Inspiring the next generation through leadership
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Inspiring the next generation through leadership

November 2, 2023

Sethuraman Panchanathan, director of the National Science Foundation

Did you know that only 7% of the full-time federal workforce is under the age of 30 and that nearly a third of all federal employees are eligible to retire by 2025?  

To help fill this talent gap, the Partnership for Public Service has placed over 400 interns in the federal government through the Future Leaders in Public Service Internship Program over the past two years. A paid internship for undergraduate and graduate students, the Future Leaders program helps bring diverse young talent into government and enables students to apply their educational training to work at a federal agency.  

The Partnership hosted an event this September to kick off the fall 2023 program, featuring 30 interns from 20 universities in 14 states. Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan, director of the National Science Foundation, provided keynote remarks, offering advice to the young leaders as they embarked on their journey into the world of public service.

The next generation will shape the world 

Panchanathan delivered a powerful message to a room full of public servants, emphasizing their critical role in shaping our nation’s future.  

“All of you are going to be the leaders who are going to shape, transform and have impactful futures for our nation because of your ideas, your creativity, your determination, your excellence [and] your hard work,” he said.

Panchanathan stressed that the interns’ curiosity will help our government unlock new knowledge and ideas that can expand our understanding of the world, strengthen all communities and help solve important challenges.   

Breaking down the essence of leadership  

He also shared invaluable insights on leadership, explaining how 10 essential components of the word can be summarized by the acronym LEADERSHIP:

L is for Learning: He emphasized the importance of continuous learning, explaining how every moment is an opportunity to learn and serve.  

E is for Excellence: He highlighted that excellence is a magnet for opportunities and success and advocated for the pursuit of excellence in all endeavors. 

A is for Aspiration: He reminded the audience to focus on what they want to do, because that will automatically lead to what they want to become.  

D is for Discipline: He noted how discipline is the cornerstone of achievement, urging the young leaders to approach their work with unwavering dedication. 

E is for Energy: He said that people are attracted to others based on the energy they put into the world. “If you love what you do, how can you not have energy?” he said. 

R is for Research: He emphasized the importance of having a research mindset, because it fosters curiosity and can lead to building strong relationships.  

S is for Service: He said that each student was in the room because of a desire to serve.  

H is for Humility: He believes that humility is synonymous with strength, and he discussed how great leaders are people who express humility in everything they do.  

I is for Innovation: He called for the relentless pursuit of innovation, urging students to never settle for the status quo.  

P is for Partners and the People: He emphasized that true leadership is about collective effort, highlighting the importance of collaboration and community. 

Panchanathan’s remarks made clear that the Future Leaders interns are not just passive listeners but active torchbearers of a brighter future. The remarks, a powerful endorsement of public service from one of the nation’s leading figures in science and innovation, was a call to action—a reminder that the interns are not just leaders in training, but leaders of today, poised to shape the nation’s future with their ideas, creativity and unwavering commitment to service. 

For more information about the Future Leaders program, visit GoGovernment. To learn more about how the Future Leaders program helps interns build a career in government, read our impact story.

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