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What is a Blue Ribbon Committee?

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  • Written By: Michael Pollick
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 19 September 2014
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Every once in a while, an event occurs of such magnitude or sensitivity that a standard investigation would simply be inadequate. There may be too many technical aspects to consider, or the general public may not trust the examiners to be completely objective or thorough. In situations like this, the authorities may call for the formation of a blue ribbon committee. This group usually consists of recognized experts or retired statesmen known for both their expertise and their objectivity. Members are often selected for their public personas as well, such as the well-known consumer advocate Ralph Nader or the distinguished former president Jimmy Carter.

A blue ribbon committee may not work together any better than other investigative panels, but the expertise and reputation of individual members is its true selling point. Following the tragic events of September 11, 2001, for instance, a call went out for an objective commission to sift through all of the evidence and reports in order to provide recommendations for the future. Because the actions of the current presidential administration were under scrutiny as well, the selected panel had to be seen as politically impartial. This is why a blue ribbon commission consisting of private experts and former statesmen was convened instead of a collection of active government officials.

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The work of such a group is not limited to sensitive or overarching public matters, however. Colleges and non-profit scholarship providers often convene this type of committee in order to determine the best recipients for scholarships, national awards or other honors. By recruiting a broad spectrum of professionals in a blue ribbon committee, it is hoped that a candidate's specific skills and talents can be properly evaluated by at least one expert in the field.

Other organizations may also seek out a blue ribbon committee in order to examine a controversial issue such as mandatory seat belt use on buses or improving homeland security. Ideally, members represent every aspect of the issue at hand and can speak authoritatively during open discussions. A doctor serving on such a committee, for example, should be able to present the medical community's stance on seat belt use, while an attorney on the same panel would present the legal community's position. These groups work best when all of their members are aware of their responsibilities as representatives of their professions.

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