Emerging Leaders Academy Graduation Speech: Charles Jones

Comments Delivered By Charles Jones, Director of the KU Public Management Center
On July 17, 2013

Charles Jones

Good afternoon and welcome to the graduation ceremony for the Spring 2013 Emerging Leaders Academy.

I want to congratulate each of you, and Noel, on successfully completing this program of intensive learning, reflection, and growth. None of you got here by accident. You were selected in recognition of your accomplishments, capacities, and importance to the future of your sponsoring agencies. Your organizations chose well.

While we’re doling out congratulations, let’s take a moment to acknowledge others in the room: those who supported you throughout this process.

  • We start with your sponsoring agencies, thanking them for their support through tuition funding and allowing you time away from the office. Most importantly, we thank them for their commitment to public service that works, that grows stronger even as challenges become more daunting. We thank those leaders who understand that strength of an organization lies in the capabilities and dedication of its staff.
  • We thank your family, coworkers, and friends who offered encouragement and even a helping hand along the way.
  • Finally, we thank the instructors and mentors who added their voices and insights to the ELA experience.

Graduates, I’d now invite you all to stand, turn, and give thanks, through applause, to those who join us today.

I received a call a couple of days ago informing me that one of our graduates would not be able to join us today. I’m not privy to the details. I only know that a law enforcement officer must sacrifice this celebration in deference to other administrative requirements. We will miss him this afternoon, but his absence serves to remind us of the sacrifices you all make to public service. Each day you run the gauntlet of fiscal strains, political pressures, public exasperation, and the wicked complexity of so many public policy issues. The challenges you face are mountainous and profound.

Perhaps the only thing larger and more powerful is the spirit of public workers like you. That spirit is fed by many things: your work is important and interesting, what you do matters – intensely and personally – to the people you serve. You share our workspace with like-minded people: this is especially true in organizations, like yours, that value staff enough to send you to a program like ELA. You know how to close ranks and move forward (Gettysburg reference) into unknowns and sometimes hostility.

But the most important source of public spirit is something each of you carries, something described by public administration scholars as “Public Service Motivation,” a personal nature that draws gratification from being:

  • other-regarding: contributing to the well-being of organizations and society
  • altruistic: doing good for others
  • meaningful: value intrinsic rewards of work that is important and provides a feeling of accomplishment

Speaking on behalf of the PMC and all your instructors, I can assure that it is impossible to be in the presence of public service leaders such as yours and not be encouraged and inspired. Your presence in the classroom and here today affirms that while public service challenges may be great, they are met by an incomparably well-equipped and highly motivated generation of public servants, like you.

So thank you for your service. Thank you for what you have accomplished and the many accomplishments that lie before you. It’s been an honor to walk with you these past four months. Keep in touch and know that you will always be part of the Public Management Center family.