SGI honors Miriam Nisbet for contributions to open government

Following are the remarks of Rick Blum presenting the Sunshine in Government Award to Miriam Nisbet at the Newseum Institute on October 31, 2014.

 

I am Rick Blum with the Sunshine in Government Initiative, and I would like to thank the Newseum Institute and OpenTheGovernment.org – Gene Policinski, Amy Bennett and Patrice McDermott — for today’s program and for allowing me a few moments right now. I promise to be brief.

Members of our coalition felt strongly we couldn’t let Miriam retire without pausing to celebrate her contributions to open government, and it is a testament to her career fighting for freedom of information that Gene and Amy quickly agreed.

Nearly 10 years ago the Sunshine in Government Initiative created the Sunshine in Government Award to honor individuals in government who make “current, concrete and oftentimes unrecognized contributions to protecting or strengthening open government.”

We’ve honored 10 individuals — Senators, members of the House of Representatives and individuals serving in federal agencies.

We usually give this award during Sunshine Week (in March every year), but a day after hearing Miriam’s retirement, we knew Miriam’s service to freedom of information inside and outside of government; her work shaping the presumption of openness standard that we now hold the administration accountable for; and her efforts incubating, nurturing and building the Office of Government Information Services for the last 5 years deserved recognition and our appreciation.

Miriam has accomplished so much. She took a 104-word mandate that Congress wrote into the federal FOIA and brought it to life. She conducted the office in a non-lawyerly, public-facing manner. She helped hundreds of requesters understand the responses they were getting from agencies, or pushed agencies to respond when they couldn’t or simply refused. In addition to standing up OGIS, Miriam was a driving force in creating the federal government’s first online portal for handling FOIA requests from multiple agencies, which has been followed by several efforts to modernize FOIA. And these are just some of the things we knew about.

With that, I’d have the honor to present the Sunshine in Government Award to Miriam Nisbet.

Miriam, we appreciate the many meetings you held, the commitment to making FOIA work better and the dedication to transparency in government you brought to your work inside and outside government. Thank you.

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Past Winners of the Sunshine in Government Award:

U.S. Senators: John Cornyn, Patrick Leahy, Ron Wyden

Members of the U.S. House: Rick Boucher, Mike Pence, Todd Platts, Lamar Smith, Henry Waxman

Federal Agencies: Tim Crawford, Larry Gottesman

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