Virtual Museum of Public Service

Quiet Heroes and Innovators: D-4

"A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles."

- Christopher Reeve (1952-2004) well known actor (Superman)
Although many public servants work in environments that challenge even the most optimistic, creative, and industrious personalities, they are most often highly motivated by a calling to contribute to improving the lives of their fellow citizens and by a compelling desire to address social problems. While some individuals, drawn to public service become promoted to positions of great responsibility such as the United States President and Supreme Court Justices, many, many more serve in relative anonymity. Some of these are quiet heroes and innovators who deserve to be recognized for their service to the public.

In this collection we celebrate quiet heroes and innovators, some of whom have been memorialized with national monuments as in the case of Mary McLeod Bethune, an educator and activist who made significant contributions to the rights of African Americans, and was recognized with national awards for public service. The American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) along with the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) established the National Public Service Award to honor individual public servants who are deemed as formidable examples of public service based on their careers and accomplishment. Winners of this award are celebrated for their willingness to take risks to achieve change, for making a profound difference to improve public service, for achieving savings in government operations, developing a cadre of government leaders, and for contributing to the communities in which they live. Indeed, many of these can be regarded as quiet heroes and innovators in the public sector.