Our Secret Weapon

Telepathology equipment at the Veterans Hospital in Milwaukee rivals the sick bay on Star Trek's Enterprise. But, the real reason the vets get world-class care there is Dr. Bruce Dunn. Dr. Dunn thinks we owe veterans a debt that can never quite be repaid. His research to get vets the best pathology on the planet sets the scales a bit closer to balance.

Helen Wassick went to work part-time in the Morgantown office of the Forest Service in a program that employs seniors at minimum wage. Her office sends out publications all over the country on tree management. Helen prides herself on not giving up on a request until she gets an answer. She says, "I treat people the way I want to be treated." And when the Forest Service started giving comment cards to customers, Helen wrote her own name on the cards. Hundreds of customers told the Forest Service that Helen is the greatest. So now Helen's on the payroll full-time serving customers.

George Hawkins works for EPA in Boston. He used to practice law at Ropes and Gray for more money, and he had a lot less fun. George is the champion in EPA's Boston office for EPA efforts to build partnerships with companies and communities that want to protect the environment. George thinks that this is the future of environmental protection and that building that future is worth doing. He'll tell anyone who will listen. In fact, he wrote 1,000 letters to businesses and towns offering to come and explain the partnership programs. He got a lot of takers. True to his pledge he has made 150 visits so far this year.

Bruce, Helen, and George all have something in common. A big part of why these people work for government is that they want to make a contribution, to add value, to serve. They brag about it too, over a back fence or at a soccer game. Federal employees haven't done much of that for years. But, in offices where reinvention has begun, the employee teams are inspired by the idea of finding ways to change the system so it serves Americans again.

This motivation is a potent force, a kind of pure energy source for change that has been bottled up. Reinvention turns it loose. The government is filled with good people like Bruce, Helen, and George -- and don't forget Tommy Roland. The problem is that for years we have kept these good people trapped in bad systems. We are changing the systems so all our people can devote more of their time, intelligence, and energy to what they signed up for in the first place -- serving the people of America.

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