2018 Spirit of Service Award

Jeff Bezos

Built successful businesses that deliver everyday goods and services, advance space exploration and contribute to our national security and the public good, and launched large-scale philanthropic initiatives to help homeless families and improve educational opportunities in low-income communities

Winner of the inaugural 2018 Spirit of Service Award

In the 1990s, Jeff Bezos was a budding entrepreneur who started a virtual bookstore called Amazon.com. That 20th-century start-up has grown into an iconic 21st-century company that delivers a wide range of goods and services, including clothing, office supplies, music, movies, IT resources and more.

Since then, Bezos has used his visionary leadership and business acumen to branch out into new fields that benefit our nation and our federal government.

In 2000, Bezos founded Blue Origin, an aerospace manufacturer and spaceflight services company focused on preserving the Earth by moving heavy industry off the planet and into space. The company has developed reusable launch vehicles to lower the cost of access to space, making progress toward a future where millions of people live and work beyond earth’s atmosphere.

Blue Origin’s New Shepard, a fully reusable suborbital launch vehicle, has completed nine space flights as of July 2018. These test flights have carried NASA-funded medical technology for treating chest trauma in a space environment and a payload designed to validate a cooling system developed by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. The company also has collaborated with NASA’s Commercial Crew Development program on space equipment and systems.

Closer to home, Amazon Web Services is delivering innovative and secure cloud computing products that help the intelligence community, military service members and first responders collect, analyze and share mission-critical information in real time. In 2014, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency became the first intelligence agency to use AWS to share and analyze geospatial intelligence worldwide. The agency put the new technology to good use during the 2014 Ebola crisis in West Africa and when a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Nepal in April 2015. In both instances, the agency provided unclassified maps, images and data through public-facing websites to aid rescuers and relief planners. These tools and resources were vital to first responders arriving from overseas and quickly gathering information in a rapidly changing landscape.

Five years ago, Bezos purchased The Washington Post with a vision to bring it into the digital age and restore its financial viability, which he accomplished in short order. Throughout its storied history, the Post has played an important role holding our government accountable to the people it serves. As a media company, it goes beyond serving as a watchdog, using its broad reach to increase public understanding of our government and its value, and by recognizing the important accomplishments of those who serve.

Most recently, Bezos announced the creation of the Bezos Day One Fund. This new philanthropic initiative will begin with a commitment of $2 billion in two focus areas: funding existing nonprofits that help homeless families, and creating tier-one preschools that improve educational opportunities in low-income communities.

If the past is any indication, Bezos’ entrepreneurial spirit will lead to more creative ideas and successful enterprises that we hope will continue to benefit our nation and our government.