Bezos honored for public service at DC gala
© Lawrence Jackson

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and the government's most innovative employees were honored Wednesday night at the 2018 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals gala.

The awards, popularly known as "Sammies" are considered the "Oscars of government service" and recognize those civil servants who have stood out with their contributions.

This year, the Partnership for Public Service, which hosts the awards, presented their first Spirit of Service award to Bezos. The award is intended to honor individuals outside of government who also contribute to public service.

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The group said Bezos received the award for "the countless ways he and his companies work to advance important fields such as space exploration and national security, as well as help government deliver services more effectively and efficiently."

Bezos said he was proud to share the stage with so many other notable recipients and praised their work in government.

“The people I saw up on stage tonight are all missionaries,” he said.

The award recipients were a diverse group, including scientists who sought cures to rare genetic diseases, as well as government attorneys who worked to bring justice to people who were defrauded by scams.

Dr. Daniel Kastner of the National Institutes of Health received the evening's top prize, Federal Employee of the Year. Kastner's research uncovered the genetic causes of seven rare auto inflammatory diseases.

The Career Achievement Medal went to Dr. Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who worked on improving support and resources for those with autism.

Among the many other winners were Karen Dodge and Margaret Moeser at the Department of Homeland Security, who cracked down on fraudsters who used Western Union to illegally obtain hundreds of millions from unsuspecting victims.

The gala was emceed by Judy Woodruff, anchor of PBS's "Newshour." Woodruff told attendees that the Sammies were her favorite event and attributed its success to the honorees.

“It is because of the honorees remarkable achievements. They care deeply,” she said.

Among the distinguished guests at the event were Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie; Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joseph Simons; National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, Reps. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsTrump to return to Florida for rescheduled SpaceX launch Pence names new press secretary House leaders take vote-counting operations online MORE (R-N.C.), Rick NolanRichard (Rick) Michael NolanHold off on anti-mining hysteria until the facts are in Minnesota New Members 2019 Republicans pick up seat in Minnesota’s ‘Iron range’ MORE (D-Minn.) and Phil RoeDavid (Phil) Phillip RoeUS ill-prepared for coronavirus-fueled mental health crisis Tennessee lawmaker bought stocks in Zoom, sold cruise line shares before market plunge House committees move toward virtual hearings for COVID-19 era MORE (R-Tenn.), as well as Del. Stacey PlaskettStacey PlaskettBottom line Biden rolls out over a dozen congressional endorsements after latest primary wins Democratic rivals sharpen attacks as Bloomberg rises MORE (D) of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service, said the contributions of public servants was essential to the country.

“Helping our government do its job better will have enormous impact on the health and prosperity of our country,” he said.