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Speeches & Remarks

Remarks of OPM Director John Berry

Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities

Marriott Wardman Park

October 22, 2012

As prepared for delivery.

Good evening, and thank you, Jackie [Orozco] for that kind introduction. Thank you, President [Antonio] Flores and thank you, all of you, for having me here tonight for your Emerald Gala.

For twenty years you've been working to open opportunities for students and to connect the Hispanic community and the Federal government in ways that benefit both. Thousands of students have gained experience and begun careers through your program.

At OPM we're very proud to count a former HACU intern, Veronica Villalobos, as one of our senior executives. Back in 1995, as one of nearly 400 interns in the summer session, Veronica began work at Department of Labor. Today, she is the executive leading our government-wide effort to boost diversity and inclusion in the workforce. Veronica, will you please stand and be recognized?

Now, a few things have changed this year about the approach the Federal Government takes with intern programs. So I just want to set out clearly how our new Pathways programs work.

The idea is simple: we want interns from all backgrounds to be able to find and apply for opportunities that match their skills.

There are three clear and streamlined pathways: First, current students – and I see some with us today – can apply to internships. Second, people who have graduated get a two-year window to apply to recent graduates programs. And third, our revitalized Presidential Management Fellows program, for students finishing a graduate degree and looking to jumpstart a career by learning leadership skills in the Federal government. The PMF application dates this year are November 5th through the 19th.

This year is our first year with an expanded, two-year eligibility window for the PMF program. Anyone who has obtained – or will finish – their degree between November 5, 2010 and August 31, 2013 can apply this year.

Through each of our three pathways, participants can learn what it's like to work in government, gain on-the-job experience, and have the possibility of converting into Federal employment. We hope that these pathways will better enable the Federal government to recruit and retain top talent fresh from learning the latest skills.

And that includes HACU interns and interns from third-party providers. I've made this clear to the agencies with a memo specifically emphasizing that third-party providers remain a vital part of our recruitment and outreach strategies.

As you know, under the old system successful interns in the HACU program moved from the HACU internship, into the SCEP program, and then could be hired noncompetitively into permanent Federal jobs. The same framework applies under Pathways. HACU interns are eligible to be hired as agency interns and can then be noncompetitively converted to permanent Federal jobs once they graduate. So the basic model is essentially the same. We still want you to help us find the next Veronica Villalobos. Many agencies will still look to HACU for your expertise in reaching the Hispanic Community and attracting top talent.

The new public notice requirement for internships doesn't change this – it makes internship programs easier to find – for all potential interns.

We believe this is a piece of our shared goal – making opportunities more available for all communities.

We've worked so hard to recruit the Hispanic community, and we so value your support, because the Hispanic community has historically and persistently been underrepresented in the Federal government.

Together, we've made gains. Last year, 8.1% of Federal new hires were Hispanic. That means that once again, the share of Hispanic employees in the Federal workforce is increasing – about 4,000 more Hispanic people are working for the government than the year before. We've seen a more dramatic jump in our new Senior Executive Service – in Federal leadership positions – where Hispanics doubled as a share of new hires, from 2.7% last year to 5.4% this year.

That's good progress. But I think we can do better. I think we must do better.

And here's why:

Diversity is not just a bonus feature for the Federal government. It's an essential feature.

First, because we only get the creative, innovative ideas that we need to meet the challenges of this century when we mix together people of different backgrounds, ages, occupations, and get the full benefit of their differing experiences and perspectives.

And second, diversity matters because we only get the best talent our nation has to offer when we recruit and include every talent pool our nation has to offer – from our Veterans community, our Hispanic American community, our urban and our rural communities, from North, East, South and West. If we leave any community out of our recruitment, then we're leaving talent on the table.

And make no mistake, we're not just focused on recruitment. We know that we only get the full benefit of diversity and inclusion if it is present throughout the ranks - in the field, at headquarters and in senior management.

I believe we must capitalize on the potential of every Federal worker by cultivating an inclusive environment in our workplaces, and connecting each worker to their agency's mission. Every employee should know they are connected to their organization; should have the opportunity to develop to their full potential and should be able to share the unique aspects of their experience.

We're proud to partner with LULAC, NOMAR, and NAHFE to build leadership development programs that help cultivate future Hispanic leaders throughout the Federal government. We hope these development programs will not only open doors to Hispanic workers, but will help us build the diverse and inclusive environment we need. We expect we'll get better leadership for our workforce and better services for the American people.

Today, we often think of diversity as a concept born in the 1960s.

But think about it.

The oldest continuously inhabited European-founded city in the United States is St. Augustine, Florida. It was founded 450 years ago, by Spanish explorers.

David Farragut, son of a Spanish merchant, enrolled in the U.S. Navy in 1810 – at age nine. He captained a captured ship in the war of 1812, just two years later. By 1862, he'd worked his way up from the lowest position in the Navy to the very highest, becoming our Nation's first-ever Rear Admiral. Even today we remember his courageous command: "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!"

In 1863, Corporal Joseph H. De Castro carried the Massachusetts flag into battle at Gettysburg. With only the flagpole as his weapon, he struck down opponents amidst the onslaught of Pickett's charge, and became the first Hispanic American awarded the Medal of Honor.

In 1883, the world's longest suspension bridge opened, taller than any building in the Western hemisphere. It was the Brooklyn Bridge, an engineering marvel capably managed through construction to completion by Emily Roebling, who was, by the way, a woman.

The Moon Shot: The average age in Neil Armstrong's mission control room in Houston? 26.

Diversity made America, innovation made America, they continue to make America, and they continue to make it great.

All these examples – each of these amazing accomplishments – came in times when we said 'no' to diversity, often in times when we were hostile to divergent thought. Think of what we can accomplish when we embrace diversity. When we build on our differences rather than boot them.

I look at this audience – I see a future that is better and brighter than we have seen before. Because there is no challenge we cannot meet when we unleash the full potential of the American spirit.

Diverse. Inclusive. Innovative. Accepting. Great.

That it is the America of tomorrow.

Thank you, God Bless you, and God Bless the United States of America.

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