Everyone by now has heard this phrase popularized most recently by Donald Trump when running for president. This post is not about Trump, however. It’s about that swamp. The “swamp” that so many Americans, out of ignorance, love to hate.
You likely wouldn’t recognize the denizens of the swamp if you passed them on the street. With very few exceptions, they’re not Hollywood material and don’t appear in movies or television. But if you’re alive and reading this, it’s likely due to their work, the work that goes largely unrecognized outside the government itself.
Unknown most likely to most of the country, the extraordinary work of federal employees is recognized annually by the Partnership for Public Service with the presentation of the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals. Mr. Heyman was the founder of the Partnership. In keeping with America’s attachment to award presentations, the “Sammies” are delivered in a black-tie award dinner every year in Washington (virtually during pandemics), much like the Oscars – with award announcements by notable presenters, acceptance speeches and all the rest. But, thankfully, there are no musical numbers or unpleasant comedians running the show.
No, the Sammy awards are serious business, although the dinner, rightly so, can be something of an extravaganza. https://servicetoamericamedals.org/about/ For the most part, it’s an inside-the-Beltway thing, but it shouldn’t be. The contributions these people make to the country and the world deserve national public recognition far more than the “award” shows watched by millions and scorned annually by many. The Sammies are cut from different cloth and it’s a shame that they are not recognized for the ways these people contribute to the progress of our lives.
I was moved to produce this post by the 2021 award for Federal Employee of the Year, shared by two swamp workers to whom you likely owe your life and that of your loved ones, at least if you are vaccinated. The awards went to Kizzmekia S. Corbett, Ph.D. And Barney S. Graham, M.D., Ph.D. As explained in more detail in the video at https://bit.ly/3Dekht8, they essentially created the COVID-19 vaccine that has, literally, saved millions of lives around the world.
For the full list of current and past winners/finalists, see https://bit.ly/3FgoDAm. Pay particular attention to the Finalists. Their contributions to public life are beyond exceptional in fields so rich with talent and desire to serve that they were recognized but did not “win.” The real winners, of course, are the American public and in many cases people and ecosystems around the world.
So, the next time you hear someone put down those “federal bureaucrats,” remember the Sammies and the people who earned them. You owe them much more than clichéd derogatory labels.
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