It is Public Service Recognition Week, a time when our nation honors our Federal, State, and local government employees for their unwavering dedication to civil service. It is also National Nurses Week, and Mother’s Day is this weekend. Service comes in many forms. Generally, a public servant serves the nation. A nurse specializes their service to the ill and infirm. Mothers, however, serve us all. A mother’s unconditional love, caring, support, and sacrifice are foundational to the health and well-being of our families and our nation. In the midst of the pandemic, it is especially important to take time to honor those who give so much to others.
You likely have seen clues that something special was happening this week. There have been simple road banners (“Our Heroes Don’t Wear Capes”); planes skywriting praise for healthcare workers; discounts to healthcare workers for products and services; and commercials pointing to the tireless efforts of first responders. These acts, great and small, fulfill a national need to say “thank you” for the dedicated efforts of those who directly face the crisis, and, notwithstanding the risk to themselves, step forward to help. Acts of such selflessness are especially poignant at this time, as these individuals charged undaunted into the unknown of the pandemic. Sadly, some have lost their lives in the process, making the ultimate sacrifice so that others may live.
No matter what the crisis, our public servants are there. Fred Rogers (Mister Rogers) highlighted this point after several notorious events challenged our nation. In an interview years ago, Rogers spoke of how his mother comforted him when she saw a catastrophe unfolding. “Always look for the helpers,” she said, “because if you look for the helpers, you’ll know that there’s hope.” Though she was speaking of those who step forward in an emergency, Rogers’ mother also was giving witness to the form of service our mothers provide. They sustain us; they teach us; they nurture us from the moment of our birth; they give us hope in ourselves and hope in our destiny. In the bittersweet passing of time, though they may no longer be with us, their service of love and teaching remains as a soft voice in the depths of our memory, comforting us in times of strife (or reminding us to be polite). Mother’s Day is a special time to recognize all that they have done for us with a heartfelt “thank you,” and, for those, like myself, whose mothers have passed on, it is a special opportunity to remember them.
Finally, in our particular community, there are those who deserve our special thanks: the unsung heroes of government procurement. In the course of a normal day, they fuel the engine that runs the system of government. They spend the funds, obtain products and services, and sustain the missions of agencies, all for those who serve the citizens. In the midst of the current crisis, the Coalition witnessed how government procurement officials sprang into action to procure critical medical supplies, sanitation products, and technology to support telework. They opened lines of communication with industry, rapidly issued guidance to streamline procedures, implemented authorities, like Section 3610 of the Cares Act, exercised waiver authorities to meet supply needs, and expedited payments to support the industrial base, especially small businesses. They executed the response to COVID-19 and also continued agency business as usual, and they did this, predominantly, while working remotely, many managing children being schooled online and spouses teleworking. The continuity of Federal operations is a testament to their professionalism.
To our public servants and nurses, “thank you!” To our mothers, thank you for everything!