Monday, July 25, 2011

"Separating The Value of Public Service From The Politics"

The root of why I decided to take up writing (publicly) again was my belief in the value of public service, that maybe, just maybe, I might have some insights worthy of sharing from my day to day slog as a Federal employee. While surely not as exciting or as inspirational as some of my more memorable writings as a Peace Corps volunteer (such as this one or this one), life in the hallowed halls of government is equally as important. 

Not a whole lot happening in Washington, D.C. right now

But, it's a tough time to be a in any sort of public service right now, not just in Washington, but across the country. Recognizing this, a major personality in the Federal hierarchy recently published a commentary that perfectly captures the upside of why I am here in D.C., while expressing many of the same frustrations I feel in my day to day work. Admiral Thad Allen, former Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard and leader of the federal response to both Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf oil spill, wrote this essay through the Partnership for Public Service In it, Admiral Allen makes the important point that, "In the current political climate and discourse over the national debt, we have done a poor job of distinguishing between the need for fiscal responsibility and the value of public service, which is enduring."

I agree with Admiral Allen, and having met him in person, I know that he does not spend his words or his time  lightly. He quotes the ultimate service oriented idol, President John F. Kennedy, as saying, "The success of this government, and thus the success of our nation, depends in the last analysis upon the quality of our career services."  It is in crafting those "last analysis" that I find my passion and my purpose. When I am working to balance protection of sensitive Arctic environments alongside economic interests or when I was working in support of international efforts on the ozone layer, the politics of Capitol Hill are/were not even a concern. But, Capitol Hill ultimate holds the power to make the work I do possible, by holding the rule book and the check book.

So now, a difficult discussion is taking place between Congressional leaders on both sides aisle and the White House about debt, spending, and tax policy ideology. Meanwhile, Federal employees continue to show up for work and commit the same level of energy that they do everyday (unless of course you work for the FAA, in which case the fight in Congress is directly affecting your ability to do your job right now). Rather than being pointed to as the problem in Washington, it would be very nice if our leaders recognized the hard work and dedication of its public servants.

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