A View from the Hill
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 8, 1999
CONTACT: Tommy Voltero (617) 722-2240
A TRIBUTE TO OUR PUBLIC SERVANTS
War movies of the past are often poor depictions of the real thing.
The soldiers are invariably cast as superhuman- they have no fear, they
don't get dirty, and their bullets are always on target (unlike those of
the enemy, which never seem to hit their marks). The worst aspects of
this supposedly mortal combat- pain, suffering, and terror- are glossed
over to make room for pomp, circumstance, and fanfare.
A recent film, however, broke the tradition of making war look like a
Broadway musical. Saving Private Ryan, an astonishing movie about World
War II, vividly portrays combat in a manner that is almost too real. There
have been other movies, such as All Quiet on the Western Front, that have
attempted to show the horrors of war, but they do not live up to the
example set by this movie. Saving Private Ryan takes the audience right to
the front lines on D-Day, putting the viewer amidst the blinding smoke,
deafening machine gun fire, and unsettling devastation of the battlefield.
Soldiers are not singing "Over There" before running out of the landing
vehicle- they are mentally preparing themselves for the hail of bullets,
artillery shells, and shrapnel awaiting them on the sand ahead.
Most of us have never been engaged in combat, and thus we have no
subjective understanding of what it is like. Nevertheless, we should
constantly be aware of the dangerous, and yet necessary task of defending
our nation from external aggression. At several points in our nation's
history, real men and women have been called upon to protect the basic
liberties that we so often take for granted. They summoned their innermost
courage to face the most frightful challenges ever endured by man.
As we celebrate Veteran's Day this week, it is important that we
understand the incredible sacrifices made by these brave individuals in
guaranteeing the life and liberty of future generations of Americans.
Without their contributions, the United States might very well be in the
clutches of a foreign power, with our cherished principles of liberty,
democracy, and justice crushed under the heel of tyranny. For this reason,
we owe veterans our utmost respect and sincerest gratitude. November 11th
is our chance to recognize they who have put their own lives on the line so
that others might live.
Just as we honor our veterans for their courageous service abroad, we
must also take a moment to recognize those who have served their fellow
citizens right here, on the home front. Because the fight for freedom and
justice did not end on the battlefields of France and Germany, many
selfless Americans have answered the call to duty in their own backyards by
becoming public servants. Although many have probably not stood up to
Panzer tanks and Kamikaze fighters, their contributions to the greater
community have made a difference in the lives of many people.
Recently, I had the privilege of participating in and attending the
annual Performance Recognition Awards ceremony honoring our distinguished
public employees. Work groups, management teams, and individual employees
who have demonstrated excellence in their workplaces are chosen to receive
a number of different public service awards. Among the awards are:
· The Governor's Special Achievement Award for those who have made a
significant impact on the quality of life of the citizens of the
· The Commonwealth Citation for Outstanding Performance which is given to
outstanding employees in each executive department.
· The Manuel Carballo Award for Excellence in Public Service, the highest
honor for executive department employees.
· The Eugene H. Rooney Public Service Award for individuals or groups that
excel in human resource development and training.
This year's recipient of the Governor's Special Achievement Award, the
Southeast Expressway Emergency Response Team, illustrates the quality of
candidate considered for these awards. This interagency group was
responsible for the rapid containment of a colossal fuel spill and fire in
late March that destroyed a large section of the Expressway and could have
wreaked greater havoc had it not been for the Herculean efforts of the
Response Team. Normally, the cleanup and repair would have taken over 48
hours. However, with the morning traffic looming, the Team went into
action and accomplished the task in under 12 hours. When commuters hit the
road on Monday, it was as if nothing had happened. To be sure, few, if any,
commuters probably realized the extent of energy and resources involved in
the massive clean up that took place the previous day. The determination
of these unsung heroes allowed for a safe and easy commute. Efforts such
as these are clearly deserving of our recognition.
More than simply a spectator, I had the honor of being a member of the
selection committee for the Rooney Award. At first the task appeared easy.
But after spending hours reviewing the thick files of the nominees, each
with equally impressive accomplishments, the difficulty of selecting the
best candidates became readily apparent. The amount of time and energy
these individuals devoted to creating and implementing intelligent policies
while going well above and beyond the call of duty to assist others has
been tremendous. Their professional credentials alone remove any doubt
that our government agencies are staffed by not only some of the brightest
and sharpest people in our state, but also some of the most caring and
The employees we recognized that evening demonstrate the overall
commitment to public service that each one of them, and each one of us,
carry inside. Some think that there is no more work to be done in this
world, that the great wars are over and we can ride on the shoulders of
those who came before us. This is not so. While we must pay tribute to
the men and women who have served our nation both at home and abroad, we
should not let their accomplishments go to waste. If we wish to truly
honor them, we should do so by following their examples. Democracy and
liberty require constant work, as noted by the great patriot Thomas Paine:
"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must...undergo the
fatigue of supporting it...what we obtain too cheap, we esteem too