Honoring Our Nation’s Finest Federal Employees

From investigating crooks who swindle Americans out of their retirement savings to helping the terminally and seriously ill get the benefits they’ve earned quickly, federal employees work hard each and every day to serve the American people.  This past Thursday, 34 great Federal workers and teams were honored as finalists for the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal; there were nine winners.  Sponsored by the non-profit Partnership for Public Service and at no cost to the taxpayers, the “Sammies,” as they’re known, recognize the outstanding achievements of Federal workers.  They do some amazing things that you really need to hear about first hand to appreciate.

Along with members of the Cabinet and Congress and other distinguished guests, we had the privilege of meeting them at the awards dinner and learning about their achievements.  Here’s just a sample:

  • A scientist who did the critical analysis that helped end the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • A Justice Department staffer who helps find missing persons – some who have been missing for many years – with an innovative database that brings together information from different states.
  • A NASA team that used their experience sustaining astronauts in space to keep trapped Chilean miners alive deep underground and ultimately rescue them.
  • A Veterans Affairs staffer who has built a network of 300 Vet Centers that help hundreds of thousands of Veterans adjust to civilian life with counseling and job assistance.
  • A radiation researcher who adapted America’s nuclear emergency plans to help Japan respond to the recent nuclear crisis.
  • A doctor called “America’s leading medical detective,” who helps people suffering with diseases so rare, they don’t even have names.

This is just a small taste of what Federal employees do every day to make all of our lives better. Their impact spans the globe and the breadth of the human experience, and the finalists come from all corners of our country.  I hope you’ll take a moment to read through the profiles of this year’s finalists and winnersand be inspired.  We certainly were. 

Their work is hard, it’s urgent work, and at times it’s thankless.  But not on Sammies night.  The Partnership for Public Service does an incredible job putting this event together each year.  They sort through stacks of nominees to find the very best—and it can’t be easy, because so many Federal workers do amazing work every day. 

 Once more, congratulations to the winners, and thanks to the Partnership!

John Berry is the Director of the Office of Personnel Management. Jeff Zients is the Federal Chief Performance Officer and the Deputy Director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget.
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