U.S. Senator Ben Cardin

Letters From Ben

May 4, 2024

Public Service

Dear Fellow Marylanders,

When the cargo ship Dali lost control and slammed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, law enforcement, emergency medical personnel, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and others were on the scene immediately, working to rescue and recover the workers on the bridge and in the water. These public servants, along with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Department of Transportation, Maryland Department of Transportation and others continue working 24/7 to clear the shipping channel, salvage the mangled steel and concrete in the Patapsco River, while federal, state and local planners and engineers quickly move forward plans to build a replacement bridge.

When COVID-19 reached the U.S., researchers and other medical professionals at the Bethesda-based National Institutes of Health, the Frederick-based National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, led the nationwide effort to manage the medical response to the pandemic, including accurate research, testing and vaccines for the virus. Civil servants at the Small Business Administration worked with tens of thousands of small businesses in Maryland and across the country to help keep workers on the job through the most difficult of circumstances. Educators shifted overnight to remote and online learning platforms and courageous medical personnel put their own lives and families at risk to help those who were ill.

The common thread of these two major disasters: public servants doing their job day in and day out for the benefit of their community and their country.

This upcoming week (May 5-11) is Public Service Recognition Week – one of my favorite times of the year. It is an opportunity to celebrate these dedicated workers and more than 20 million public servants working at the federal, state, county and local levels across our country. They tackle the everyday events and the extremes.

This year, we especially honor the six men tragically lost when the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed. At the time, they were engaged in repair work to keep the road and thruway safer for the rest of us, who likely took the bridge for granted every time we drove over it or gazed at it in the Baltimore skyline.

Our country relies on the critical work of the everyday heroes in the public sector workforce, and we owe them a debt of gratitude for their steadfast service. From astronauts to astrophysicists, caseworkers to construction workers, detectives to doctors, service members  to superintendents, teachers to transit workers, America’s public servants comprise one of our Nation’s most critical and sometimes maligned assets.

As President Joe Biden said in a proclamation this week: “Our Nation relies on our public servants every day, and they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.”

Knowingly or not, every American feels the impact of the crucial work of our public servants. Thanks to first responders, service members, social workers, educators and every public servant in between, over 330 million Americans can rest knowing their loved ones are protected, the rule of law is respected, food supplies and water are safe, and that the public sector is here to make their lives more effective.

I have witnessed over and over again how the public sector workforce – at the federal, state, county, local and municipal levels – has a sense of duty and a love of their community and country that compels them. There are many public or civil servants who could be earning higher salaries in private-sector jobs but they are driven by a higher purpose than personal gain.

Civil servants elect to work for the American people first, and they deserve the opportunity to carry out their service without fear of being relieved of duties or subject to retaliation based on non-allegiance to a political party. That is why I applauded the Biden administration and the Office of Personnel Management for issuing the final rule in opposition to the previous Administration’s Schedule F classification, which would have dangerously politicized our federal work force.

OPM’s reiteration of support for non-partisan federal employee protections is a crucial victory, not only for the 2.2 million individuals currently under this classification but for every American and the integrity of our institutions. During Public Service Recognition Week and throughout the year, I thank each one of them for their exceptional service to the American people.

Public servants help this country and our people every single day. I hope you will join me in thanking these individuals who go to work each day determined to make a positive difference for their fellow Americans.

Thank you for your time. Please feel free to reply to this email with your thoughts on Public Service Recognition Week or any other topic. I value all the feedback we receive.


Ben Cardin