08/20/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Appreciating Our Federal Workers

While shopping at my local supermarket this weekend, I pulled a few extra items into my cart to bring into work this morning for our Feds Feed Families food drive. The drive is a new effort by our Federal government to combat hunger in our local communities at a time when many children don't have access to school nutrition programs during these summer months. All across our government, Federal workers have brought in extra food by the tons - so much so that it has required the mobilization of military units to transport it to local food banks.

The Feds Feed Families food drive is doing more than just combating hunger in our local communities. It is part of a larger vision that is reshaping our government in a dramatic way. Let me take a step back and explain how.

When I joined this Administration, President Obama entrusted me with the awesome responsibility of transforming our Federal government into a 21st Century workforce. To that end, that responsibility requires us to think differently, look for unique solutions, and inspire the innovation and talents of our civil servants.

You might not realize how government workers have improved your own life. Federal employees have contributed to the development of the HPV cancer vaccine, the creation of safer automobiles and airways; they have placed a man on the moon, stopped diseases from advancing across our borders and delivered crucial medicine and clean water to developing communities throughout the world. Indeed, in the past decade over 2,000 of our Federal civilian employees have lost their lives in service to our nation. That is sacrifice that deserves to be supported.

To support a 21st Century workforce, we must look for new approaches that inspire and foster the talent of Federal employees. Earlier this summer, the First Lady initiated the "United We Serve" effort to encourage Americans to give back to their local communities through volunteering. Heeding her call, the Office of Personnel Management launched the Feds Feed Families volunteer food drive to not only support the First Lady's initiative, but to amplify the sense of civic service among Federal workers. You wouldn't believe how tremendous the response has been.

Look, a food drive alone won't cure cancer. It is just a small component of this Administration's approach to restoring support and inspiration for Federal employees. But, it is part of a larger vision that is helping to reshape our government and support Federal employees - like those employees who are looking for cancer cures.

This is all part of a new way of thinking that is improving the product of the Federal workplace. As donations have piled up during our food drive, we have seen greater workplace enthusiasm across the government and increased communication between Federal workers and management. The excitement of Federal workers for Feds Feed Families has translated to a renewed enthusiasm for our larger calling. That inspiration is crucial as we continue our search for cancer cures, combat terrorism and secure safer workplaces and smarter schools.

Programs like Feds Feed Families are individual component parts of a larger support structure that is reshaping our government to create positive change. You can offer your support too. If you work in the private sector, make sure you thank the civil servants you know the next time you see them. They really are working hard for you.