Praise isn't why federal employees go to work every day.
A Pew Research Center poll released last month revealed that only 17% of Americans believe they can trust the federal government to do what is right, a historic low and a troubling sign that citizens do not believe the government is meeting their needs and concerns.
Unfortunately, confidence in our government has been eroding for decades, fueled by controversial wars, scandals, economic problems, the inability to deal with serious national issues and the extreme partisanship and political gridlock as we are experiencing today.
While the discontent is real, the public either does not know about or overlooks significant work going on behind-the-scenes every day by our nation’s civil servants, individuals who care for veterans and assist Americans in need, keep us safe, engage in cutting-edge scientific and medical research, and advance our national interest.
As we celebrate Public Service Recognition Week from May 5 to May 11, it is a good time to reflect on some of the outstanding accomplishments of these federal civil servants that do not draw headlines but affect our lives in many important ways.
For example, there’s Arthur A. Allen, an oceanographer with the Coast Guard who pioneered and perfected a modeling program that predicts where people lost at sea will be found, cutting search and rescue times and saving thousands of lives. At the Veterans Affairs Department, Dr. Ann McKee has revolutionized our understanding of the long-term effects of concussions, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, in veterans and athletes.
Robert Cabana, a former astronaut, and his team at NASA have transformed the historic Kennedy Space Center during the past decade into a globally distinguished, multiuser launch site for government and commercial space exploration, helping preserve our country’s leadership in this important field.
Then there’s Dr. Daniel B. Jernigan of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who has led our government’s response to dozens of disease crises such as ebola, SARS and West Nile virus while greatly improving our country’s ability to identify, prepare for and respond to the yearly influenza outbreak and the possibility of a flu pandemic. And at the National Weather Service, Jamie Rhome created a new forecasting model and warning system that more accurately predicts the deadly storm surge caused by hurricanes, saving lives by alerting residents sooner of the approaching danger.
These are just a handful of hundreds of thousands of outstanding federal employees who have dedicated themselves to the public good. Their stories are not isolated cases, but examples of the people of our government whose accomplishments take place every day without fanfare and to the benefit of the American public.
The outstanding employees cited here, like so many others in government, have answered the call to serve our nation and have placed public service over personal gain. They are the dedicated civil servants working in the best interests of the American people, and they deserve our support, our thanks and our trust.
Max Stier is the president and CEO of the nonpartisan, nonprofit Partnership for Public Service.