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Much Good is Done by Government Workers

Max Stier | Partnership for Public Service

Anti-government sentiment has been prevalent across the country, fueled in part by the acrimonious health-care debate, anger over the Wall Street and auto industry bailouts, anxiety over high unemployment rates, and worry over increased spending and ballooning budget deficits.

These feelings of distrust and resentment, seen in public opinion polls, vocal town hall meetings this past summer and during various demonstrations, have been stoked by provocative television and radio commentators, bloggers, and by some politicians who seem to take pleasure caricaturing public servants as faceless, uncaring “bureaucrats.” Lost amid the emotion and the inflammatory rhetoric is what our government and its dedicated public servants accomplish every day — the delivery of vital services and the creation of innovative programs to deal with some of the nation’s most serious and seemingly intractable problems.

There are countess success stories of unheralded federal workers making a big difference in the lives of Americans.

This op-ed published October 8, 2009 at the Modesto Bee

Take the issue of veteran’s care. Janet Kemp, a dedicated public servant in Canandaigua, N.Y., created the Department of Veterans Affairs’ first-ever national suicide prevention hotline. The 24-hour, seven-day- a-week service has handled more than 160,000 calls in the last two years and helped rescue more than 5,000 callers from suicidal situations.

In one case, a soldier deployed in Iraq put a gun to his head and threatened suicide while talking to his mother during an online video chat. The mother called the hotline, the staff contacted his unit, and she watched as authorities saved her son’s life.

Don Burke and Sean P. Dennehy, both CIA analysts at the agency’s headquarters in Virginia, worked tirelessly to break down cultural barriers that have prevented information sharing across our nation’s 16 intelligence agencies. They built Intellipedia, a Wikipedia- like clearinghouse of intelligence expertise that now has more than 900,000 pages and 100,000 users.

Analysts have used Intellipedia to examine potential threats to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, to argue about potential perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, and to create a protocol for documenting cases of improvised explosive devices in Iraq.

Thomas Waldmann has spent five decades working on behalf of the American people at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., making cutting- edge discoveries that have led to significant advances in the treatment of cancer, AIDS and multiple sclerosis.


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