Presidential Rank Awards: Emblematic Leadership in the Federal Government
A year ago, the Senior Executives Association set out to reinvent itself. The end result was an inversion of mission – an intentional decision to move SEA from a role as the voice of the Senior Executive Service to a role in which the SES is the voice of career senior leaders. Because there is no better argument for why career Federal leadership is necessary than to simply highlight what career Federal leadership can achieve when given room to succeed.
SEA is ultimately driven by an aspirational goal: restoring the nobility of public service. Perhaps no President is more associated with the civil service than President John F. Kennedy, who in one speech to Congress, said:
"The success of this Government, and thus the success of our Nation, depends in the last analysis upon the quality of our career services. The legislation enacted by the Congress, as well as the decisions made by me and by the department and agency heads, must all be implemented by the career men and women in the Federal service. In foreign affairs, national defense, science and technology, and a host of other fields, they face problems of unprecedented importance and perplexity. We are all dependent on their sense of loyalty and responsibility as well as their competence and energy."
On December 7th, the Senior Executives Association recognized the 2016 and 2017 recipients of Meritorious and Distinguished Presidential Rank Awards – the highest honor a civilian federal employee can receive.
The awardees we recognized at the event, and with whom those of you who attended the event were socializing throughout the day, included at least two Nobel prize winners; scientists who have revolutionized their respective fields and, indeed, created new ones; career leaders who have made decisions impacting huge swaths of our economy; and heroic members of the Federal law enforcement community who are leading the international effort to combat trafficking and global terrorism. To cite just a few examples.
These Presidential Rank Award honorees represent every possible facet of leadership. Leadership within complex agencies. Leadership in the community. Leadership in times of crisis. And leadership dedicated to confronting every single challenge facing our nation and the international community.
This is the impact of career leadership. And it’s what we at the Senior Executives Association mean when we discuss the importance of cultivating leaders and the importance of a relentless focus on public service excellence.
Truly, these Presidential Rank Award winners are emblematic of Kennedy’s appeal that the “public service be a proud and lively career” and that “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.’”
Thank you to those who attended and otherwise supported this year’s event. This year marked the first-ever expansion of the Presidential Rank Awards from a small-scale awards ceremony into a day-long event focused on not merely honoring PRA winners, but on learning the lessons of leadership underlying their incredible accomplishments. We look forward to more great programming in the coming year and encourage you to get involved in our continued growth as we carry the torch for senior executives across the federal government.
Wishing you a happy holiday season and a safe and prosperous 2018.