Public Service Leadership Model

The standard for effective federal leadership

 

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Case Studies

Case Studies  

The Public Service Leadership Model sets the standard for government leadership, outlining the core values and competencies that public servants must demonstrate to work effectively on behalf of the American people. In this case study series, we highlight federal employees who have activated the model’s core principles to solve big challenges, drive impact and strengthen our country.


From science to societal impact: How one public servant led the charge to make kidney disease a national health issue

Leading change

Leading change in a rapidly evolving federal environment means initiating, sponsoring and implementing innovative solutions. As a leader, help others succeed at managing change at an individual and organizational level.

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When Sandeep Patel launched his career in government nearly a decade ago, he knew little about his new job at the Department of Health and Human Services. As an open innovation manager, his mandate was as abstract as it was critical: to help the agency use new tools and strategies to find innovative solutions to serious health challenges.

Today, Patel is a leading federal innovator who has elevated kidney disease as a key national health priority. In 2017, he launched KidneyX, a multimillion dollar public-private partnership between HHS and the American Society of Nephrology that accelerates new ways to treat, diagnose and prevent kidney disease. Two years later, he helped draft an executive order—the Advancing American Kidney Health Initiative—that requires HHS to meet ambitious benchmarks for improving nationwide kidney health.

This monumental shift would not have occurred without Patel’s ability to lead change. By encouraging innovation and creative problem-solving, embracing risk and uncertainty, and using his power of persuasion to influence others, Patel mobilized stakeholders across government and the private sector to develop better interventions for the roughly 40 million Americans who suffer from chronic kidney disease.

“I think people tend to put limits on what’s possible,” Patel said. “We need to put ambitious problems out there and rally the resources to solve them—even if we don’t know how that’s going to work exactly.”

Taking risks

From the start of his career, Patel has taken a “no risk, no reward” approach to his work. He became interested in the federal grant-making process as a doctoral student in physical chemistry and later witnessed how certain health processes and interventions could shape people’s lives as co-founder of OmusonoLabs, a Uganda-based company working to empower local residents to design and implement new 3D printing services.

Patel said both experiences led him to become “acutely aware of the transition from science to societal impact” and motivated him to work at HHS.

“The department had its hands on the levers of all the things I was interested in,” he said.

Still, Patel knew little about government, the agency or his specific job when he started as an open innovation manager at HHS. He recalled struggling initially to “wrap my brain around who does what” in the department and admitted to having only a vague sense of how to drive open innovation—a strategy organizations use to tap new ideas and resources from external partners to solve problems.

“I couldn’t tell you what that meant when I applied for the job,” he said. “I did my due diligence, but it was still a slightly foreign concept,” he said.

From the story: What challenges do you see in your organization, field or agency that people think are too big to tackle? Why do they believe that?

For reflection: How have you taken risks in your career or job?

For action: Where might you take more calculated risks as you choose projects, plan solutions or embark on career shifts?

Helping others take risks

To learn more about the job, Patel talked to people across HHS about how open innovation could address the agency’s biggest health priorities.

He soon realized, however, that not everyone was comfortable with the idea of open innovation. Instead, people tended to work on more concrete projects within specific teams and silos—a behavior often rewarded in government, according to Patel.

“What I noticed is that people get blinders on very quickly. You have your thing in front of you and you just do it. People are very stuck on the way of doing things—unintentionally most of the time.”

Patel overcame this hesitancy by focusing on the problems people were trying to solve, rather than promoting open innovation by name. He also established trust and rapport with people across the department through frequent—and often impromptu—conversations.

Designed as free-flowing learning sessions without a set agenda, the discussions helped Patel gather information about the agency’s health priorities and enabled him to demonstrate how open innovation tools—prize competitions, crowdsourcing, new types of partnerships and more—could serve employee needs. Working within the Office of the Secretary also gave Patel the credibility and “air cover” to make staff feel more comfortable taking risks.

“I usually started with a big problem and let people talk about what they do. It became more of a dialogue instead of me coming in with an agenda, which would have made people get tense and react.”

Patel said the strategy made people more receptive to the concept of open innovation and helped him learn about the agency’s work more broadly. In turn, he became a “connector,” someone who could spark innovation by pointing people toward useful resources and potential partners.

“One of the biggest barriers [to innovation] is that people need to be inspired. And the easiest way to inspire people is to connect them with someone who can help inspire them,” he said.

Patel also inspired others by sharing his own thoughts about a given problem—even if he did not have a perfectly formed solution first. He said the approach has encouraged agencies to lean into risks and institutionalize more experimental ways of addressing health issues.

For example, Patel helped the Maternal and Child Health Bureau launch a challenge program that has focused on promoting remote pregnancy monitoring and better access to healthy food for low-income families. He also supported the development of a new initiative at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid designed to illustrate how artificial intelligence can be used to predict health outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries.

“People tend to keep things close to themselves because they want to get it perfect before they bring it into the world. I like being hyper-transparent about everything that I’m thinking about. I sort of take the risk for people and they come follow me.”

From the story: What tactics did Patel use to influence people? How were they effective?

For reflection: What barriers currently exist to working across your organization? How do you contribute to these barriers? 

For action: How might you introduce open innovation—even on a small scale—within your team? 

Envisioning change

These conversations eventually led Patel to the topic of kidney disease. He was surprised by what he learned: Millions of Americans are on dialysis every week with no access to a transplant—hooked up to a machine for hours while experiencing lasting side effects.

He also learned that dialysis is costly. Recent reports show that about 20% of Medicare funds are spent to treat those suffering from kidney disease and that patients on dialysis have an average life expectancy of just five to 10 years.

When Patel talked to these patients, he decided it was time to act. “You talk to enough dialysis patients and you’re like, ‘This is crazy. How are we letting this persist?’”

In turn, he met with people across government and the private sector to discuss better alternatives to dialysis—even tracking down the person who wrote dialysis policies for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services: Abigail Ryan, currently CMS’ deputy director of the Division of Chronic Care Management.

“As soon as I talked to her, something clicked. She got exactly what we were trying to do. She was doing her own thing, but we connected with her. She felt inspired and saw what was possible,” he said.

Still, getting others to buy in to the need for action proved challenging. Some believed the government had already invested enough in kidney health research. Others believed that scientists lacked the technology to enable a real breakthrough. And several more found alternative approaches to reducing kidney disease too risky and unproven.

He also realized health experts in government tended to work on isolated aspects of kidney health that made the issue seem overwhelming and impossible to tackle.

“It was a third rail issue,” he said. “Nobody wanted to touch it.”

To overcome this skepticism, Patel knew he had to create a platform that brought people together to develop “holistic” solutions to kidney health—including researchers and innovators from the private sector who were developing new solutions to kidney disease.

A core group of federal health leaders championed this vision and worked to make it a reality, including Jarah Meador, former Innovation Sourcing Lead at the Department of Veterans Affairs and a fierce advocate of open innovation.

Nevertheless, he recognized that some in government would take the new initiative as a sign of criticism that they had failed at their job. As a result, he was careful to pitch the initiative as something that capitalized on work already being done.

“It happens a lot in government where anytime you propose something new, it’s seen as a zero-sum game,” he said. “We tried to frame this more positively by saying ‘Everybody’s doing what they’re supposed to be doing—we just need to accelerate your efforts.’”

From the story: How did Patel try to ensure that others wouldn’t view his program as a criticism of their own work? How might you apply this to an idea you’re trying to implement?  

For reflection: How do you think the status quo is rewarded in your organization? How could you reward new ideas on your team?

For action: How could you connect staff more with those who benefit from specific services, programs and policies? 

Taking a moonshot approach

The strategy paid off. In 2017, Patel launched an ambitious public-private private partnership—the Kidney Innovation Accelerator, or KidneyX—that redefined how the federal government tackles kidney disease.

The initiative began as a “moonshot approach to developing alternatives to dialysis.” According to Patel, it’s goal was to provide a platform for groups that rarely worked together—both within and outside government—to solicit, design and implement new innovations in kidney health.

It took little time for KidneyX to dispel lingering questions about whether finding alternatives to dialysis was possible.

Attracted by funding and networking opportunities, kidney health researchers from the academic and private sectors flocked to the initiative. They attended summits, participated in listening sessions with KidneyX leadership and submitted their work to prize competitions designed to incentivize the creation of improved dialysis products, more patient-driven kidney health solutions and the world’s first artificial kidney.

Realizing that these interventions composed just “one piece of a larger problem,” the initiative has also expanded its focus to building a more efficient organ transplant system.

“We created this space where everybody came to us—we had investors all over the country and companies coming in. People saw the issue as exciting.” he said.

The new program also led to a shift in national policy. Just two years after KidneyX launched, President Trump signed an executive order that established the Advancing American Kidney Health initiative.

The order—the only in U.S. history that focuses specifically on a disease—called upon HHS to achieve goals that align with the KidneyX mission: preventing kidney failure through better diagnosis and treatment, encouraging the development of an artificial kidney, and creating Medicare payment options that help patients better prevent kidney disease and incentivize kidney transplants for those on dialysis.

Five months later, Trump signed a spending bill that included $5 million in funding for KidneyX—the first time Congress supported prize competitions in kidney health and a sign that national policymakers had taken note of the initiative’s innovative work. Feature stories on dialysis and organ transplants on hit shows like “Late Night with John Oliver” and “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” also signaled growing popular interest in the subject.

For Patel, the catalytic effect of KidneyX illustrates the benefits of taking risks and embracing uncertainty. While the initiative started as an untested public-private partnership with a broad goal, it nevertheless provided key players with the platform they needed to collaborate and experiment with new ideas in kidney health.

In the last two years alone, these ideas have included the development of a new bioabsorbable wrap that supports cell growth after dialysis access surgery, a telehealth device that detects blood clots for patients on dialysis and a small internal filtration device for the body that performs all the actions of a dialysis machine—a critical technological component of an artificial kidney.

Another KidneyX prize winner has also helped make regenerative kidneys a viable health option for patients suffering from chronic renal failure.

“That was the lesson—don’t make [investors and stakeholders] do the work. Create the forum where they can plug in,” he said.

From the story: What was Patel’s vision for advancing kidney health and how did he get others to buy in to it?  

For reflection: How have you successfully created a vision around projects or programs you’ve overseen? Where might you have strengthened that vision, and how might that have helped the project? 

For action: How can you create space for stakeholders to engage with each other? What benefit would that provide to your programs?  

Applying lessons from KidneyX

Today, Patel applies the lessons learned from launching KidneyX to his work as director of the Division of Research, Innovation and Ventures at HHS’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority—or BARDA DRIVe.

The group funds new medical innovations, forms public-private partnerships and deploys teams across the U.S. to support the development and procurement of drugs, vaccines and other products critical to our country’s national health.

Its portfolio currently includes an impressive range of programs that support this goal. One aims to develop vaccines and therapeutics without using needles and syringes; others hope to create better at-home testing services and digital health tools like smartphone apps and web platforms; and still another is working to create tissue chips—small 3D chips designed to show how human cells respond to drugs and other variants—that model components of the human immune system.

Recently, three BARDA leaders oversaw the development of a vaccine, two therapeutics and a diagnostic test designed to stop the spread of Ebola in Africa. The leaders were recognized as 2021 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal® finalists for these accomplishments.

Patel believes the work—like his work at KidneyX—provides people with better service and a more favorable impression of government than they had before.

“People’s impressions of government are acute—an accumulation of little interactions that we have with people. We try to leave people with a good impression of who we are.”

He said that none of this would be possible had he and his colleagues not been willing to innovate, take risks and develop a vision for change.

“I think the general idea is that you take a lot of shots on goal and something eventually works and makes an impact. Then you can point to that and say it was worth the other hundred shots you took.”

From the story: A key to Patel’s success was taking risks. Why was he able to do so in ways others could not? 

For reflection: Have you shared lessons learned and best practices with other teams in your agency? How can you proactively do so in the future? 

For action: How can you help build adaptability, innovation and risk-taking into the culture of your team? 


You can bank on it: How employee engagement helped the FDIC stabilize the nation’s financial system during the Great Recession 

Engaging others

To engage others, strive to foster an inclusive culture that encourages team members to offer constructive feedback, recognize good work and pursue professional development. This environment is the foundation for collaboration within and across federal agencies. Individuals, teams and agencies working together will have a greater impact on government effectiveness.

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From December 2007 to June 2009, the U.S. experienced its longest economic downturn since the Great Depression. Precipitated by a nationwide collapse in the real estate market, the crisis cost the country nearly 9 million jobs, led to roughly 3 million mortgage foreclosures and triggered hundreds of bank failures, shattering public faith in the American financial system. 

The emergency required swift action from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, an agency that maintains the stability of—and public confidence in—the nation’s banking system by insuring deposits and supervising troubled or failing financial institutions.  

At the time, however, the FDIC faced severe personnel shortages, sagging morale and a growing disconnect between staff and leadership that led to low levels of employee engagement. Collectively, these trends left the agency ill-equipped to respond to the crisis.   

But that all changed thanks to Arleas Upton Kea, then the agency’s director of the Division of Administration. As director, Kea oversaw a rapid hiring surge and extensive culture change initiative that revamped the FDIC’s work culture and enabled the agency to meet the challenge of stabilizing and reinspiring confidence in the nation’s financial system during the 2008 recession.

Kea had to engage others across the agency to drive these critical changes. She communicated openly and honestly to internal stakeholders about the agency’s personnel needs and larger hiring strategy, and instituted engagement strategies that increased employee performance and built consensus around bringing in so many new staff—particularly from the private sector—at once. These internal reforms empowered employees, cultivated trust between FDIC leadership and its workforce, and ultimately helped the FDIC better serve the public.

“The employee engagement work that we did ensured that the hard-earned money depositors worked for was protected. Not one penny of people’s insured deposits was lost,” Kea said. 

From the story: Why was employee engagement important in the midst of this crisis? 

For reflection: When your office or agency has faced a crisis, was there a foundation of trust in place between leaders and employees? 

For action: How might you prepare for your next crisis by proactively building trust and relationships? 

Stepping into crisis

Even though it serves as one of the federal government’s chief banking regulators, the FDIC was severely challenged to manage such a severe economic crisis like the 2008 recession. While the agency had scaled up its operations and staff in response to previous economic disruptions—like the Savings and Loan Crisis of the late 1980s—it employed only about 5,000 people by 2008, down from a peak of 22,000 two decades earlier.  

This significant reduction inevitably led to workforce imbalances and coverage gaps. These staffing shortages also led to employee fatigue. As a result, morale sunk, dissatisfaction with leadership grew and the agency’s overall employee engagement declined. In 2007, the agency placed 21st out of 30 large agencies in our Best Places to Work in the Federal Government rankings, produced annually with Boston Consulting Group. The lowest scores showed up in categories related to effective leadership and employee recognition.   

“People were overworked and, a lot of times, I would hear people talk about the fact that they felt their boss didn’t listen. We were very aware of the potential for burnout,” Kea said.  

In addition, the FDIC—like other federal agencies and the broader public—did not adequately anticipate either the speed or severity of the 2008 crash.  On the surface, the mid-2000s U.S. economy was booming and showed no sign of recession. Indeed, the agency went roughly 900 days without a bank failure in the middle of the decade, fostering a false sense of security about underlying health of the nation’s financial system.   

Things changed quickly. In the span of a few months, Bear Stearns, one of the country’s largest global investment banks, collapsed. IndyMac, then the largest FDIC-insured institution to fail in FDIC history, closed as well. Washington Mutual, a bank with over 40,000 employees and $188 billion in deposits also failed.   

For the first time, the agency began guaranteeing  certain types of bank-issued debt instruments that were not deposits. 

All told, nearly 500 FDIC-insured banks failed between 2008 and 2013, costing the Deposit Insurance Fund—managed by the FDIC to insure deposits and to resolve, or stabilize, a bank’s operations—roughly $73 billion. Over 150 of these banks closed in 2010 alone. 

With the DIF balance at its lowest level in history and more banks on the brink of collapse, the FDIC had to raise assessment rates for banks to replenish the DIF. 

The FDIC examined or conducted extended oversight of numerous failing financial institutions. In addition, the agency had to frequently communicate with banks about delayed timelines and project plans—processes that only created more work for employees. 

Previous downsizing significantly challenged the FDIC’s capacity to assume these responsibilities. At the onset of the crisis, the agency did not have enough examiners to investigate the rising number of troubled banks in a timely fashion and lacked satellite office personnel who could quickly manage the closure of struggling financial institutions around the country.    

“Our workload exploded,” said Bret Edwards, the FDIC’s deputy to the chairman and chief financial officer. “It’s like the Federal Emergency Management Agency: One day, you’re sitting at your desk and things are quiet. The next day, you’ve got 10 wildfires, a couple of hurricanes and a flood.” 

“We didn’t have enough people who were knowledgeable and trained and equipped to help us,” Kea said. 

From the story: Three challenges – low morale, low trust and staff retention – can exacerbate one another in an organization. Which is the most important to tackle first? 

For reflection: Knowing that effective leadership is the number one driver of employee satisfaction, how might leaders drive improved morale amidst a depleted and beleaguered workforce? 

For action: How might you as an individual leader ensure those who work for you feel listened to? 

Building a new workforce

Kea sprang into action to respond to these challenges. She designed and implemented an agencywide hiring surge strategy that required her to address personnel requests from specific teams while still considering the agency’s overall staffing needs—a delicate process that risked alienating key internal stakeholders.    

Bret Edwards, the FDIC’s chief financial officer, said Kea walked this fine line by communicating frankly about what was possible and continually reassuring people that she had heard their concerns and was working to address them.   

 “You can imagine the clamor at the front door of her office—everybody’s saying, ‘I need people, I need contractors.’ She communicated expectations clearly and always said, ‘I hear you.’”  

Kea and her team also extensively researched federal hiring rules to find creative ways to bring on more people. For example, she worked with the Office of Personnel Management to make more direct hires and extend offers to multiple applicants for the same position posting. The agency also required candidates to submit only a resume and not the standard federal application form for some jobs.    

Other critical decisions included bringing back retired FDIC employees, hiring more employees on term appointments and launching three new satellite offices that could operate close to areas with a high number of bank failures.   

Collectively, these efforts provided critical FDIC offices with the staff they needed to respond to identify and stabilize more at-risk banks.    

Each of the three satellite offices—located in Chicago, Jacksonville, and Irvine—hired hundreds of employees in just six months. The agency’s Division of Resolutions and Receiverships—tasked with directly managing failing financial institutions through asset sales and other means—expanded its staff from 227 to more than 2,100 between 2008 and 2010. By 2011, 80% of these employees were on term appointments and many had worked as regulators or liquidators during previous economic downturns. Nearly 500 additional term employees were also hired to handle the agency’s increasing number of bank examinations.

“Handling the crisis would not have been possible without a massive hiring surge,” Kea said. “Our new staff was critical to us preventing additional bank failures and shoring up the deposit insurance fund.” 

From the story: How did Kea collaborate within and beyond the agency to manage the hiring surge?

For reflection: What new knowledge or relationships outside your agency would help you in finding solutions to challenges within it? 

For action: How might you go about building that knowledge or relationships? 

Empowering staff through diversity, equity and inclusion

As part of these efforts to empower staff, Kea also provided underrepresented groups with more opportunities to climb the FDIC’s career ladder. She and her team incorporated new diversity, equity and inclusion metrics into the agency’s performance system and created professional development opportunities to upskill new staff.   

“We were pretty direct in terms of telling managers and supervisors what our DEI expectations were and defining expected outcomes,” she said. “Then we monitored it through our scores that came back in the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.”  

“We tried to embed diversity, equity and inclusion into everything we did.” 

Kea also established programs to help younger, entry-level staff advance at the agency. For example, an 18-month program called ACE trained and provided educational assistance to low-level employees interested in moving into new professional tracks. A new “developmental rotation” program and mentoring initiative helped new hires gain new skills, while a new on-site day care center and health facility at the agency’s Virginia office promoted work-life balance for working mothers and employees at all socioeconomic levels. 

Kea said employees often came to her with DEI concerns because of her own background. She grew up in segregated Texas, was the only African American girl in her newly integrated first grade classroom, attended the University of Texas and the University of Texas law school with a small number of Black students, and was the first African American woman to serve as an assistant general counsel, a deputy general counsel, a division director, and deputy to the chairman and chief operating officer at the FDIC.     

“I heard from a lot of employees – they felt comfortable bringing their concerns to me,” she said.   

These initiatives laid the groundwork for the FDIC to become a more diverse organization and enabled it to support more underserved communities. In the 2010s, for instance, Kea led the FDIC’s outreach to minority- and women-owned financial institutions and the agency continues to create financial literacy programs that encourage people from low-income communities to keep their money in FDIC-insured banks.  

“We try to embed diversity, equity and inclusion in everything we do,” she said. 

From the story: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are integral to the mission delivery of FDIC. Why was it important to start with the internal culture at FDIC?  

For reflection: Kea took a holistic approach to tackling DEI challenges at FDIC. When considering DEI, where are there gaps within your agency or team? 

For action: How might you address the gaps you identified above? 

Becoming a Best Place to Work

These efforts created a sustained culture of employee engagement at the FDIC. In 2011, three years after the culture change initiative began, the agency finished first in the Best Places to Work’s midsize agency category—increasing its engagement score more than 25 points from 2007. The largest increase—of over 35 points—occurred in the category measuring employees’ overall satisfaction with senior leadership. As a result of these efforts, Kea was recognized as a 2012 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals® finalist in the management excellence category. 

The FDIC finished first in the midsize agency category for the next five years and has remained in the top quartile since then. In addition, the agency’s DEI score ranked fifth of 24 midsize agencies, according to the 2019 Best Places to Work rankings.  

This revitalized work culture enabled employees to respond to unexpected crises like COVID-19. 

Kea noted that FDIC employees struggled to use new technology and access digital information when they shifted to mandatory remote work at the start of the pandemic. FDIC leadership altered its performance metrics and benchmarks to account for these gaps.  

“We really spent some time with our managers and helped them make sure that they were doing all things appropriate to be supportive of the workforce,” she said.  

As a result of these efforts, the FDIC finished sixth out of 21 agencies in the 2020 Best Places to Work COVID-19 category, earning even higher marks on the subcategory measuring the extent to which employees believe senior leadership prioritized their well-being during the pandemic. 

Kea attributed these results to better communication between FDIC leadership and its employees. 

“We communicated in every method possible to our employees. We were in a situation where we had to pivot quickly,” she said. 

From the story: What difference did the level of employee engagement make, comparing the COVID-19 crisis to the 2008 financial crisis?  

For reflection: How did you adapt to meet the needs of employees when COVID-19 required a significant shift in organizational culture and norms? 

For action: Review your own agency’s Best Places to Work in the Federal Government® category scores. How might you gather more information to better understand your lowest scoring categories, and find ways to positively influence these areas within your office?  

Rallying around the mission 

But the FDIC did more than become a “best place to work.” The internal reforms Kea spearheaded enabled the FDIC to better serve the public. By engaging employees and hiring critical staff, she motivated the agency’s workforce to go above and beyond to fulfill its mission of protecting the nation’s financial system during a serious economic crisis.    

For an organization with employees who had just previously experienced burnout and overwork, this was no small feat.   

“Employees would brag about how they were up till 3:00 in the morning, going in and out of financial institutions, perhaps being in a conference room with stacks of paper reading through documents,” Kea said. “That was contagious and energizing. People were really rallying around the mission.”  

The impact of these efforts are undeniable. The FDIC protected all of the nation’s insured deposits during the 2008 recession and developed strategies that have saved hundreds, if not thousands, of banks from potential failure over the past 12 years.     

From 2008 to 2017, the agency designated nearly 1,800 FDIC-insured financial institutions as “problem” institutions. Less than one-third of those institutions failed, while roughly 1,375 either merged with other institutions or stabilized their operations.4 

“Without our response, the whole thing wouldn’t have worked,” Edwards said. “We made sure that people remained confident in the notion that their deposits were safe and secure. We were an essential part of keeping the public’s confidence in the financial system.” 

Of course, Kea and Edwards knew where this enhanced public trust came from—it was due to their stewardship of the workforces they led. Edwards said that the agency is determined to heed the lessons from 2008, maintaining a robust, satisfied and fully engaged staff that works to combat and prevent future crises.  

Indeed, the personnel brought on and trained under Kea’s leadership have helped ensure the agency prevent and manage future economic crises, train bank examiners  to proactively help financial institutions manage their risk levels, offer banks more thorough analyses of their financial practices, and more quickly and efficiently elevate issues of concern to a bank’s board of directors.  

Kea sees employee engagement at the heart of these achievements.  

If you want your employees to work toward the mission, then you want them to be engaged and feel empowered,” she said. “You want them to feel important. You want them to feel like they count.”  

From the story: What contributed to employees feeling “energized” rather than overworked in the circumstances described above? 

For reflection: How do you keep yourself and your team empowered during crisis? 

For action: What might you do to continuously tie your team’s day-to-day work to the mission? 


How one public servant’s strong self-awareness helped create a more nuclear-secure world

Becoming self-aware

Becoming self-aware begins with an introspective understanding of your values, thought patterns and motivations, all of which are essential to personal development and better interactions with others. Self-awareness is an anchor, enabling you as a leader to stay true to yourself and perform at your highest level in service to the American public. The five subcompetencies to becoming self-aware include:

Learn more

For decades, the federal government has worked to keep nuclear facilities around the world safe and secure. In the early 2000s, these efforts hit a snag when yearlong talks between the Energy Department and the Russian Defense Ministry stalled, leaving nuclear materials in the former Soviet country vulnerable to theft and misuse. 

A dynamic federal leader finally broke the logjam: Nicole Nelson-Jean, a recently hired 28-year-old working in the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Material Protection Control and Accounting Program. Soon after she joined the agency, Nelson-Jean became a critical member of the U.S. team that had been negotiating with Russian authorities. In just four months, she revived the stalemated talks and hammered out a landmark agreement that laid the groundwork for the construction of the Kola Technical Center, the country’s first nuclear training facility. Afterward, she received a Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal, a premier award that recognizes innovation and leadership in the federal government.

Nelson-Jean’s unique sense of self-awareness made this breakthrough possible. Despite being the youngest person and only woman of color on the team, she ably related her own experiences to those of her Russian counterparts, cultivating an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect that facilitated productive talks. The characteristics inherent in this approach—an authentic communication style, intellectual curiosity and an ability to self-reflect —have helped Nelson-Jean create a more nuclear-secure world throughout her nearly three-decade career in public service.

“When I’m presented with an opportunity, I accept it and I move forward. I think many times we limit ourselves and say, ‘I’m not sure if I’m ready for that. I’m not sure if that’s something that I can do, or if I have the educational background or the social background.’ None of that comes to mind when I am presented with opportunities. I say yes.” she said.

From the story: In what ways does Nelson-Jean’s approach to challenges reflect a strong sense of self-awareness?

For reflection: How might you strengthen your sense of self-confidence, even, or perhaps especially, when you have different perspectives or a different background than others in your workplace?

For action: What challenge are you facing now that you could turn into an opportunity for self-assured leadership?

Learning the field

Nelson-Jean did not envision a career in nuclear security growing up. As a college student, she knew little about nuclear issues or the country’s nuclear history.

But a passion for learning led her to quickly develop expertise on the subject.

During her undergraduate years, Nelson-Jean’s father—a former member of the Navy Construction Battalion—began working at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, a leading science and technology lab that helped develop atomic weapons during World War II.

During one visit, Nelson-Jean discovered Los Alamos had an internship program for college students. Seeking new opportunities, she applied to the program, was accepted and shortly thereafter organized Los Alamos’ first student-led organization.

Nelson-Jean said that scientists in the lab noticed her leadership skills and initiative. Eventually, she connected with a mentor who encouraged her to explore nuclear security work.

Nelson-Jean followed suit by researching Los Alamos’ history and the country’s nuclear strategy. Her first project—asking private citizens if the lab could access their property to do nuclear cleanup—sparked further curiosity about America’s nuclear past.  

Later, Nelson-Jean went to Washington, D.C., to support her mentor’s work on a high-level Energy Department advisory committee. The experience enabled Nelson-Jean to see firsthand how her activities at Los Alamos helped strengthen the country’s national security. Understanding the broader impact of her work has motivated Nelson-Jean to take her responsibilities seriously and hold herself to high standards of integrity as a public servant.

“I was able to make that connection by physically being [in Washington, D.C.] and understanding how important [Los Alamos’ work] was for our nation. That’s really where I got the gravity of the work that we were doing,” she said. 

From the story: How did Nicole’s curiosity benefit her? How did she continue to learn and be open to new challenges throughout her early career?

For reflection: When was the last time your desire to learn caused you to step outside of your comfort zone?

For action: How will you seek out opportunities to continually learn and grow?

The Russian negotiations

These experiences launched Nelson-Jean into her full-time position with the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Material Protection Control and Accounting Program, which aims to secure and protect nuclear material in Russia and other former Soviet Union countries.

Once again, Nelson-Jean’s passion for learning enabled her to tackle new challenges.  

As she researched the program, Nelson-Jean read about a failed agreement with the Russian Federation regarding its nuclear training facilities. She sent written comments to her immediate supervisor recommending the team organize face-to-face meetings with the Russian negotiators. Previously, the two sides had conducted all their meetings via phone, email or cable communication.

The suggestion underscored one of the core characteristics that has enabled Nelson-Jean’s success: a desire to listen to—and build trusting relationships with—people who hold different perspectives than she does. 

“ We were talking past each other and not giving ourselves the ability to really listen. We were stating our demands, but not really listening to the other party,” she said.

Impressed by this fresh approach, Nelson-Jean’s supervisor sent the recommendations to the National Nuclear Security Administration’s assistant secretary, an expert on Russian security issues.

Initially, Nelson-Jean worried that her ideas would be rejected. “I was a little shaky because I was brand new and very young at the time,” Nelson-Jean said.

Instead, the opposite occurred: The assistant secretary agreed with Nelson-Jean’s suggestions and immediately included her on the Department of Energy’s negotiation team.

The lesson for Nelson-Jean was clear: Investigate new ideas and don’t be afraid to express them.

“That’s what really started me down this path—just sort of scribbling some recommendations on how to move forward,” she said.

Nelson-Jean’s supervisor told her to expect an icy reception from the Russian negotiators because she had a very different background than the seasoned Cold War veterans who comprised the Russian delegation.  

But Nelson-Jean’s authentic communication style enabled her to defy the odds.   

Throughout the negotiations, Nelson-Jean found common ground with her Russian counterparts by connecting her experiences to certain aspects of Russian life and culture. She talked about reading Dostoevsky in graduate school, for example, and discussed her father’s Navy career—something that the Russian team’s naval officers related to immediately.

“I find that, if you’re open, people will always find a way to connect with you. All you have to do is be open to finding that connection with them,” she said.

For Nelson-Jean, making these types of cross-cultural connections was nothing new. As the daughter of a military man who moved frequently, she lived in three different countries before arriving in the U.S. and attended eight high schools in five states.

These experiences provided Nelson-Jean with a unique ability to connect with people of diverse backgrounds.

“I appreciated diversity from an early age because I lived in so many different parts of the country and different parts of the world,” she said. “I just think that made me better at really listening and seeking to understand.”

Nelson-Jean’s negotiating skills and communication style helped her end the long stalemate. Within four months, she finalized an agreement with the Russian team that laid the groundwork for the construction on the Kola Technical Center, a joint training facility designed to help Russia better protect and inspect its nuclear material stockpiles.  

Nelson-Jean attributes this success to forging an emotional connection with the Russian delegation.

“At the end of the day, it’s not so much what you say and how it comes out, but people remember how you made them feel,” she said.

From the story: How would you describe Nicole’s approach and strategy for building rapport with her counterparts in Russia? What assumptions did she test?

For reflection: How does one develop a strong sense of self? How might you challenge yourself to test your assumptions about others?

For action: How might you better use your emotional intelligence to get results? How might you seek out and embrace diverse opinions and perspectives?

Embracing new challenges

These qualities have enabled Nelson-Jean to tackle new challenges throughout her career.

After working in several posts overseas, she returned to the National Nuclear Security Administration to help run the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which helps manage the country’s nuclear weapons stockpile.

As part of this work, she oversaw the lab’s National Ignition Facility, the world’s largest laser system, which helps scientists observe how nuclear reactions occur. At one point, Nelson-Jean had to convince a worried public and skeptical policymakers that the facility could safely use plutonium for its work.

To do so, she and her team briefed officials at the departments of Energy and Defense, spoke with key members of Congress and conducted continual outreach with local residents. These conversations enabled the team to receive organized feedback about the project and develop an ongoing dialogue with its major stakeholders. The process took time, but Nelson-Jean considered it one of her fundamental responsibilities as a public servant. By being transparent and demonstrating integrity, she achieved the public buy-in that enabled her to achieve her mission.  

“It took a lot of relationship building, listening, and understanding what the resistance was and why that resistance was there,” she said. “That supported us moving forward with our national security and stockpile stewardship mission.”

Later, Nelson-Jean managed the Savannah River Site, which processes, stores and disposes of nuclear materials and oversees waste management and environmental cleanup initiatives.

The move put her in charge of a large plant complex for the first time in her career—a new role that required her to follow strict production schedules and timelines.

To succeed, Nelson-Jean sought constant feedback from her staff about how the plant operated and dedicated herself to learning about her employees. As a result, she gained a better understanding of her new work environment.

“The idea of being self-aware was immediate walking into that job because I had to seek feedback on what was going on around me and with my staff,” she said.  

After nearly three decades of government service, Nelson-Jean finds herself in another critical role. In August 2020, she became a senior leader responsible for overseeing field operations for Energy’s Office of Environmental Management, a position that requires her to manage 16 field offices, a $7.5 billion budget and more than 33,000 employees. It is the largest administrative challenge of her career.

Nelson-Jean plans to use her passion for learning, self-reflective attitude and authentic communication style to forge the types of relationships and bonds that have sustained her career. For her, these qualities are critical to effective public service. “Being open to connections and relationships are what help us succeed in whatever we need to do—whether it’s nuclear nonproliferation or building a shelter for homeless children,” she said. “The earlier in your career that you understand how relationships play such a critical role in your success and your ability to get things done, the better off you are.”

From the story: How did Nicole demonstrate integrity to partner with stakeholders?

For reflection: Which relationships could you strengthen at work to help you do your job better?

For action: How might you create an environment and forum for others to continually give you feedback? What benefit would that have?

To celebrate Public Service Recognition Week 2021, the Partnership named the finalists for this year’s Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals program. Like Nelson-Jean, they embody the core values of our Public Service Leadership Model and have pushed our government to new heights. Stay up to date on our annual “Sammies” program here.


The stewards of Medicare: How four public servants helped protect one of America’s signature health programs

Each year, phony Medicare claims cost the American taxpayer billions of dollars and deprive those eligible for coverage—senior citizens, and people with disabilities and serious illnesses—of proper health care. These fraudulent schemes turn Medicare, a historic federal program that insures more than 60 million Americans, into a personal piggy bank for private interests who prey on the vulnerable and exploit the public good. 

One group, however, has protected this vital national asset with unprecedented success.

Since 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force has employed teams of investigators from the departments of Justice and Health and Human Services to prosecute Medicare’s worst abusers at every turn.

Operated jointly within the HHS and DOJ’s Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) program, the strike force began as a four-team pilot project run out of Miami, the epicenter of Medicare fraud in America.

Today, it is a nationwide initiative operating in 12 cities across 24 federal districts that has charged more than 4,000 individuals with Medicare fraud and saved about $10 billion in Medicare costs.

More than that, it is a clear symbol of the results that federal employees can deliver when they uphold the oath of office, protect vital public resources and embrace the highest standards of professional integrity.

Below are 6 examples you can explore with questions to reflect on and consider:

Stewardship of public trust

Given the vast and unmatched influence, power and resources of our government, affecting the United States and the world, trust in federal leaders and their integrity is paramount. Federal leaders represent the American people and must be held to the highest standard. They are stewards of the Constitution, taxpayer dollars and the workforces they lead.

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I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.

Passion for public service

Four federal investigators helped transform the strike force in its early years and represent the power of public service.

Omar Pérez Aybar of the Department of Health and Human Services, Joe Beemsterboer of the Justice Department, Daniel Bernstein of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and Randy Culp of the FBI had different specialties, worked in different agencies and took different paths to government work.

Inspired by his father’s career in the Navy and interested in criminal justice, Aybar participated in ride-alongs with the Virginia Beach Police Department before enrolling in the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and working as a paid intern at HHS; Beemsterboer fell in love with government work during a law school internship with the U.S Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C.; Bernstein started as a paralegal in the private sector before shifting to the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office; and Culp initially worked as a certified public accountant before a continuing education seminar on white collar crime organized by the FBI led him to apply for a job with the agency.

Despite these differences, however, these investigators were bonded by a commitment to protect taxpayer dollars and hold accountable those who cheat the government and line their pockets at the public’s expense.

“I don’t like cons, I don’t like cheats and I don’t like fraudsters,” Culp, a former supervisory special agent with the FBI, noted. “And I enjoy putting some of them behind bars and out of business.”

“These were educated doctors,” Beemsterboer, then assistant chief of the DOJ Fraud Section, said. “They could have done anything they wanted, but they decided to rip off the system. Those are my tax dollars, your tax dollars. That’s a big part of protecting the public trust.”

“Medicare,” said Bernstein, an assistant attorney with the South Florida U.S. Attorney’s Office, “is one of the best things the government has ever done for the people of this country.”

Taking down those who exploited the program, he added, made the work worthwhile. “It’s the greed,” he said when asked what angered him most about Medicare fraud. “Privileged folks do this.”  

The impact of Aybar, Beemsterboer, Bernstein and Culp is undeniable. From 2008-2014, they forged a new model for interagency collaboration that enabled decisive legal action against Medicare fraud and helped return nearly $1 billion to the Medicare Trust Fund. Few have done more to protect one of America’s signature health programs.

From the story: How is stewardship illustrated in these individuals’ careers and motivations?

For reflection: Think back to when you took the oath of office. What did it mean to you then?

For action: How might you share stories of the important and impactful work of public servants?

Obstacles to collaboration

Launching the strike force was no easy task.  

Each of its federal entities—the FBI, HHS, DOJ and U.S. Attorney’s Office—recognized Medicare fraud as a major problem in South Florida but worked along parallel tracks and ran up against limited resources.

“There were four separate entities all reporting to their respective management, even though we were all tackling the same issues,” Culp noted. 

“And you don’t have unlimited resources to address every problem,” he said. “You’ve got to figure out how to staff each area—whether it’s drugs, human trafficking or violent gangs.”

With multiple agencies working together, strategic differences were also inevitable.

“Some agencies would say, ‘Listen, we need to produce a lot of cases quickly,’” Beemsterboer said. “Others would say, ‘Listen, we should do a few big impact cases.’ We needed to manage those tensions.”

At times, the agencies also worked unilaterally. When the FBI and DOJ excluded HHS from important decision-making processes and field operations, Aybar reminded his colleagues of the value his department brought to the team.

“I could appreciate that the FBI were the big dogs on the block and the DOJ had the prosecutors that were ultimately going to take the cases [we researched and investigated],” Aybar said. “But we were subject matter experts on health care fraud.”

From the story: How might these leaders have gone about creating a coalition? What advice would you give the strike force in this position?

For reflection: How does cross-agency collaboration enhance stewardship? 

For action: In your own work, how might you build strategic coalitions to achieve better results?

Launching the strike force

To overcome these pitfalls, the agencies on the strike force had to work together to find common ground.

“We had to check our egos at the door,” Culp said.

Fortunately, the strike force’s structure enabled collaboration and teamwork.

To kickstart the new initiative, the DOJ provided the South Florida U.S. Attorney’s Office with additional trial lawyers to join new strike force teams. In return, the office lent its own major crimes attorneys to these teams as well. Both sets of lawyers then partnered with local HHS and FBI agents already investigating Medicare fraud in the area.

The arrangement benefited each agency on the strike force. The South Florida U.S. Attorney’s Office received new personnel, DOJ experimented with a new way to tackle Medicare fraud, and HHS and FBI agents gained easy access to prosecutors who would take cases to court.

As a result, strike force investigations were highly effective and efficient. Working together, agents and prosecutors investigated and filed cases quickly, avoiding the delays that typically occur when investigators have to pitch a case to an unknown district or U.S. attorney from afar.

On his first day on the job in 2010, Beemsterboer saw HHS and FBI agents, assistant U.S. attorneys and DOJ fraud section trial attorneys working together side by side in a large off-site facility.

It was an unusual arrangement, but Beemsterboer immediately saw the benefits.  

“It made a lot of sense. We worked hand in hand, moved cases really quickly and had the ability to review evidence with each other. We were able to do so much more being in the same location.”

For Culp, the horseshoe seating arrangement at strike force headquarters enabled open discussion and information sharing.  

“We didn’t have to hunt down prosecutors and try to sell them an investigation one at a time,” Culp said. “We all worked from the ground-up as a team.”

Working together also enabled the strike force to cultivate a culture of continuous learning.

Beemsterboer was new to health care fraud when he joined the strike force, but the group helped him get up to speed quickly.

“They were there to collaborate and help,” he said of his colleagues. “I didn’t know much about health care, but they helped bring me along right away.”  

From the story: Based on what you know, what were the keys to these teams successfully working together?

For reflection: Why is it often difficult for agencies to work together?

For action: What challenges have you had working on interagency projects? How were you able to work through those challenges?

Early success

This collaborative environment produced fast results. Initially, the strike force investigated fraudulent Medicare schemes involving durable medical equipment and HIV infusion treatments.

In January 2008, the group charged six individuals with filing more than $50 million in phony Medicare claims for items such as nebulizers, wheelchairs, oxygen concentrators and hospital beds.

Later, the strike force took down a $100 million scheme involving 11 Miami clinics that filed false HIV medical infusion claims. In some cases, patients received a mix of vitamins and saline solution rather than any actual HIV medication.  

Throughout, the investigators examined billing patterns, bank accounts and medical records to detect Medicare quickly and prevent further corruption. In one early case, this type of data analysis helped the strike force discover that the owner of a durable medical equipment company had stolen doctor and patient ID numbers to submit more than 4,000 Medicare claims for over $2 million in just three months.

The positive results enabled the strike force to expand.

“It seemed like the more success we got,” Culp noted, “the more agents we got and the more prosecutors we got.”

Aybar helped drive this change by advertising the strike force to other HHS agents and getting more agencywide buy-in.

“Part of my job was trying to get the rest of the agents who weren’t a part of the pilot project to rethink and reimagine how we go about investigations. We knew this was going to become a staple program, but we needed to make sure that all the partners saw it and really bought in,” he said.

From the story: How else might the team have shared their successes and gained additional buy in?

For reflection: How do successes like these strengthen the public’s trust in government?

For action: How might you build quick wins into your work? How do you share best practices and successes from your work?

Driving impact

For Aybar, driving this kind of change was nothing new. 

Throughout his career, the twenty-two-year HHS veteran routinely made an impact by taking the initiative, building networks and committing himself to uphold the oath of office.     

Aybar’s first assignment as an agent within the HHS’ Office of the Inspector General was to open up an HHS office in Puerto Rico, a difficult assignment for a 22-year old new hire living far from families and friends.

Aybar recalled the initial challenges of working amid difficult conditions in a country that lacked a robust health care system. The final straw was a large power outage that turned off his refrigerator and left him without food after a grueling day at work. Soon after, he called his supervisor and requested a transfer to work closer to home.

But the oath of office compelled Aybar to stay.

“I swore an oath,” he told himself. “They trusted me to do this and I need to make it happen. I’d be remiss if I didn’t leave my footprint on a place and try to leave it better than I found it.”

Eventually, Aybar turned the Puerto Rico outpost into the most productive HHS field office in the New York region. Laying out the office’s potential workload and impact to his supervisors, he hired a close-knit team of DOJ prosecutors and FBI agents that mirrored the Medicare strike force he would later join in Miami. The new professional network, built from scratch, offered camaraderie, community and shared sense of mission in a new work environment.  

After 5 1/2 years, Aybar transferred to the New York field office. But he missed the unique chemistry he had developed with his team in Puerto Rico and found it more difficult to get his cases before a judge without a dedicated prosecutor.

“New York is the financial capital of the world,” he said. “There’s a whole host of crimes that, from a jury’s perspective, are much sexier – drug cases, violent crime cases, public corruption cases, insider trading cases. And here I am trying to present a health care fraud case. It was an uphill battle.”     

So Aybar got creative, leading an undercover operation—then uncommon at HHS—to take down a pharmaceutical employee illegally supplying pills to several local pharmacies.

Operating in another new work environment, Aybar relied on the oath he took as a federal employee to stay motivated and achieve success.

“The work was still fulfilling,” he said, “because I kept thinking, ‘You took this oath to protect people. You need to do all you can to live up to that.’” 

A year later, while preparing for a recruiting event at John Jay, Aybar came across a USAJOBS posting for a full-time position with the Medicare Fraud Strike Force in Miami. After inquiring about job specifics, and debating whether to uproot his family again and leave New York City, he accepted an offer to join the group in South Florida.

From the story: What values are embedded in Aybar’s remarks?

For reflection: What is unique about public service?

For action: What keeps you in public service?

New directions

Once there, Aybar employed the same mindset and strategies—taking the initiative and tapping into his professional networks—to make an impact as he did in his previous positions in Puerto Rico and New York City.

After two years, Aybar realized that the strike force, despite its early success, needed to tackle new and emerging types of fraud.

“We were getting results,” Aybar said. “But I said, ‘At some point, this is going to dry up.’”

He got his chance to lead the strike force in a new direction in 2010, when an analyst working for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services advised Aybar to investigate possible Medicare fraud at community mental health facilities.

Aybar invited the analyst to present the evidence to his supervisors, but they remained unconvinced by what they heard and balked at building a case.

But Aybar persisted, driven once again by his responsibility to serve and protect the public.

“These are folks with Alzheimer’s and dementia—people who are struggling and supposed to be receiving some type of mental health support so they can carry on their lives. We couldn’t leave the vulnerable population that way.”

He then seized an opportunity to turn a civil case on a related issue involving community health centers into a criminal case. To do so, Aybar made a smart personnel move, pairing two new eager strike force hires—a new HHS agent and a new DOJ prosecutor—together to investigate the issue.   

“We were trying to capitalize on opportunities when they presented themselves,” Aybar said.

The aggressive approach paid off.

Within five months, the strike force had charged the American Therapeutics Corporation with operating an eight-year, $205 million scheme that involved bribing assisted living facilities to refer patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia to the company for unnecessary—and in some cases nonexistent—services.

In 2011, a judge ordered the company’s owner to pay more than $87 million and sentenced him to 50 years in prison, the longest sentence handed down on a Medicare fraud case at the time.

From the story: What would you do in Aybar’s situation? What points would you make to the skeptical bosses and how would you weave principles of stewardship into them?

For reflection: How does stewardship play a vital role in driving change in government?

For action: How might you take risks to maximize your impact?

Creating lasting change

By the early 2010s, the strike force hit its stride. With new cases came more press coverage and a greater public recognition that Medicare fraud was a serious problem.

“Eventually cases we’re doing ended up on the front of the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times,” Beemsterboer said.  

“We’d arrest a ton of people and the press would write about it,” Bernstein added.

The public spotlight made a difference.

In the early 2010s, Beemsterboer and Bernstein began to investigate fraud in Miami’s home health care agencies. The strike force eventually charged several owners with defrauding Medicare of $170 million. A judge sentenced the owners to between three and 10 years in prison.

In response, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services suspended new home health agency enrollments in the Medicare program in Miami for nearly six years, a move that drastically reduced home health fraud in Miami.

More recently, federal agencies replicated the strike force model to tackle the nation’s opioid epidemic. Within the four months, the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force had spearheaded the largest opioid takedown in U.S. history to date, charging 60 individuals across 11 federal districts with illegally distributing more than 32 million opioid pills

Looking back, Aybar believes these successes demonstrated how federal employees who uphold their oath and protect the public interest can rebuild public faith in government.

“Conceptually, the strike force is embodiment of public service,” he said.

“The foundation of our work is the oath that we took. The impact is that we’ve shaped what John Q. Public thinks about when he imagines someone in government service. We were able to say, ‘We’re here to safeguard you, and all of the freedoms and benefits you expect this country to provide.’”

From the story: How are Aybar and his team upholding the values found in the Constitution? What factors led to the broader adoption of their model?

For reflection: How does public trust grow?

For action: Go back and read the oath of office again. What does it mean to you now?