Service to America Medals finalists unveiled
Partnership president and chief executive officer Max Stier emphasized the example the finalists set for future generations of government employees.
"Every year we see more incredible stories," Stier said. "We need to motivate the great workforce we have in government, and we have to attract and recruit a new set of talent, and your stories are critical to making that happen."
As with last year's awards, many of the 2008 finalists work in science and technology fields. They include Dr. David Lipman, director of the National Center for Biotechnology Information at the National Institutes of Health, who was nominated for a Service Medal for developing the PubMed Central database, which allows research to be publicly shared and cross-referenced, and Richard Greene, director of the Office of Health, Infectious Diseases and Nutrition at the U.S. Agency for International Development, who is a Science and Environment finalist for his work reducing malaria in Zanzibar and other countries.
Other nominees were honored for their human rights work, both in the United States and abroad.
Bobbi Bernstein, deputy chief of the criminal section of the Justice Department's civil rights division, and U.S. Attorney Alex Bustamante were nominated for a Justice and Law Enforcement Medal for their work in using federal hate crimes statutes to prosecute members of a Los Angeles gang who targeted African-American victims. Crystal Kaplan, regional refugee coordinator at the State Department, helped resettle more than 100,000 refugees from Bhutan. And Victor Manjarrez Jr., the chief patrol agent at the Customs and Border Protection outpost in El Paso, Texas, and his Operation Lifeguard Team negotiated an agreement with the Mexican government to reduce illegal boarder crossings -- and cut the number of deaths during those attempted crossings to zero.
The eight winners will be chosen by a 22-person committee made up of a bipartisan group of legislators including Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine; Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md.; the heads of the two largest federal employee unions; Office of Personnel Management Director Linda Springer; and other leaders from the business and nonprofit sectors.
Rep. Nick Lampson, D-Texas, said he had not heard of the Service to America Medals until a high school friend was nominated. But he told the finalists, "It's the quality of your work that gives me the confidence that we do have the right ingredients for this experiment in democracy."