Connie, thank you. And at the outset of these remarks, let me just pay my respects to Connie Newman and say what a first-class job I know she's doing at OPM. And I know that you take a lot of pride in this event, since you rose through the ranks yourself, starting, as I understand it, if my history is correct, 30 years ago as a GS - 3 -- [laughter] -- I've still got you beat on the age now -- [laughter] -- GS - 3 clerk-typist at Interior. And look at you now. And we are very, very proud of you.
I also want to welcome Ed Derwinski, Secretary Derwinski; Acting Secretary Busey; Secretary Stone; Pat Saiki, the Administrator at SBA; Director Sessions; and so many other distinguished guests. I think I see Admiral Truly out there.
I hear that when one of the recipients was told that the speaker today would be the most important man in Washington, he said, ``I thought Joe Gibbs had already left for Minneapolis.'' [Laughter] We are caught up in a frenzy here. but that should not detract from the importance of this event.
And it is a privilege for me to be over here today to congratulate some extraordinary people, you might say unsung heroes. You don't always get at the head table, don't always have your name flashing out there in lights. You may be lucky on that one. [Laughter] But really extraordinary people.
Vince Lombardi, you remember, he gave some pretty good advice off the field as well as on. He put it this way; he said, ``The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence.''
Well, today what we're doing is honoring the lives of great quality. I am told that only one percent of our SES can receive the Distinguished Executive Award. And that means that out of more than 3 million public servants, you few here today embody the very finest qualities of leadership, dedication, personal integrity, and public service.
I reminisce that when I was growing up, my parents, particularly my dad, instilled in me a tremendous respect for the duty and obligation of public service. And I know that you share my belief that Government service is a public trust, that the highest honor we can have is to serve our country and in so doing serve our countrymen.
Good government cannot work without you, committed men and women who devote yourselves to making certain that our Government truly serves the people. Look at the contributions that you've made in this past year alone. Some of you were instrumental in one way or another in Operation Desert Storm. You share in the triumph we won for freedom abroad and, of some noted significance, of unity at home.
Some devoted your efforts to stirring economic growth here at home, creating opportunity for businesses and farmers and workers. Others dedicated your career to establishing ties abroad, bringing security and jobs to the people of this country in the process. You worked on child nutrition programs, directed the census, planned water resource projects, managed scientific research, oversaw economic analysis, helped reform the Federal pay system, managed aeronautical research, formulated human rights programs, managed veterans care, led drug investigations. The list goes on and on. In other words, through putting into practice administration programs, you touched the daily lives and shaped the future of all Americans.
And so, I am proud to participate in this program. I wanted to extend my congratulations to all for living by the words of Abraham Lincoln, who said, ``I do the very best I know how, the very best I can; and I mean to keep on doing so until the end.'' Your country is grateful. And we thank you for your service.
And now, Connie, let's get on with the main business at hand. Thank you, and congratulations to each and every one of you.
[At this point, the awards were presented.]
Thank you all very much, and to all of you, congratulations. This is special, and it sends a wonderful message about the quality of our public service across the whole country. So keep it up.
Note: The President spoke at 10:35 a.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building. In his remarks, he referred to James B. Busey IV, Acting Secretary of Transportation; William S. Sessions, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Richard B. Truly, Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.