Inaugural inductees into the Government Hall of Fame and recipients of the Theodore Roosevelt Government Leadership Awards were recognized at a gala on Thursday night.
Luminaries in public service both past and present were feted on Thursday night during a black tie gala at the Washington National Cathedral hosted by Government Executive Media Group. They were recognized for outstanding achievements across a range of disciplines, including climate science, medical research, public health and national security.
CBS Chief Washington Correspondent Major Garrett was the master of ceremonies for the celebration, attended by roughly 450 to honor recipients of two new awards programs Government Executive introduced in conjunction with the publication’s 50th anniversary. Presenters for the awards included: Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross; Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director for Management Margaret Weichert; National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins; and Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J.
One of the programs is the Government Hall of Fame, which will annually “enshrine the best of the best” of those who have given “unparalleled dedication to public service,” said Tom Shoop, executive vice president and editor-in-chief of Government Executive Media Group. The inaugural class of 20 includes members both living and deceased selected by a committee led by Shoop and Tim Clark, Government Executive editor-at-large.
The Apollo 11 astronauts; Clara Barton; former Secretary of State Colin Powell; long-time civil servant Dwight Ink; former Office of Personnel Management Director Constance Berry Newman; National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci; former NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson; former Commerce and Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta; former Health and Human Services Secretary and Rep. Donna Shalala, D-Fla.; and President Theodore Roosevelt himself were among the inaugural members. Five of the 20 inductees attended the gala.
Recipients and award presenters reflected on the pride and accomplishments of public service over the years. Upon accepting her award, Shalala noted that she had the “opportunity to work with thousands of extraordinary public servants,” so she “want[ed] to honor them tonight.”
While accepting the award on behalf of his grandmother, NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, who recently turned 101, Michael Moore remembered her telling him "You are no better than anyone else. And no one is any better than you." She is a humble woman, he said, and always insisted that she was “just doing her job.”
Although he could not be in attendance, astronaut Buzz Aldrin sent a letter that was read by Capt. Randy Cruz, senior adviser to the NASA administrator. Aldrin wrote that he was “humbled by the initiative, effort, high honor, and presentation in this venue” for the gala, noting the “space window” containing a piece of moon rock from the Apollo 11 mission on the south side of the cathedral. “To all those here today, I regret that I cannot physically be with you, but I am with you in spirit and am grateful for all those who give and will in the future give to this great country, through all kinds of government service,” Aldrin wrote. “With a full heart, onward and outward!”
The gala also celebrated 15 winners of the Theodore Roosevelt Leadership Awards, which will annually honor a team of “distinguished federal managers and executives and industry leaders for outstanding achievement in delivering on government’s promise,” wrote Shoop.
These awards recognize public servants in six categories: visionaries, directors, pathfinders, defenders, masters and partners. Weichert called employees “one of our greatest assets in government” while introducing the honorees in the category of directors.
Some winners included: Nitin Naik, chief technology officer at the Census Bureau; Mia Jordan, rural development assistant chief information officer at the Agriculture Department; and Darren Lytle, senior engineer at the Environmental Protection Agency.
While presenting the masters category award, National Science Foundation Director Dr. France Cordova said, “This is an inspirational evening that reinforces my pride in being a public servant.”
Guests also attended an after-party at Barcelona Wine Bar. In addition to honoring the winners, attendees celebrated 50 years of Government Executive, which started as a print magazine in 1969 for high-ranking government officials and now is a digital platform with four publications: Government Executive, Nextgov, Defense One and Route Fifty.
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