Address By
Vice President Al Gore at the Public Service Recognition Week
Opening Ceremonies
May 4, 1995


MR. SHAW: Okay, please be seated. Ladies and gentlemen, it is my honor and privilege today to present to you the Vice President of the United States, accompanied by Doc Cook, who is the director of administration and management, Office of the
Secretary of Defense. (Applause.)

MR. COOK: Please be seated, and welcome to the National Mall celebration of Public Service Recognition Week. You know, public service has many faces, the __________ who serve in government, live and work in every town, in every state in America.
They're park rangers and they're police officers, teachers, museum curators, they're cancer researchers, astronauts. The work of public employees touches each of our lives every single day. We don't think about what our public servants do until something happens to shatter that complacency. The savage bombing in Oklahoma City was such an occurrence. Public servants bore the brunt of that attack. Sometimes from tragedy comes clarity. America got a clearer picture of who their public servants are and
what they do. They saw real people who do important work, day in and day out, on behalf of all Americans. Among those who died were men and women
who helped retired people get their Social Security checks, who certify the safety of our highways, who help our veterans get well and adjust to civilian life, and find talented young people to join our armed forces. And the men and women who jumped to
the rescue and worked around the clock to solve this crime. The firefighters, the police, FBI, the National Guard and others, they're public servants too.

Department of Defense personnel and units replied, responded to the cry of help in Oklahoma City. There were blast effect engineers, search and rescue squads, canine units and casualty assistance teams. They came from nearby installations in Oklahoma
and as far away as from Virginia and Florida. They brought cargo planes full of clothing, medical supplies, rescue equipment, and even shower stalls for the rescue workers.

Now, my thoughts of public service week go back to nine years ago on this mall. We started small. The first year there were four cities that had celebrations. Since that small beginning the idea has snowballed. Last year there were over a thousand ceremonies in locations across the United States and overseas at bases and embassies. We expect more this year. But on the mall nine years go it was raining and raining hard. We stood in a
temporary trailer shelter. Not much shelter, but there it was, and there were a handful of hardy, dedicated souls in the audience standing under umbrellas. We invited them, we said, "Come on up on the stage and sit with us. There's plenty of room."

There were also a handful of exhibits.

But we did have a grander vision for the future. We hoped that some day there would be over 60 exhibits on the mall, representing the range and scope of government services. Today there are more than 60 exhibits. Some day we hoped that the President or
the Vice President would stand at this podium to address the nation on the value and importance of public service. We're proud to say that today this too has come to pass. Our principal speaker is Vice President Gore.

I have no intention of reviewing the Vice President's biography, his Vietnam service, his
career in the House and Senate, but there's one fact that stands out as we celebrate Public Service Recognition Week. When President Clinton resolved to make the government work better, cost less, he turned to Vice President Gore to get the job done. The Vice President turned to the career public servants who know the government best, who know what works and what doesn't and how things ought to be changed.

Mr. Vice President, thank you for involving us in public service recognition.

MR. COOK: One last note before the Vice President speaks, he's got a noon meeting with the President, so he'll have to leave. Please remain in your seats at the conclusion of the speech so that we can introduce you to the rest of the distinguished platform guests and our opening ceremony may continue. I understand the Montgomery Urban Rescue
Squad is going to leave to meet a returning comrade from out at Dulles as soon as his speech is over, so they'll be leaving too. We welcome them.

Without further ado, please join me in welcoming

Vice President Gore.


VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Thank you very much, Doc. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much. I really do appreciate that warm welcome, and
Doc, Doc Cook, thank you for your warm words of introduction and also for your leadership in helping our country recognize public service. We appreciate
the mighty hard work that you put into this each year and the mighty hard work that you give to our country and our people every other day of the year. I want to also acknowledge Jerry Shaw, Chairman of the Public Employees Roundtable, and may I say a special word of recognition to some of my colleagues in the administration who are up here: Margaret Richardson, Peggy Richardson, Commissioner of the IRS; Administrator Roger Johnson of GSA; Director of OPM, Jim King; John Koskinen, Deputy Director of
OMB, who works with the President's Management Council, will be here shortly; Mary Ellen Withrow, U.S. Treasurer, and other distinguished guests, Elaine Kamarck with the reinventing government effort.

And also, I want to acknowledge, even though Doc mentioned they will be greeting a returning comrade, I want to mention the local rescue workers from Montgomery County and Virginia Beach and FEMA. We deeply admire and appreciate what you all did in
Oklahoma City under difficult circumstances. Thank you.

VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Everybody behind you was giving you a standing ovation there.

VICE PRESIDENT GORE: And also, I want to thank the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps. As often as we have foreign dignitaries coming to the White House and
getting the formal greeting, we almost never have an opportunity to say to all the folks who participate in that thank you very much, but today's the time when we can thank everybody who does the work for the public. We thank you too.

VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Also, I want to thank all of the federal, state, and local government employees all across our country who have taken time from their day to watch us. You all should know that, even though you're participating by means of the
satellite hookup, I feel as though you are with us right here on the Mall in Washington. You are as much a part of this celebration as if you were sitting here in front of the podium, right here. And in fact, you are seeing us on our very first interagency television satellite hookup. We're making this program available to over 1,000 locations. These are at federal and local government offices all across American, from Bangor,

Maine, to San Diego, from Seattle to Sarasota to San Juan and all points in between.
You know, it was a long time ago that I received the invitation to come here and decided that I definitely wanted to join you in opening Public Service Recognition Week, and when I first received the invitation, I planned to speak once again to Americans in public service, as I have had the opportunity and privilege of doing often in the past, about the central role that all of you have played and continue to play in President Clinton's
efforts and my efforts to reinvent government, to create a government that works better and costs less and empowers employees and listens to their ideas and puts those ideas into effect.

We have made great progress together, I'm proud of it, and we've got a long way to go, but we have gained a great deal of momentum. In ordinary times I would spend today talking about some of the thousands of workers who, day in and day out, are transforming the face of government and accomplishing the same kinds of changes that the best managed private companies are accomplishing by listening to their employees. Somebody said to me when I began the reinventing government effort that the definition of a consultant in private industry is somebody who walks around the factory floor and listens to what the employees are saying and then charges the boss to tell him what they're saying.

And we did adopt that philosophy in the federal government, to listen directly to federal employees who have been thinking for years and years about what's wrong and how it can be fixed, and if they are trusted and given the ability to really share their ideas without having the fear they're going to get their heads chopped off if they stick their necks out, then the ideas really flow out and they're great ideas.

And I would have spent most of my time talking about a lot of those ideas. We would have laughed together as we have in the past about some of the sillier things that you have pointed out to us. We would talk about the difficulty of change, the enormity of the job, the time required to really do it well, and the importance of serving the citizens
of this great country.

But these are not ordinary times because a lot of things changed two weeks ago when that bomb ripped through the federal building in Oklahoma City.

Those who were targeted -- targeted -- and those who were killed were public servants like you, people who have dedicated their lives to public service. Thus, in the wake of this great tragedy, I believe it is right and fitting that we use this week to remember that, contrary to the heated rhetoric of hate mongers, actually in a great democracy there is
no difference between the people and the government. Our government is our people. We are a self-government. The federal workers in Oklahoma City were planning to celebrate Public Service Recognition Week also. They already had their plans
well under way. They have postponed that event.

They are, amazingly enough, already getting back to work, pitching in, helping one another, receiving in gratitude the cooperation and help they've received from fellow federal employees all across America. Agencies in other buildings around that city have
opened their hearts and their doors to give the survivors a place to work, and most of the survivors are already back at work. They're grieving, but they're back at work.

Their work and your work is government work, a term that is all too often disparaged, but in a free society where the people rule, another term for government work is America's work. It's the way we, as Americans, can work together through the institution of self government.

And so, in the midst of this tragedy, let us createa victory from the shattered lives and heroic acts of our public servants, and let our victory be this, that we are a nation of the people, by the people, and for the people, and we will remain so, people. People like Richard Allen at the Social Security office who was helping elderly Americans to the
ignity earned by a lifetime of hard work. People like Susan Ferrell, a young attorney with HUD, who was helping less fortunate Americans keep a roof over their heads. People like Army Sergeant William Titsworth, who had committed his life to defending our homeland whenever and wherever he was called. He, his wife, Chrissy, and their three year old daughter, Kayla, were all there in the Murrah Building, reporting in for their new assignment in Oklahoma.

They were Americans, every one, just like Americans everywhere. Americans in public service are the government of our country. The great strength of this nation has
been and always will be that we do not need violence fueled by hate to change the policies and the practices and the laws of government. When change is needed, as it often is, we change with our ideas. We bring change with our voices and with our votes.
No one understands this and respects this better than those of you who have dedicated your lives to public service. When your fellow Americans told you the government was getting too big and it wasn't as responsive as it should be, you said, "We've known
that for years." You joined President Clinton and me in the most far reaching reform effort that the modern government has ever undertaken. Many of you have put your own jobs at risk as you've lived up to our challenge to think about the very best way to
deliver a government that works better and costs less. The working men and women in the federal government and their colleagues in state and local government all across this nation are not enemies of the people, as some on the fringe would have us believe; they are the people. You are the people who make up this great nation.

Too many have forgotten that. Too many have come to think of the American government as some faceless power aligned against Americans. Too many have
talked that way and too many have listened. Well, I don't know how you feel, but I've had it with that kind of talk. The people of this country are the government of this country. (Applause.)

VICE PRESIDENT GORE: The people who make those claims are wrong. And let us remember today that government workers, Americans in public service, were the people who rushed into the wreckage to rescue men, women and children, even at the risk of their own injury or death. They were willing to run the risk of laying down their lives to help us, to help our country. Government workers remained on the scene for endless, heartbreaking days, helping families bring closure to a terrible tragedy so that
healing could, God willing, begin. Some of those same public servants, as I mentioned earlier, are with us today, and in saluting you for your heroism and your difficult labors, we salute all of those who participated in the rescue operation.

Government workers, Americans in public service, are also the men and women who are hunting down the villains of this catastrophe to bring them to justice. Their tremendous work under way right now assures us that this evil will be punished.

VICE PRESIDENT GORE: And the final irony of what happened in Oklahoma City is that those who have been aptly described by President Clinton as the evil cowards who planted the bomb and committed mass murder and then tried to run and hide were
attempting to strike a blow at our self government, and in so doing, somehow loosened the bonds among Americans that hold us together as the great nation we are. And yet, even though that was their intent, what they actually accomplished was very different.
They accomplished two things. First, they accomplished an act of unspeakable evil that has outraged Americans throughout our land, and secondly, instead of loosening the bonds that hold us together as Americans, they created a tremendous outpouring of patriotism and pride in country and rededication to the principles of this nation that bind us together more strongly than ever before, and we have that as our answer to them.

VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Americans in public service will do whatever can be done to prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again. We will heighten our vigilance, strengthen our laws and marshal our resources to keep our citizens safe. At the same
time, we will continue the successful effort that we began almost two years ago to make government more responsive to the people we serve.

So I want to thank all Americans in public service today. On behalf of President Clinton and on behalf of the people of the United States of America, you are us, we are you. We love this country and we thank you for serving this country and making America what it is. Thank you very much.

MR. SHAW: Mr. Vice President, on behalf of the Public Employees Roundtable and the Americans in Service to the United States, I'd like to present you with this tee shirt of Public Service Recognition Week and I hope you get a chance to wear it jogging

VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Very nice. Thank you very much.

NPR Home Page Search the NPR Site NPR Initiatives Site Index Calendar Comments Awards Links Tools Frequently Asked Questions Speeches News Releases Library Navigation Bar For NPR site