By: Gilda Lambert
Consultant, Former Positions with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Who or what inspired you to work in public service?
When I was an undergraduate at Syracuse University, a dear friend suggested that I sign up for a seminar co-taught by Alan “Scotty” Campbell (then dean of Syracuse’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs) and Donna Shalala (then a doctoral student at the Maxwell School). At the time, I did not realize that what I was taught in that seminar - and the relationships I made there - would both inspire and launch my career in the public service. One of my first jobs was as a junior staffer at NAPA, where I met and learned from George Graham, Phil Rutledge, Jim Webb, and other luminaries.
What is something you are excited about right now?
While there remains much work to be done, I am excited about the incredible strides which women and minorities have made in all fields, and that social equity is a goal in so many sectors. I am also excited about the talent of the millennials and their potential to dramatically improve the delivery of public services.
What is your favorite class that you ever taught or took, and why?
The metropolitan studies seminar I mentioned above was definitely my favorite class because of its impact on my life’s work.
What advice can you give to folks beginning careers in public service?
Since large numbers of persons are retiring from public service positions, many opportunities are open for young professionals with fresh perspectives. I would advise prospective public servants to seek out positions which will expose them to programs outside their immediate areas of responsibility. They should also look for supervisors who are committed to their development and advancement. Joining professional organizations and volunteering therein would provide valuable opportunities for networking and skill development.
Was there a transformational experience in your life that relates to public service?
I cannot think of one transformational experience. In my personal and professional realms, I have always wanted to help others succeed.
What is your favorite midnight snack?
Potato chips (in moderation, of course), are always high on my list.
Do you have any pets at home?
I have been blessed to be a pet parent for most of my adult life. I currently care for (and adore) a cat and a dog, both adopted from shelters and both in their senior years.
If you could witness any historical event, what would you want to see?
It should not require the tragedy of 911 for Americans to come together as one for a common cause and pursuit. It seems that the Ukrainian people have a love for country and for each other which is terribly lacking right now in the USA.
I would like to witness a time in which all Americans are able to pursue happiness unbridled by stirred-up discrimination.
Do you have a favorite podcast, journal, newspaper, or other kind of media?
I still love to spread out my newspaper on the kitchen counter every morning. Having spent almost 40 years in the DC metropolitan area, my favorite newspaper has to be The Washington Post.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Here is a portion of the sage advice I received from my family members while growing up:
Strive for self-reliance; establish a reputation such that anything negative reported would not be believed; save a nickel from every quarter earned; and own up to your shortcomings.
Although I was raised during the Jim Crow era, I was most advantaged to have had the love - and to have witnessed the grit – of loving family members in the generations before me.