents, and backgrounds of our great country.
One of my major challenges and a priority for me as OPM Director is to increase the diversity of the Federal workforce. When I talk about diversity, I don’t just mean ethnic and racial diversity. I want to make sure that people of all ages, people with disabilities and people from every corner of this great country have opportunities.
With diversity comes inclusion. We need an inclusive workforce to serve the American people.
At OPM, the Asian American Pacific Islander American Employee Resource Group works to increase awareness of the Asian American and Pacific Islander cultures as an integral part of our agency’s mission. It supports the diversity and inclusion goals of our agency and provides opportunities for mentorship, support and development within the OPM community.
We also continue to support the programs of the Federal Asian Pacific American Council. I was honored that FAPAC representatives attended my reception after I was sworn in as OPM Director in December 2013.
So during this month and all through the year, let us focus on bringing together talented people with diverse ideas and perspectives. Like the AAPI community which draws strength from the diversity of its many distinct cultures, we at OPM need to draw strength from the diversity we have within our agency.
Tonight is my major league baseball debut, and I’m excited to share the names of the five Federal employees I’ve asked to join me on Nationals field when I throw out the first pitch.
Each of these individuals was recognized by their peers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for representing the spirit of Public Service Recognition Week (PSRW). I hope you’ll join me in cheering them on when the Washington Nationals play the LA Dodgers this evening.
Mika J. Cross is a Human Capital Policy Strategist at USDA who specializes in work/life balance, diversity, inclusion and employee engagement. She was nominated by her colleague Jamie Edmunds, who tweeted that Mika is “inspiring and forward thinking” and that she “thrives in the face of adversity.”
Shannon Edwards is a Management Assistant in the Retirement Services division of OPM. She is committed to the accurate and timely processing of retirement claims for Federal retirees. She was nominated by Robert Gandy Sr. at USDA, who tweeted that Shannon “epitomizes #FedSpirit with her dedication” and that “she has #Natitude.”
Pamela Marstiller is a Management and Program Analyst at the FBI, where she takes great pride in knowing she’s been a “small, but integral part of National Security” for the past 19 years. Pamela was nominated by her niece, Amy Brodie, who tweeted “@OPMDirector, you need her by your side to throw out the first pitch.”
Justin Herman leads the government-wide SocialGov Community at GSA, uniting more than 450 government social media practitioners from more than 130 federal agencies into an objective-based problem-solver community. He was recognized by his colleague Tim Lowden, who tweeted that Justin is an “innovator, influencer, organizer, and devoted public servant,” and that his “curveball drops off the table.”
Carmen Garcia is the Executive Resources Coordinator and Pathways Program Officer at OPM. She is responsible for recruitment and staffing, classification, executive resources, change management, and advocating an environment of diversity and inclusion. She was recognized by her colleague Justin Johnson, who tweeted that Carmen is great at recruiting and has #FedSpirit.
I’ve really enjoyed seeing all of your recognition posts, tweets, and photos, and I hope you’ll continue thanking Federal employees all week long using #FedSpirit. And please follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook through @OPMDirector to watch my pitch this evening.
April 30 is America’s PrepareAthon! National Day of Action. OPM is a national partner in this nationwide, community-based campaign to increase emergency preparedness and resilience.
As part of our support for the PrepareAthon, OPM will conduct a shelter-in-place exercise, designed to be activated during a tornado or dangerous wind and rain storm. The exercise gets us away from windows and other unsafe areas and may require us to go to the upper or lower parts of the building. It is also a part of our Dismissal and Closure Guide and is an important element of our toolkit for keeping employees safe while they are at work.
OPM will be one of many workplaces – as well as individual homes and communities – that will use tomorrow to practice for worst-case scenarios. These situations can be daunting. Our default often is not to think about such possibilities at all. But America’s PrepareAthon! emphasizes that we need to take the time to prepare now so that emergencies don’t catch us off guard.
There’s a lot to consider when preparing for an emergency. Take a moment to think about it. What’s your preparedness quotient? Do you pay attention to community alerts or warning systems? Do you have a preparedness plan? Have you talked about and practiced that plan with your family? Do you know what hazards are most likely to happen in your area?
Knowing what to do before, during and after an emergency is a critical part of being prepared and may make all the difference when seconds count. These are just a few of the things to consider during tomorrow’s Day of Action.
Whether you’re participating in a drill, crafting a plan with your family, or attending a community awareness event, be sure to take a few moments tomorrow to get prepared. If you’re here at OPM Headquarters, take a minute to review Occupant Emergency Plan. And everyone should check out the resources on ready.gov.
As this past winter taught us, when we’re prepared we can stay safe and work together to continue serving the American people, no matter the circumstances.
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