In Athenian Oath, EMPA grad hears ‘call to action for democracy’
’90 takes to heart the Athenian Oath’s call to “leave things better than we
find them.” Cartwright, who earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and
journalism and has worked in federal financial management with the U.S.
Department of Commerce for 30 years, led the recitation of the Oath at this spring’s
graduate convocation hosted by the Department of Public Administration and
The words of the Oath of
the Athenian City-State, inscribed in Maxwell’s foyer, highlight the school’s
emphasis on democracy, public service, and citizenship. Reciting them provided
“a nice connection to the school and a bit of a call to action for democracy,” said
Cartwright, who returned to Maxwell in 2017 with the first Online EMPA cohort and
completed the program in December 2019.
Cartwright, budget director
and acting finance director for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA), said the commerce department’s mission kept him there
for three decades. “We’re serving the public, providing important environmental
information to millions of people every day,” he said.
“Fisheries and oceans and
coasts are critical to the nation’s environment, health and economy,” he added.
“The weather sector is a big part of the economy and the information is critical
to both life and property. The information NOAA is providing is in front of
everybody every day.”
Cartwright had long
envisioned adding executive leadership training to his resume, and the Maxwell
program fit the bill. One highlight was interacting with students from
different walks of life, including a fire chief and a city councilor as well as
people working in the private sector, nonprofits, and others in the federal
government. “It was a good mixture of people,” he said.
The EMPA program
strengthened his appreciation for public policy and the connections between theory
and practice. “I’m more conscious of the major trends in public administration,
collaboration and the growing importance of leadership and action,” he said.
Especially helpful was greater
insight into the dynamics between career and political staff in federal
The goal of career staff is
to implement the administration’s priorities “as legally and efficiently and
effectively as possible,” he said. “We’re there as objective people. We try to
base things on science and scientific integrity to the maximum extent.”
Career federal workers
typically have expertise and longevity in their jobs. “They know what’s worked
and what hasn’t,” he said. “They have to find the appropriate balance, or at
least provide the benefit of their knowledge for consideration to achieve the
outcome that the leadership is trying to achieve.”
No matter who is
president or what the administration’s priorities are, Cartwright’s goals
remain the same: “We want to make sure the resources are being applied to the