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As one of my favorite weeks of the year comes to a close, I’d like to reflect on how we honored our incredible Federal employees through Public Service Recognition Week. One of my goals as OPM Director is to make sure we recognize our Federal workforce each and every day. But it is especially important to set aside a week each year to thank our public servants for their dedication to the American people.
Every PSRW is unique and special, and this year was no exception. The week began with a Presidential Proclamation announcing the observance of PSRW. In his proclamation, the President reminds us that, “Public service is a calling which has meant so much to so many. It embodies our sense of shared values and reflects our drive to serve a cause beyond our own -- to give back to our nation, leave our mark, and nudge history forward. There is no greater opportunity to help more people or to make a bigger difference.”
To acknowledge this opportunity, we launched the #HonorTheOath campaign. This collaboration with a group of Excellence in Government fellows invites Federal employees to reflect on the oath that they take on their first day on the job. I encourage you to visit opm.gov/oath to see how employees honor the oath of office each day through serving the American people.
Across the Federal Government, agencies took the time to thank and recognize their employees. Here at OPM, we had a fantastic week of celebrations. We cheered at the Washington Nationals “Salute to Public Service” game, focused on health and wellness with a nutrition seminar and fitness walk to the Washington monument, highlighted employee resources at an information fair, and hosted a mentoring roundtable. We also used social media to honor our Federal family, including Federal retirees, veterans who have
transitioned to civil service, and Federal employees who have fallen
while serving the American people.
I was especially delighted to present our OPM Director’s Awards at a special town hall. More than 600 employees were singled-out by their peers. Our winners remind me of how privileged I am to work with so many talented and passionate individuals.
Employee engagement is one of the foundations of the Recruitment, Engagement, Diversity, and Inclusion – or REDI – strategy that guides our work at OPM. Through events like PSRW, I want to make sure that our Federal workforce knows that their voices are heard and that their experiences matter. Each employee has an important role to play, and I embrace the challenge of helping workers rise to every opportunity.
One week is simply not enough time to fully celebrate the passion that Federal employees bring to their jobs, or the impact that they have on the lives of every American. I hope that PSRW is just the start of an ongoing conversation about the vital contributions of each member of America’s workforce.
Federal service is public service. That’s easy to forget sometimes because so much of what Federal employees do goes on behind the scenes. But America’s workforce affects every American every day.
Each day, all across this country, many Americans are fortunate to wake up in a society where they have clean water to drink, safe food to eat, beautiful parks, affordable and quality health care, and a growing economy.
Providing these and countless other services to the American people requires a Federal workforce that is talented, well-trained, and engaged in the workplace, is led by executives who inspire and motivate, and draws from the rich diversity of the people it serves.
The President is committed to supporting the model Federal workforce. In his proclamation on Public Service Recognition Week, the President said:
“In the face of difficult challenges, public servants give new life to the values that bind our Nation together. Civil servants are scientists and teachers, social workers and first responders -- they are the leaders of today's progress and the innovators of tomorrow's breakthroughs. With determination and resolve, they defend our country overseas and work to widen the circle of opportunity and prosperity here at home. And despite tough circumstances -- including pay freezes, budget cuts, sequestration, and a political climate that too often does not sufficiently value their work -- these exceptional leaders continue to make real the fundamental truth that people who love their country can change it.
With more than 2 million civilian workers and more than 1 million active duty service members, our Federal workforce represents extraordinary possibility. Our Government can and must be a force for good, and together, we can make sure our democracy works for all Americans. We know there are some things we do better when we join in common purpose, and with hard work and a commitment worthy of our Nation's potential, we can keep our country safe, guarantee basic security, and ensure everyone has a shot at success.“
We could not agree more. Federal service attracts people who are passionate about what they do. The mission of their agencies and their commitment to serving the American people are what drives them. And they come from – and work in – every corner of the country, reflecting the rich diversity and talent of this great country.
From the recent college graduate to the mid-career professional to the soon-to-be retiree, our employees are here to make a difference and to serve their country.
As we kick off Public Service Recognition Week, we hope you’ll take a moment to reflect on how America’s Federal workforce makes your life better each and every day. And we hope you’ll join the President in recognizing the hard work and dedication of our nation’s public servants. They deserve our gratitude and appreciation.
Katherine Archuleta is the Director of the Office of Personnel Management.
Beth Cobert is the Deputy Director for Management at the White House Office of Management and Budget.
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.
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.
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.
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