Top Transition Official Explains How to Make Government 'Cool' Again
Barack Obama says he wants to "make government cool again."
That’s a pretty cool thought, but what does it mean in real life?
Valerie Jarrett might know. She’s co-chairman of the president-elect’s transition team and spoke to the Trotter Group, an organization of columnists meeting in Washington this week.
I asked her what making government service cool really means. This is what she had to say:
More than a paycheck
“We’ll start …with the desire for public service and you take a government job not because it’s a paycheck but because you think that by working for the government you’re actually going to be able to make our country better. And so going into it, not focusing on the paycheck but what you do to receive the paycheck. I think is part what makes it cool.”
“I think we’re open to innovative ideas for new ways of government doing business and we can get a lot of those ideas and we can get a lot of those ideas from people who have been out in the community trying to work with the federal government. …
“There are huge opportunities to change the federal government to make it a government that actually serves the people…”
Setting a new tone
“When I went to work for city government in Chicago people said to me why are you going to go work for city government? …Distain was in their voice. I said because I really love Chicago and I want to make it better.
“Tone starts at the top. I think because President-elect Obama cares deeply about transforming our government and making it serve the people so that we do actually improve the lives of everyday Americans, those who do need government most, that we provide the kind of safeguards and checks and balances that we’ve been missing over the last eight years, that got us into the economic crisis we’re in today.
“I think that because of that tone that he has of public service in the true sense of the word, public servant in the true sense of the word, that will be a catalyst for drawing people into government and also for rejuvenating people who are there.”
“I think a lot of people in government get a bad rap. And it’s not their fault, it’s the leadership at the top. That’s who sets the tone, that’s who charts the course, that’s who develops the job descriptions. So I think that will change under his leadership.”
Tell us what you think. Is it “cool” to work for the federal government? If so, what makes it that way? If not, what can be done to make it cool? What does cool mean? How can Obama, the incoming boss-in-chief, set a different tone for government service? What can the head of your agency do?
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