Transcript from Interview:
Hello, I'm Kaitlyn Blume, Director of Fellow Engagement at the National Academy of Public Administration. June marks Pride Month, a month where we celebrate the history of the LGBTQ+ community. The purpose of the commemorative month is to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally.
Today, I'm here with Vince Micone, Executive Director of Enterprise Services at the US Department of Commerce, and a NAPA Fellow. Vince, I have a few questions for you. During lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) Pride month, we honor the resilience of the LGBTQI+ community who are fighting to live authentically and freely. Talk to me a little bit about that resiliency throughout the years.
Okay, well, let me talk about my personal story a little bit, because I think it's the best way to frame it. When I started working for the Federal Government in the early 1990s, I could not get a security clearance if I were openly gay.
If I were asked and answered with integrity, there's a chance that I could not have had my job if it required a security clearance. Now, this was not many lifetimes ago. I know many individuals who lost their jobs and careers in the Federal Government because of this, and thousands of members of the military who were banned from service for no other reason other than being in the LGBTQ community, and so there was a policy of the United States Government until just a few years ago, to institutionally discriminate against a group of people and prohibit them from participating in their chosen field as public administrators.
That's wrong. That's a wrong that many of us still haven't forgotten about. That's a wrong that denied careers and participation. Frank Kameny—who was a DC resident—was a federal employee, was outed, removed from his job [in the 1950s], and fought; only finally receiving an apology for having his life [impacted] and career destroyed, when President Obama was in office.
So, when we talk about our [LGBTQ+] community being disincentivized and not included, it’s only a new phenomenon for us that we are and can be open in the workplace about who we are. That is not something that generations have experienced, and so, I think it’s important for us to step back and understand that there are many folks who work for state and local government, who feel far less comfortable being out and being their genuine selves, and in fact, may not choose to be public administrators because of that fear.
So, we have a lot of work to do. We need to do more in public administration, in our field, in NAPA as Fellows, than give lip service to this because the concerns and the fears that my colleagues have still exist today. And even today, I know some folks who are more comfortable being in the closet at work, even though they’re out comfortably in their private lives. That to me is a problem.
When I decided that I was going to act with integrity, and be truthful—as were so many were about our orientation [at that time]—I did that because at the time I was working for the Department of Justice, and I thought to myself, before I was asked those questions and went into that security clearance interview, how can I work for a department whose name is a moral value if I can’t be my authentic self? There’s something to me that that is wrong with that.
So I think the fact that we’re talking about Pride and why we celebrate Pride within NAPA—really for the first time this year—symbolizes how important [this is] and why we need this conversation to continue.
Thank you for sharing that LGBTQ rights are human rights, and so, I want to know from you know, what can we be doing in our organizations right now to reaffirm this and promote and encourage this diversity?
Well, first of all, our nation, our communities, our states—wherever we have agencies of government—are stronger when we provide opportunity for all and providing opportunity doesn’t mean just doing the same old thing the same old way. We have to work hard with a DEIA lens to recruit people to apply for jobs and to provide opportunities so people can develop and grow into senior executive roles.
This doesn’t happen by accident and many people have been left out; it's time for us to utilize this opportunity to make sure we change our old habits so that in five or ten years it won't be a shock or surprise or something notable when there's the first LGBT person serving in this role, or elected to this office, or the first BIPOC person who's ever served in this capacity.
I mean, for heaven's sakes, it's 2022, and we're not a new democracy, and so it's time for everyone to have an opportunity at the table.
Our nation is built on the strength of that diversity, and our responsibility is to be good allies to each other, and within this profession to be allies for people who are not at the table and make sure that they have a seat there.
We need to recruit employees who reflect the workforce, we need to promote employees who reflect the workforce, and we need to do that in a way where we generate pools of applicants that reflect the sort of diversity that we want to have.
Now, for LGBTQ organizations and for organizations like NAPA, here's some advice and some thoughts: one, for those of us who are gay or lesbian, don't go back in the closet at all. Be visible.
One of my lessons that I learned from my parents—my mom grew up in Nazi-occupied France. She was a child there when the Nazis overtook the country. She married my father after World War II. My father was a lifelong member of the United States military for 47 years, and my parents taught me at a very young age, based on their experience, that silence was not allowable. Silence was consent. My grandparents in France were part of the French underground fighting the Nazi regime. My father fought in World War II so that I could have an opportunity to be free and open.
Now, [I’ll] tell you it was a little bumpy. When I told them that I was gay, that was a little surprising for them. It was probably a little surprising for me, too, but they didn't stop once from encouraging me to be [my] authentic self and that I [was created in] the image of God [reflected by our] the religious values.
We need to make sure that we allow people to be open, and that includes NAPA. The closet is the most horrible place you can be. We need to be visible as LGBTQ people; we need to make sure that others know who we are because frankly, every Pride month is someone's first Pride, and they're looking up to someone, and we may be the someone that helps them.
And we need our allies. We need folks who support our community to be visible. I sort of compare it to everyone [who] wants to be in the pride parade, and they always look at us to help get the floats ready, particularly our straight allies. Well, we want you in the parade, too, but you need to help make all of that happen. It takes a community to do all of that now.
Our fight for rights is not over. If you're Transgender, you completely understand that. Our fight didn't even begin with Stonewall. I think our fight began decades before that. Certainly, the modern rights movement was started by Frank Kameny and Barbara Gittings. Frank, of course, is a name known to many of us here in DC.
Things weren't resolved just when we got rid of the Defensive Marriage Act and Don't Ask, Don't Tell policies in DOD. Frankly, in many states, employees in those state governments are fearful today of being their authentic selves.
So, until we solve that, we're not done. We're in this fight for the long haul. We all know as Dr. King said, the “arc of justice” is long, but [we] can get there if [we] work together—and so that is something that we all need to do, and that's something that we need to do in NAPA.
Thanks, Vince. I think you answered my last question for you, which was, as it relates to public administration as a whole and organizations like NAPA, how can we be better in the future to ensure we have a field that is inclusive and welcoming to the LGBTQ community? Are there any other closing thoughts that you have and want to share?
I would urge all Fellows, if you had the unfortunate opportunity of having to defend policies that were institutionalized, that didn't allow people to be fully engaged or fully open with who they are, one thing that you can do is acknowledge that. Make sure it doesn't happen again. If there are people that may have been impacted personally, and even though you may have said, “hey, we can't talk about that (being gay) at the office, but let me know everything else about you,” take some time this month to acknowledge those individuals. Acknowledge their contributions. Acknowledge the challenges that they went through to get where they're at.
I think that's important, and I think that's important for NAPA. It's important for us as a field to understand that we have a duty for social equity that still involves attempting to right the wrongs that occurred, that we may have done to other people as a profession and as a field, and I think that will help us celebrate Pride, not just for the community that I'm a part of, but all of the communities that haven't been fully engaged at the table.
We all want a United States Government that is reflective of the great diversity of our country. We understand it makes us better and stronger, and so I invite everyone to join in [and] take action to celebrate and make efforts towards that sort of inclusiveness. I'm really very pleased to read the President's Executive Order that was released this week, and it does show how much work is left to do even within the Federal Government, and so, we're all in this together. We're all in this for our country, and we're all in this to make our profession better.
Thank you, Vince, for taking the time to speak with me and sharing some of your history, actions we need to take within our organizations, and our responsibilities to be allies moving forward. We appreciate you pushing our work to be more inclusive and equitable for all.
Vince Micone is a 30-year veteran of federal civil service and long-time activist in Washington’s philanthropic community.
Mr. Micone serves as Executive Director for Enterprise Services at the U.S. Department of Commerce. In this role, he leads a comprehensive shared services delivery program providing customers with world-class IT, acquisition, HR, and financial management solutions.
He most recently served as Principal Deputy Special Inspector General and COO for a federal law enforcement and independent audit agency at the U.S. Department of the Treasury that targets financial crimes and other fraud, waste, and abuse related to economic stabilization programs.
Mr. Micone previously served in executive leadership positions at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security including Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Senior Counselor, and Chief of Staff for Management. In these roles, he executed the Department’s management improvement initiatives and legislative affairs efforts. He also served as the 2016 Presidential Transition Officer. Mr. Micone began his career at the U.S. Department of Justice, where he managed HR programs and initiatives. He also served as the Partnership for Public Service’s Vice President for Development prior to joining Homeland Security.
Mr. Micone serves as Co-Chairperson of the Combined Federal Campaign of the National Capital Area, the federal government’s workplace giving campaign. He first served in this role from 2002- 2008. He was re-elected to the position in 2013. Under his leadership, the campaign has raised over $732 million in charitable contributions for tens of thousands of non- profit organizations.
He was also appointed to the District of Columbia Commission on National and Community Service and served as the commission’s chairperson.
He began his federal service through the Presidential Management Fellows program and was honored by Attorney General Janet Reno for outstanding contributions as a new employee. He has received commendation awards from the Office of Personnel Management, Office of the Secretary of Defense, U.S. Department of the Treasury, and U.S. Postal Service.
Mr. Micone is a graduate of Arizona State University (BA) and the University of Southern California (MPA). He was elected a Fellow with the National Academy of Public Administration in 2016.