"America is a vibrant force for freedom and prosperity, and our public servants are one of our nation's greatest assets," said President Bush, in a letter on Public Service Recognition Week.
The event, which has run for the first full week of May every year since 1985, is designed to educate citizens about the many ways in which government serves them.
Public servants will be recognized Monday evening at the GEICO Public Service Awards and reception at the National Archives in Washington. Awards will be given to active federal employees in four categories: substance abuse prevention and treatment, fire prevention and safety, physical rehabilitation and traffic safety and accident prevention. One retired federal employee also will be honored for contributions in one of those four fields made since leaving the government.
Starting Thursday, more than 100 federal agencies, including the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice, Labor and Transportation, will set up booths on the National Mall in Washington to explain their missions and programs.
NASA will feature a replica of the James Webb space telescope, which will launch in 2013 and will examine the formation of galaxies, stars, planets and the entire solar system.
According to Carl Fillichio, a vice president at the nonprofit Council for Excellence in Government, the model will allow visitors to understand the size and complexity of the telescope as well as the vital services NASA provides. "It's one of those larger-than-life examples, like the Internet and the space shuttle, to look at what people who work for the government can do and what they can create," he said.
Visitors also will have the opportunity to try the Virtual Army Experience, a video game taking participants on a hands-on virtual mission.
Col. Casey Wardynski, the game's creator, and Naomi Earp, chairwoman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, will speak at a breakfast kicking off Thursday's events.
The celebration extends far beyond the nation's capital, with more than 250 governors and mayors recognizing public servants this week, Fillichio said. "A lot of the states, like Colorado, are doing all sorts of events to recognize public servants at the city, state and federal level," he said.
Kevin Simpson, executive vice president of the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, said the goal is not only to recognize the achievements of public servants, but also to generate interest in public service.
"It makes it more likely that when people think about a federal job, they might consider the federal government as one possibility rather than just rule it out as a result of a lack of knowledge," Simpson said.
Meanwhile, lawmakers have taken up resolutions to recognize the efforts of government employees. The measures (S. Res. 150 and H. Res. 307), sponsored by Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, and Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., commend public servants for their contributions and honor those employees who have given their lives in service to the country. They also call upon a new generation to consider a career in public service as an "honorable profession."
The Senate resolution passed unanimously last week, but the House version is pending.
"I urge all Americans to celebrate the achievements of public servants, look for some small or large way to honor these dedicated men and women, and find their own way to answer the call to serve," Akaka said.