Program Overview and History

Program Overview and History

Federal employees are responsible for many noteworthy and inspiring accomplishments that are seldom recognized or celebrated. The Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals highlight excellence in our federal workforce and inspire other talented and dedicated individuals to go into public service.

The Sammies, known as the “Oscars” of government service, are a highly respected honor with a rigorous selection process. Named for the Partnership for Public Service’s late founder who was inspired by President Kennedy’s call to serve in 1963, these awards align with his vision of a dynamic and innovative federal workforce that meets the needs of the American people.

The Partnership is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization whose mission is to help make our government more effective, and the Sammies honorees represent the many exceptional federal workers who are doing just that—breaking down barriers, overcoming huge challenges and getting results. Whether they’re defending the homeland, protecting the environment, ensuring public safety, making scientific and medical discoveries, or responding to natural and man-made disasters, these men and women put service before self and make a lasting difference.

Samuel J. Heyman believed that “the future of our nation quite simply depends on the quality of our government.” The Sammies are the Partnership’s way of showing the world the many ways our government is making our country better, safer and stronger.


Federal Employee of the Year

This award recognizes a federal employee whose professional contributions exemplify the highest attributes of public service.

Special Guidelines:
This award is chosen by the Sammies Selection Committee from among the group of finalists. We do not accept nominations directly for this category.

Paul A. Volcker Career Achievement

The Partnership for Public Service is proud to name our Service to America Career Achievement Medal for Paul A. Volcker in recognition of his nearly three decades of distinguished federal service. The new Paul A. Volcker Career Achievement Medal, made possible through the generous support of Ray and Barbara Dalio, recognizes federal employees who have led significant and sustained achievements over 20 or more years of service in government.

Volcker is a public service luminary who advised presidents from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama, and held a series of critical government positions in which he maintained the highest ethical standards, promoted important financial reforms and exercised tremendous influence over U.S. economic policy. He twice headed a nonpartisan Commission on the Public Service that recommended sweeping changes in the federal government’s organization and personnel practices. Finance and the economy dominated much of Volcker’s career but, for years, he has been outspoken about the importance of an effective government, and the need to restore faith in government. In fact, he told the Financial Times in 2018 that he would like his legacy to be his ‘attention to public service’ rather than his economic achievements.

Volcker Alliance President Thomas W. Ross said Volcker has committed himself in so many ways to public service, to making life better for public servants and to improving the reputation of government. “I can’t imagine a better example of distinguished public service than that set by Paul Volcker,” Ross said. “There is no more fitting name than Volcker’s to be permanently associated with the Service to America Career Achievement Medal.”

Special Eligibility Criteria:
Nominee must have worked in public service for at least 20 years as of January 1 during the current nomination cycle.

Emerging Leaders

This nomination category is offered to encourage special consideration for young federal employees who have made an important contribution early in their professional career. Selected finalists will be assigned to other medal categories according to the nature of their work and accomplishments.

Special Eligibility Criteria:
Nominee must be 35 or younger as of January 1 during the current nomination cycle.

Safety and Law Enforcement

This medal recognizes a federal employee for a significant accomplishment in fields such as civil rights, consumer protection, cyber-security, transportation safety, worker safety or emergency preparedness and response.

Management Excellence

This medal recognizes a federal employee for demonstrating superior leadership and management excellence through a significant contribution to the nation that exemplifies efficient, effective and results-oriented government.

National Security and International Affairs

This medal recognizes a federal employee for a significant accomplishment in fields such as border security, counter-terrorism, defense and military affairs, intelligence, nuclear nonproliferation, diplomacy, foreign assistance or trade.

Science and Environment

This medal recognizes a federal employee for a significant contribution to the nation in activities related to science and environment (including biomedicine, economics, energy, information technology, meteorology, resource conservation and space).