Tom Fox is a guest writer for On Leadership and vice president for leadership and innovation at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service. He also heads up their Center for Government Leadership.
Can you remember the exact moment you chose to go into public service?
Bill Corr, the deputy secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), asked that question earlier this month to 75 graduates of a leadership training and development program run by the Center for Government Leadership.
Speaking to the group of GS-14s and GS-15s, Corr talked about the important role played by career civil servants, the challenges and obstacles they face, and the opportunities available to be innovative and serve the nation.
Corr said he signed up for government service because he wanted to help people, and knew those in the room felt the same way. His passion and message hit home for the graduating class, and served as a strong reminder that working for the government is not just about getting a paycheck, but about the mission and making a difference.
Below are excerpts from Corr's remarks to the graduates:
"I've been in government long enough to know that as GS-14s and GS-15s your effectiveness can determine whether our government succeeds and whether it meets its obligation to the public. While the political appointees help determine which direction we go in, it's up to the career leaders to actually get us there. As leaders in the civil service, you set the tone for thousands of employees who look to you for guidance and inspiration. You are the key to whether our government does a good job for our people, and that is a lofty responsibility.
Public service has never faced as stern a test as it does today. People are watching our government, and with this challenge comes an opportunity. People are thirsty for quality government. They want to be reminded of that distinctly American feeling that theirs is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, a government that works for them. They want leaders like you who stand up and make our government stand out.