Rising Stars a reminder of an earlier day

Like Trail Boss program before it, Rising Star awards evoke service

In the mid-1980s, the General Services Administration launched a very successful resident training program called Trail Boss. It was founded on the principle that acquisition officials would benefit from the experiences of their more seasoned peers and could avoid the pitfalls of the procurement process. 

As students graduated from their classes, they joined a community called the Trail Boss Cadre and attended an annual conference called the Trail Boss Round-up.  Sounds a little hokey, doesn’t it? Well, hold onto that thought.

Fast-forward to 2009. Now we have a new generation of government employees recognized as Rising Stars who are analogously networked. They interact, learn, create and excel…differently. They write blogs, comment on wikis, post to Facebook, send IMs and receive tweets while seeking RSS feeds. Sounds a little hokey, doesn’t it?

We live in an interesting time. We are likely to find traditionalists, baby boomers, Generation Xers and millennials in the same boardroom, council chambers, lunchroom, or blog or Twitter space. We grew up in different eras, but we share the same rich promise of challenge and potential. I suggest that we have more in common than we immediately realize. Let’s note the ways.

1.  We entered the government or industry workforce committed to making a difference. We might have been inspired by John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan or Barack Obama. Our seminal moments might have included the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the explosion of the space shuttle in 1986 or the terrorist attacks of 2001. Whatever our formative experiences were, Trail Bosses and Rising Stars share the same commitment to making this government and country better for its citizens.

2. We value and share the need to seek ideas, knowledge and wisdom. Trail Bosses communicated via e-mail with other Trail Bosses, were informed by Listserv exchanges (remember them?) and attended annual Round-Up Conferences. Rising Stars do all those social-media things and participate in spontaneous social events. At the recent Open Government and Innovations Conference, attendees simultaneously listened to speakers while reading their colleagues’ reactions as Twitter posts on a screen. We learned from both exchanges.

3. We understand that work is accomplished through collaboration. A major tenet of the Trail Boss program was to engage private-sector companies early and hear their ideas, innovations and solutions. In government, Trail Bosses enthusiastically embraced their new contacts at other agencies for help and advice. Today, Rising Stars collaborate at the speed of texting — or faster! — in social-media spaces and virtual communities that have few restrictions and unlimited potential. Wow.

4. We excelled and succeeded. Our archives are filled with stories of success from Trail Bosses and Trail Bosses of the Year. Likewise, Rising Stars are innovating, writing success stories, and being recognized annually, monthly and daily for innovation and outcomes only recently conceived. Wow again.

The bottom line is that we share a long legacy of innovation and success that benefits us all. Thank you, Trail Bosses, and thank you, Rising Stars. Keep those cards and letters, posts and tweets coming.

About the Author

Emory Miller is senior vice president for government affairs at Robbins-Gioia. Previously, he spent 36 years in the federal government in a variety of roles at several agencies. He helped develop GSA's Trail Boss program and was named Trail Boss of the Year in 1995.

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