Public service leaders join a celebration of the 2023 Service to America Medal® winners
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Public service leaders join a celebration of the 2023 Service to America Medal® winners

October 19, 2023

The Partnership for Public Service hosted the 22nd annual Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals®, or the Sammies, at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Oct. 17.  

Why the Sammies matter 

The Sammies, the premier recognition program known as “the Oscars of government,” honor federal employees who improve our lives for the better and show how our government benefits society. With only 35% of Americans saying they trust the federal government, these awards are especially important in changing peoples’ views on government and civil servants.  

Kate Bolduan at the Sammies

“Unfortunately, all the dysfunction in our political process in Washington is … giving the public at large more reasons to be skeptical about the value of government. Tonight, we’re pushing back on that narrative by highlighting a different story,” said Partnership President and CEO Max Stier during the event.   

Co-anchor of CNN News Central Kate Bolduan emceed the awards program, which welcomed nearly 400 guests, including agency leaders, members of Congress and the media, and others from the public, private and nonprofit sectors.  

Honoring the 2023 Sammies winners 

Among this year’s honorees is our Federal Employee of the Year, Laura Cooper, who led a Defense Department team that organized a process enabling the U.S. and its allies to deliver military supplies to Ukraine for its fight against Russia. 

Our other award winners played critical roles in securing the release of wrongfully detained Americans, helped implement once-in-a-generation investments in American infrastructure, made groundbreaking advancements in planetary defense, transformed the oversight of higher education financial aid programs and cracked down on international drug trafficking. In addition, this year’s People’s Choice Award winners established a landmark program that provides funding for opioid use prevention, treatment and recovery services.  

We also honored Judy Woodruff with our annual Spirit of Service Award, which recognizes individuals outside the federal workforce who contribute to the public good.  

One of the most trusted voices in television journalism, Woodruff has used in-depth reporting to champion public servants and hold our government accountable for millions of viewers. She is currently a senior correspondent and former anchor and managing editor of the “PBS NewsHour,” and has worked at five major news networks over a career spanning more than five decades.  

This year’s awards presenters included several notable public service leaders, including Gene Dodaro, the comptroller general of the United States; Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks; Attorney General Lisa Monaco; Deputy Secretary of Transportation Polly Trottenberg; White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. 

Federal Employee of the Year Medalist Laura Cooper, front, and Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks. Presenting the award, Hicks said, “It’s no exaggeration to say that, through Laura’s leadership and tireless work, and that of her team, they have changed the course of history.”
Paul A. Volcker Career Achievement Medalist Melissa Emrey-Arras
Management Excellence category winners. From left to right, Gloria Shepherd, Paul Nissenbuam, Maria Lefevre and Deputy Secretary of Transportation Polly Trottenberg.
Emerging Leaders category winners. From left to right, Fletcher Schoen, Jennifer Harkins and White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients. “It is nice to take a moment and reflect on the work we have done in these past two years to help bring 11 Americans home,” said Schoen while accepting the award.
Safety, Security and International Affairs Medalist Joshua Mellor, front, and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco. Accepting the award, Mellor said, “This investigation was successful because of the innovative, progressive, resilient, adaptive, and sometimes stubborn, prosecutors and agents that came together to tackle a worldwide problem.”
Science, Technology and Environment category winners, Scott Bellamy, front, and Brian Key.
People’s Choice Award winners. From left to right, Sarah O’Donnell, Allison Hutchings and Megan Meacham.
Sally Buzbee, left, and Spirit of Service Honoree Judy Woodruff, right.

Join the Sammies celebration 

Members of the media and the public have been congratulating the winners and spreading the word about their accomplishments.  

  • On CBS News, host John Dickerson highlighted some of the 2023 Sammies winners.

We encourage you to join the celebration by sharing the winners’ stories on social media with #Sammies2023. For those in the D.C area, the full Sammies awards program will air on WETA Metro on Dec. 1 at 9 p.m. EDT.  

Nominate someone for the 2024 Sammies  

We need your help to identify exceptional federal employees for the 2024 Sammies. Visit to learn how you can submit a nomination for next year’s awards.   

Photo credit for all photos above: Allison Shelley

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