Friday, September 8, 2017

I had the privilege of working in three presidential administrations.  One of my best memories is working with talented and dedicated government workers, both career and political, who believed in public service. The civil servants were the smartest people that I ever worked with.  The majority of political appointees hoped to make a contribution.  We have lost much in the mindless denigration of these hardworking people.  Of course, not all of them were oustanding performers and sometimes the government made mistakes, but attracting, using and appreciating the best and the brightest in government should still be a national goal.

Things were different a half-century ago.  We all recall President Kennedy’s soaring Inaugural Address, a citizen’s call to arms.  But fewer know of first State of the Union address, only ten days after inauguration, in which he said, “Let the public service be a proud and lively career.  And let every man and woman who works in any area of our national government, in any branch, at any level, be able to say with pride and with honor in future years:  ‘I served the United States government in that hour of our nation’s need.’”

And he said, “Let it be clear that this Administration recognizes the value of dissent and daring—that we greet healthy controversy as the hallmark of healthy change.”  These are insightful words from a President who understood the value of inspiration as part of leadership.

 Photograph is of the President Kennedy arriving at the U.S. Capitol to deliver his State of the Union Address, January 30, 1961.  Credit: Abbie Rowe.  White House Photographs.  John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

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