Message from Your SEA President
One of the lessons learned from the 2016 Presidential campaign is that a significant portion of the American population does not have a full understanding of the benefits they receive from the Federal government and do not know about the critical role that civil servants play in their communities and their lives.
In some respects, this is understandable given the magnitude of the impact that the Federal government has on the Nation. There are 2.6 million civil servants, who comprise only 1.6% of the U.S. workforce (160 million workers), but that small group of highly skilled workers administers a $3.8 trillion budget that comprises 21% of the Nation’s GDP ($18 trillion). These are vast numbers and few people can wrap their heads around the scope of the Federal government’s reach into the lives of all Americans on a daily basis through direct services (post office, social security checks) and indirect services (national security, clean air/water).
But this lack of understanding has real consequences in terms of public attitudes toward the Federal government in general, and the civil service in particular. Civil servants get little of the credit when things go right, but much of the blame when things go wrong. Over a long period of time, this shapes public perceptions and not in a good way.
We’ve come a long way from the time when President Kennedy issued his clarion call for public service (“Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”) to a time when the nobility and purpose of public service is being called into question by many.
I believe that career senior executives in the Federal government should be the tip of the spear when it comes to shaping public attitudes about the role of the Federal government and the incredible work that civil servants do on a daily basis for the Nation. Senior executives are often leaders in their communities and churches, and have influence with their local press and local government leaders.
The Senior Executives Association is working to help Federal leaders re-shape public attitudes in many ways. We are:
- Working with OMB, OPM, the Hill and the new Administration to increase knowledge about the role that civil servants play in the accomplishment of vital national missions.
- Establishing partnerships with key thought leaders who will amplify our message and help us better explain the important role that senior executives play in the daily lives of all Americans.
- Creating Communities of Practice and SEA Chapters to enable SEA’s members to come together to learn about key issues affecting the Federal government and how career leaders can be the part of constructive and positive solutions.
SEA’s Board of Directors has approved a new Strategic Direction for SEA that will create the foundation for a long-term campaign by SEA to return to JFK’s ideals of public service. As President Kennedy said:
In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility — I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it — and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.
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