Health care reform: Why so many pens at the signing ceremony?
Ever try to sign your name with 22 pens? Not so easy.
"I've got to use every pen so it's going to take a really long time," said Barack Obama at Tuesday's historic signing of the health care bill. "I didn't practice."
In a longtime tradition, the president put his signature to the bill using almost two dozen commemorative pens, which were handed out to key congressional leaders and others who helped pass the legislation. It took the lefty more than 90 seconds to pick up each of the 22 pens and make a small portion of each letter in his name -- and yeah, the signature probably looks a little weird. "We are done!" he announced with the final stroke.
The White House didn't release details about the custom-made pens -- complete with the presidential seal and signature -- but aides to one recipient confirmed (on super-secret background) that they were black and manufactured by Cross, an American company. Obama used similar rolling-ball pens on his first day in office.
The president gave one of the souvenirs to Vicki Kennedy, widow of Ted Kennedy, and Sister Carol Keehan, the Catholic nun who gave the bill a critical endorsement. Marcelas Owens, the motherless 11-year-old boy who became a national symbol for health-care reform, didn't get a pen but did stand next to Obama during the ceremony.
The pen-worthy were primarily politicians who pushed the bill through: Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, House Majority Whip James Clyburn, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Sens. Dick Durbin, Max Baucus, Tom Harkin and Chris Dodd, and Reps. John Dingell, George Miller, Henry Waxman, Sander Levin and Charlie Rangel. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius got one, as did Nancy-Ann DeParle, the White House point person on health reform, and Phil Schiliro, White House congressional liaison.
The president kept one pen for himself and gave one to Vice President Biden -- who added his own special touch to the day when he whispered to Obama (in front of an open mike) that it was a "big [frakking] deal." Indeed -- the remaining two pens will be donated to the National Archives.
The Reliable Source
March 24, 2010; 1:04 AM ET
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