Washington, D.C.
December 3, 1996

VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. It's a great honor to be with you this evening, and to Susan Berresford, thank you for your leadership. I'm one of many who felt the great pleasure at the announcement, when you assumed the presidency of the Ford Foundation last April. Ms. Berresford has worked at the Foundation for more than twenty-five years, as many of you know, and has helped shaped many of its most important activities: scholarship programs, programs to advance women's rights, community and economic development. Efforts to strengthen government, and many others. And it's a pleasure to be with you this evening.

I want to acknowledge my colleague in President Clinton's Cabinet, Secretary Henry Cisneros, and his Assistant Secretary, Andrew Cuomo. Also among the distinguished guests who are present, include Mayor Debbie Jaramillo, of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Governor -- former Governor Bill Milliken, about whom I'll say a few more words in just a moment.

And I know there are probably all kinds of other distinguished guests, and I just want to ask you to forgive me for not knowing enough to list everybody who should be listed.

This is a wonderful, wonderful occasion. And for those of us who are interested in reinventing government, this is one of the most important events of the entire year, every year. And I want to acknowledge Elaine Kamarck, my Chief of Staff in our Reinventing Government operation in the federal government. We call it our REGO program -- that's "Gore" spells sideways.


VICE PRESIDENT GORE: I've worked hard on this program.


VICE PRESIDENT GORE: The Ford Foundation has so many programs in so many parts of the world, we couldn't even name a small fraction of them. But we can point out that the Foundation's efforts to provide opportunity and justice, and its programs to promote democratic values, are critically important to our American society, and to societies around the world.

The Foundation's work represents a vision that we can all admire and respect, and I'm certain the Ford Foundation will continue to be a very powerful force for helping people and governments contend with some of the world's most pressing problems under its new leadership. And may I also say a special word about the leadership of Bill Milliken, who has chaired the Innovations program's national selection committee from the beginning.

He is retiring from that position this year, and he brought to the position of chair experience resulting from his three terms as Governor of Michigan, a full career in public life, and Ford Foundation trustee. And you list off those titles and experiences and you really don't get the full flavor for the intangibles that he has provided the program, including his deep commitment to the potential of government as a source of strength for the American people, his wisdom about the kinds of programs people need, and his experience with how hard it is for government to accomplish its objectives. All combined with an infectious warmth that embraces everyone who participates in the program.

I've talked to so many who have worked with Bill Milliken, and say that they feel better about themselves and what they're doing when they come under his influence. So thank you very much, Governor Milliken.

And we welcome David Gergen to take his place as chair of this great program. I had the privilege of working with David Gergen in the administration before he returned to the pedestal of bipartisan objectivity --


VICE PRESIDENT GORE: From which position he now dispenses advice evenhandedly to --


VICE PRESIDENT GORE: I see Bill Nelson out here. I'm just realizing there are all kinds of elected officials I haven't recognized, and just, please, forgive me.

But, David, thank you for taking on this challenge, and for your commitment to the values that are recognized and celebrated in this program. I really think it's so important.

Many of you who have worked in organizations, public and private, have learned over the years that men and women who care about what they're doing will work incredibly hard when they realize their work is appreciated. Some of them will do it anyway. But when there is an opportunity to publicly acknowledge and reward excellence, and the highest levels of achievement, it unlocks a higher fraction of human potential.

And of course, the innovations that are recognized in this program come about because of new efforts to unlock human potential. The new changes in organizational theory that swept a lot of the private sector in the business world, and then migrated into government -- slowly, at first, and now we're beginning to see the start of a flood -- I hope. And I do believe.

This change in organizational theory really has come about because of a new understanding of human potential. We were burdened for so long by the ways of thinking and the metaphors that came out of the industrial age. When the idea of the machine convinced us to organize our efforts as if the individuals who worked together were parts in a mechanism, who could most usefully employed doing the same specific thing over and over and over again, without change, until there was some decision made high up the organizational pyramid, and instructions conveyed down through the layers of organization to bring about a change in the specific task.

Then all of a sudden, a few leaders of organizations understood that their greatest asset was the unused creativity and brain power of the men and women in those organizations. And they experimented with new systems to make those individuals understand that their ideas were of value, to enlist them in the effort to share in a mutual effort to create a bigger understanding of what the organization was doing, to use their ideas, and enlist them in the effort to implement their ideas.

And those businesses that use this new approach began to be successful -- more so than their competitors. And a whole generation of management gurus sprang up with phrases like "Theory Z" and "Total Quality Management," and all kinds of other phrases that all referred to the same basic insight: namely, that the individuals in these organizations are smart, and they have brains, and if they can be encouraged to pay attention to what they're doing, and the relationship between what they're doing and what the organization is doing, and if the leaders of those organizations will listen to them and implement their ideas, then the organization as a whole can function in a much more creative way.

There's absolutely no reason whatsoever that these same insights cannot be used successfully in public organizations in government, and they are being used in government. Measure results, not bureaucracy. Empower the individuals in the organization with the same vision, the same values, the same goals that everyone in the organization understands, and then the organization can deal with change when it encounters change at its edge, where change is most often encountered by an organization. And decisions can be made by individuals in roughly the same way that the CEO or the Secretary or the President, or whatever the leader of that organization is called, even if the decision is made by the clerk behind the desk, or the secretary behind the word processor.

But, as circumstances change, the organization must be willing to change quickly. And of course, innovation is at the heart of our American culture, from be-bop to the light bulb, from Pop Art to the World Wide Web. American innovation stems from our faith that a single individual can change the world, and our willingness to work hard day after day and night after night to make our dreams come true. And nowhere in America today is innovation more essential than in government.

Whether the task is to improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods, or enhance our competitive edge in the global economy, whether it's to protect the health of our children, or the healthy of our planet, we desperately need the kind of government that produces better solutions, quicker results, and lighter burdens on the American people.

We know, having experienced in our own individual lives the qualitative difference when we enter a private business that has adopted these new techniques, and compare the experience to the one we have in a business that is still locked in the old ways, the old organization. We know, from seeing it work and seeing its benefit, we know that it can be done in government, and we want -- we, the American people --- want to reward those who are making it happen in government, and we want to spread far and wide the message of your success, so that others will take heart, and emulate what you are doing.

And so tonight, we are honoring innovators who are delivering what was needed by their communities, their states, all of our country, all of the American people. These innovators have delivered government that works better and costs left. And having worked very closely myself with a lot of federal employees who've been involved in this effort, I know how very hard you have all worked, and I have the deepest appreciation for what you have accomplished.

You have somehow overcome an old, outdated culture that's like a summer cold. You think it's gone, and you wake up one morning and it's still there. You just have to keep fighting against people who just don't get it.

One federal employee told me that, "I'm afraid to stick my neck out, because I'll have my head chopped off." Each of you has identical stories, anecdotes, experiences, culled from the experiences of thousands, millions of government employees at various levels in our country who have been afraid to innovate.

Well, tonight, and each year, in this program, we say: "We want you to go forward full speed ahead. We honor you. We appreciate you. And we ask others to follow you."

Your successes go beyond more affordable housing in Santa Fe, new opportunities for the arts in Arlington County nearby, or safer streets in New York. Beyond better health care in Oregon and Florida. Beyond independence from welfare and a cleaner environment in California.

You are having an effect well beyond the boundaries of your programs or your cities and states, because you're helping to restore the faith that most Americans once had, and that too many no longer have. The faith that we can, indeed, redeem the promise of self-government. The faith that we can solve even our greatest national problems by working together through the institutions of representative democracy.

A faith in ourselves, as free citizens of this great nation. A faith that is absolutely critical to the future of our children and grandchildren as we near the cusp of this century.

Restoring that faith is the main reason President Clinton and I put such a high priority on celebrating the successes of innovators like you. As I mentioned, we've been working to reinvent the federal government. When we began, the so-called experts told us it would take at least eight years to completely change the culture of such a huge organization.

The so-called experts were absolutely right.


VICE PRESIDENT GORE: But in the first four years, we really have made great progress. And now with four more years -- ahem.


VICE PRESIDENT GORE: -- we have just barely --


VICE PRESIDENT GORE: -- enough time to finish the job.


VICE PRESIDENT GORE: You notice how David doesn't clap at that line any more.


VICE PRESIDENT GORE: So innovators like you are an enormous help to us. Obviously, some of your new solutions will be adopted by other government managers dealing with similar programs, solutions like the way HUD has switched its focus from red tape to results in community planning, and the way FEMA has used technology to enhance disaster response. Solutions like the constructive regulatory partnership between the Labor Department and the garment industry.

Examples like those are very important for others to follow, but innovators like you are setting an even more important example of a less obvious kind. You set an example by making it your job to improve your part of the world. That's the example we would all like to see a lot more people follow.

And for my part, I would like to see every government manager, every government worker, everywhere, believe that your part of government can be better. You know it can be. Believe that you can make it better. You know you can. Make it your job to reinvent government. You know it can be done.

So please copy the innovations we're honoring tonight and, more important, adopt the spirit of innovation that we're celebrating tonight. You can do what these winners have done. You can make the world better, as they have done.

So, in closing, allow me convey to each and every innovator here tonight, my personal congratulations, along with those of President Clinton, and to express the appreciation of our whole country for your work in solving some of our problems, for restoring some of our faith, and for setting an example that can make an innovative leader out of every man and woman who serves this nation.

Congratulations, and thank you.

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