A behind-the-scenes look at the 2022 Sammies gala
Back to Blog

A behind-the-scenes look at the 2022 Sammies gala

October 14, 2022
Rachel Lin

On Sept. 20, the Partnership hosted its 21st annual Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals® gala at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. This year’s Service to America Medals—or Sammies—program honored eight federal employees and teams for their innovation, leadership and significant contributions to our country.

Guests mingle on the Kennedy Center terrace.

For many, the event is a single night of celebration—something often referred to as the “Oscars of government service.” But for the Partnership and its volunteers who coordinated the program, the Sammies is a year-long effort requiring collaboration and planning across various teams.

Meet the people who worked behind the scenes to make the Sammies gala happen and hear what made the event special to them.

Reflections from volunteers

Before and during the event, our team worked around the clock to plan the Sammies gala.

Communications Director Jordan LaPier said that managing the Sammies meant shining a spotlight on all that federal employees do to better other people’s lives. “Federal workers do so much on our behalf, and they don’t do it for fame, fortune or recognition—they do it because it really matters.”

Maggie Moore taking a test photo with the photographer backstage.

Communications and Events Manager Maggie Moore said she was grateful for the opportunity to coordinate and lead an event that brought together White House leaders, Cabinet secretaries, corporate CEOs and top civil servants to honor federal employees who make a difference.

“It’s like they’re Cinderella, and I’m their fairy godmother. I might be sleep deprived and my feet might be sore at the end of the night, but I get to make dreams come true—without a wand or pumpkin carriages,” she said.

Sammies gala jobs and responsibilities

From organizing the caterers to coordinating the award presenter lineup, many jobs are instrumental in planning and executing the Sammies gala. Every role—both big and small—is integral to ensuring the ceremony runs smoothly and our honorees feel recognized and celebrated.

One crucial aspect of the Sammies is the script.

Senior writer and editor Ellen Perlman drafted remarks for the emcee, MSNBC anchor Alicia Menendez, as well as for Partnership President and CEO Max Stier and other high-profile award presenters who spoke during the program, a task she’s been doing since 2011. 

For Perlman, hearing others speak her words to a packed audience of hundreds is a gratifying experience.

While the audience only sees what happens onstage, most of the Sammies program happens behind the scenes. In addition to planning the visible parts of the program, LaPier was responsible for ensuring everything ran smoothly and timely backstage, including designing the run of the show, giving stage directions and keeping track of the time.

Katie Bryan, right, with Katie Hines, an associate manager at the Partnership.

Communications Senior Manager Katie Bryan worked behind-the-scenes to help ensure presenters were in the right place at the right time and joined other backstage staff in applauding winners and presenters.

“The energy in the green room was palpable. Each presenter and winner came in with a smile on their face. It was the highlight of my year to personally thank these accomplished and humble civil servants,” she said.

Nominate a 2023 Sammies honoree

The Sammies may be only one night, but thanks to the dedication of the Partnership team and its volunteers, the ceremony is one of the nation’s most memorable and preeminent celebrations of public servants.

If you know federal employees whose work benefits our country, nominate them for a 2023 Service to America Medals award and help us recognize all that public servants do to improve our daily lives.

Featured photo credit: Joshua Roberts. Photos in blog post credit: Parker Schaffel.

Rachel Lin is an intern on the Partnership’s Communications team.

Leave a Reply