Wed, May 6, 2020

Video: Public service remains the essential undertaking that brings communities together

Event Recap by Atlantic Council

Civil Society Resilience & Society

Here at the Atlantic Council, we recognize that working to benefit people, prosperity, and peace for all globally requires committed public servants. Being a committed public servant can be especially hard in today’s world that includes increasing polarization in open societies, increasing misinformation, larger challenges of coordination – such as the COVID-19 recovery – and larger challenges of legacy processes that may be misaligned for the needs of our changing world.

This week is Public Service Recognition Week in the United States. To such an end, we want to recognize a program called the Arthur S. Flemming Award, which for 72 years has recognized extraordinary U.S. government employees in the areas of leadership and management, applied science and engineering, biomedical and social science, and legal achievement. For this year’s Public Service Recognition Week, we would like to join the governors of the program, the Flemming Commission, in honoring past and present award winners. Recognized by the President of the United States, agency heads, and the private sector, Flemming awardees have had a profound and lasting influence on and for the good of society.

Arthur S. Flemming himself set the ultimate standard for public service in his decades-long and much-admired career under presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan. He also received two Presidential Medals of Freedom. From his own public service experiences, Flemming inspired the launch this prestigious recognition of talented, impactful, and often unsung, mid-career public servants who are expected to continue to make great contributions to the world. Two former Flemming award winners have described the importance of this recognition to fuel government performance as “standing on the shoulders of giants.”  Notable awardees recognized by the Flemming Commission early in their public sector careers include:

  • Neil Armstrong, Astronaut and first man to walk on the moon
  • John Chancellor, Journalist and former Director of the Voice of America
  • Gene Dodaro, 8th Comptroller General of the United States
  • Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Member of Coronavirus Task Force
  • Robert Gates, former Secretary of Defense and Director of Central Intelligence
  • Mary Elizabeth Hanford (now Elizabeth Dole), former U.S. Senator and Secretary of Labor and Transportation
  • Daniel Patrick Moynihan, former U.S. Senator and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
  • William Phillips, Physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and Nobel laureate in Physics
  • Paul Volcker, Jr., former Chairman of the Federal Reserve

Abigail Adams might have said it best when she wrote to her husband, John Adams, on July 16, 1775:

How difficult the task to quench the fire and the pride of private ambition, and to sacrifice ourselves and all our hopes and expectations to the public weal! How few have souls capable of so noble an undertaking.

IIn an era of increasing turbulence and challenges both local and global, public service remains the essential undertaking that brings communities together in service beyond self. Later this year, the Flemming Commission will recognize the new award winners, to include those who have developed novel diagnostic tools for pathogen detection, improved public accountability capacity worldwide, and created novel treatments for cancer. For now, with Public Service Recognition Week occurring amid a global pandemic, the Atlantic Council GeoTech Center would like to acknowledge and thank past and present Flemming awardees as well as public servants everywhere – to include those working in hospitals, clinics, and other frontline services amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Onwards and upwards together.

gtc hands on table together

Be Benevolent,
Be Bold, and
Be Brave in our challenging times. 

We all can lead. Positive “change agents” — individuals willing to work across sectors and nations to help illuminate better ways through the shared turbulence we are experiencing — are needed now more than ever. We hope you’ll join the good fight against the COVID-19 disruptions alongside us.

How difficult the task to quench the fire and the pride of private ambition, and to sacrifice ourselves and all our hopes and expectations to the public weal! How few have souls capable of so noble an undertaking.

Abigail Adams, July 16, 1775