A TRIBUTE TO VICKI LEVIN, PUBLIC SERVANT; Congressional Record Vol. 156, No. 68
(Extensions of Remarks - May 07, 2010)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E791-E792]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]



                          HON. DAVID E. PRICE

                           of north carolina

                    in the house of representatives

                          Friday, May 7, 2010

  Mr. PRICE of North Carolina. Madam Speaker, I rise to direct the 
House's attention to Public Service Recognition Week, a time in which 
we honor the more than 20 million men and women who serve our Nation as 
Federal, State, county and local government employees.
  On May 4, 2010, I joined the Partnership for Public Service at an 
event they hosted to commend all of our Nation's public servants and to 
recognize one in particular: the late Vicki Levin, wife of our 
colleague from Michigan. The Partnership presented a plaque to 
Representative Sandy Levin with the following inscription: ``In memory 
of Vicki Levin with deep appreciation for three decades of dedicated 
service to our country.'' I was pleased to offer the following remarks 
to commend our Nation's public servants and to honor Vicki Levin. I 
also wish to enclose in the Record a column reflecting on Vicki's 
exemplary public service, written by the Levins' son, Andy.

remarks at the partnership for public service reception honoring vicki 

       Thank you for inviting me to join you at tonight's 
     celebration of Public Service Recognition Week. It's a 
     pleasure to be here and to help acknowledge the contributions 
     of our nation's public servants--and of one very dedicated 
     individual in particular.
       As a political scientist by training, I am often asked 
     about how the academic perspective of government compares 
     with the day to day reality. The question itself is as 
     interesting as the answer, because it reveals the tendency of 
     both academics and civilians to view government as a kind of 
     abstract entity. But in a representational democracy, 
     government is very much a living entity. It is intended to be 
     an instrument of our common purpose, and like most 
     instruments, it doesn't play itself. People make government 
       People keep us safe from terrorist threats and food-borne 
     illness; people develop new treatments for diseases; people 
     protect our natural resources. The list goes on and on, and 
     yet, far too often, we overlook--or simply take for granted--
     these people: America's public servants. And so for all you 
     do to make government work in pursuit of the greater good, 
     let me say thank you.
       You stepped up to the plate, and we urgently need to find 
     more people who are willing to take up the mantle of public 
     service. In the next few years, an estimated one-third of the 
     government's top scientists, engineers, physicians, 
     mathematicians, economists, and other highly specialized 
     professionals are expected to retire.
       Since a high-quality workforce is the key to success for 
     any organization, we need to both inspire the next generation 
     to enter government service--and make sure we have the tools 
     to compete for the country's best minds. I'm pleased to have 
     worked with the Partnership for Public Service on legislation 
     to do just that: The Roosevelt Scholars Act (H.R. 1161). This 
     legislation would create a much needed pipeline of talent for 
     the federal government by awarding graduate-level 
     scholarships to students who commit to public service.
       Another element of our personnel and recruitment efforts 
     must be recognizing public servants and lauding the intrinsic 
     rewards of a career in government service. I believe it is 
     the personal stories of our public servants themselves that 
     will best help us make this case.
       One such person is Vicki Levin, the dear wife of our friend 
     and colleague Congressman Sandy Levin, who passed away in 
     September 2008.
       The Levin family has a long record of service in our 
     justice and judicial systems both in their home state of 
     Michigan and here in Congress. Sandy chairs the Ways and 
     Means Committee in the House while his brother Carl chairs 
     Armed Services in the Senate; they are the longest-serving 
     brothers in congressional history and one of the few sets 
     ever to serve as chairman simultaneously. And yet Sandy's 
     son, Andy, who oversees workforce development and adult 
     education programs for the state of Michigan, says it was not 
     his father or his uncle who inspired him to choose a career 
     in public service.
       Andy wrote a column about his mother shortly after her 
     death, the sort of column any of us would be immeasurably 
     proud to have our children write. Andy says this about the 
     source of his inspiration: ``my mom . . . not famous and 
     never elected to office . . . a classic `Washington 
       Vicki worked for nearly three decades--until health reasons 
     forced her to retire--as a science research officer for a 
     variety of agencies within the U.S. Department of Health and 
     Human Services (DHHS). During her career there, as well as 
     for much of her

[[Page E792]]

     life, she was a tireless advocate for research on children's 
     mental health. In fact, it was her interest in this issue 
     that prompted Sandy to spearhead an effort to rewrite 
     Michigan's special education laws during the time he was 
     serving as a state senator.
       The official description of Vicki's work on an NIH 
     scientific review committee is that she ran a committee of 
     scientists who decided which research proposals to fund in 
     the areas of infant and children's mental health. However, as 
     with many of our public servants, that description simply 
     doesn't give a full picture of what her job really was, or 
     more importantly, what her work meant to the average person.
       Since her death, volumes of letters from coast to coast 
     have been sent to the Levin family. Some credited Vicki Levin 
     with helping develop the emerging field of development 
     psychopathology; many highlighted how she improved the lives 
     of children by advancing research on the biological and 
     environmental factors necessary for a healthy childhood; a 
     number of scholars credited her with nurturing and 
     encouraging their work at a critical point; and others told 
     personal stories about how Vicki helped them through a 
     personal situation.

  In his column, Andy Levin noted that Vicki ``was like so many others 
among the 21 million federal, state, and local public servants who make 
sure we have clean water to drink, safe roads and park lands, and who 
try to protect us from things such as tainted Chinese milk without 
setting up crippling barriers to international trade.''
  Vicki Levin serves as a perfect example of the kind of person that 
conducts government work: someone whose goal is promoting and 
protecting the common good. Her story is a stirring reminder of the 
recognition that public service professionals merit, and an inspiration 
for others to join her son and commit to a life of public service.

              From the Detroit Free Press, Nov. 27, 2008]

       Be Grateful for Public Servants, Maybe Become One Yourself

                            (By Andy Levin)

       I come from a family of public servants, people who work 
     for the people.
       In recent years, this calling has fallen out of public 
     favor. Approval ratings for the federal government sank to 
     37% this year, from a high of 73% six years earlier, 
     according to the Pew Center. While much of this has to do 
     with the economy and attitudes toward the Bush 
     administration, distrust of ``Washington bureaucrats'' is an 
     enduring feature of the American polity.
       But two developments herald a public service comeback.
       The first, of course, was the election--and the campaign--
     of Barack Obama. More than any other successful presidential 
     candidate since John Kennedy in 1960, Obama placed at the 
     center of his campaign a call for each of us to serve and to 
     sacrifice for the common good.
       The second is the financial meltdown. In the last quarter 
     century, Democratic and Republican administrations alike 
     participated in the mechanistic trend of ``less government is 
     better'' to the point where banks and investment houses could 
     engage in virtually any scheme to make money with no one 
     really responsible for making sure decisions were sound. And 
     the companies were able to pay their executives outrageous 
     sums that bore no relationship to performance.
       In this moment of political opening in reaction to economic 
     crisis, people seem to be realizing that we need public 
     servants, people whose goal is promoting and protecting the 
     common good, to build a new financial system that encourages 
     investment, the building of real things and the provision of 
     useful services, and that holds financial decision makers 
     accountable for their actions--the essence of capitalism.
       If you've been in Michigan for any time at all, you may 
     recognize my last name from our family's long line of public 
     servants. My grandpa, Saul Levin, served on the Michigan 
     Corrections Commission. Saul's brother, Theodore, was a 
     federal judge, and Uncle Ted's son, Charles, served on the 
     Michigan Supreme Court. My dad, U.S. Rep. Sandy Levin, and my 
     uncle, U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, have quietly become the longest 
     serving brothers in the history of Congress.
       But it's none of these men who set me to wondering whether 
     we're about to see a public service renaissance. No, it was 
     my mom, Vicki Levin, not famous and never elected to office. 
     For almost 30 years, until she was forced to retire in the 
     spring for health reasons, Mom worked hard as a federal 
     employee--a classic ``Washington bureaucrat.''
       We kids thought we knew a lot about Mom's career. She ran a 
     committee of scientists who decided which research proposals 
     to fund in the area of infant and children's mental health. 
     We watched her read through mountains of papers, often 
     bringing work home. We watched her sweat in preparation for 
     the thrice-yearly meetings of her committee, making sure all 
     the details were just right.
       But I don't think I ever appreciated what her work meant to 
     her and to others, not fully. Back when I lived in the 
     Washington, D.C., area, I tried to convince Mom to retire so 
     she could spend more time with my four kids and her other 
     grandchildren. After all, she was in her early 70s. Why not 
     kick back? Mom bristled at the idea, saying her work and her 
     relationship with colleagues were central to her life.
       When her battle with breast cancer forced her to retire in 
     April, we all learned just what Mom was talking about--and 
     just how much public service can mean. Letters of tribute 
     poured in from colleagues, dozens and dozens of research 
     scientists at universities from coast to coast. (You can read 
     them at http://eskoink.com/VL/Vickilevin.pdf.)
       Many scholars, some now department chairs, told detailed 
     stories about how they got their research start with Mom's 
     help, or how she co-authored a paper with one scientist that 
     is still her most cited work, or how her committee was the 
     intellectual salon of their field.
       Some credit her with helping create the emerging field of 
     developmental psychopathology. More than one said she has 
     made the lives of children everywhere better by helping spawn 
     and nourish path-breaking research on the biological and 
     environmental factors necessary for a healthy childhood. Many 
     of them told personal stories about how Mom had counseled 
     them through a divorce, adoption or rocky situation at the 
       OK, this is my mom, so you can imagine how reading all this 
     felt. But if you step back, Vicki Levin was like so many 
     others among the 21 million federal, state and local public 
     servants who make sure we have clean water to drink, safe 
     roads and park lands, and who try to protect us from things 
     such as tainted Chinese milk without setting up crippling 
     barriers to international trade.
       Thanksgiving will be hard for my family this year. Mom died 
     Sept. 4 just a few weeks shy of my parents' 51st wedding 
     anniversary. But as we gather together, and each work 
     privately through our losses and gratitudes, I wonder whether 
     our nation is ready to move on from the simplistic notion 
     that ``government is the problem.''
       Perhaps, with the consequences of unregulated greed staring 
     us in the face this holiday, we are ready to give thanks for 
     the humble public servants, who forgo the greater monetary 
     rewards of the private sector to toil for the good of us all.