You Can Call Me Arne

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Another federal employee checks in from the trenches:

I work at the Department of Education headquarters in DC. Today completed our 2-day introduction to Arne Duncan. Yesterday he had lunch in our cafeteria (Edibles, ha ha), with his wife and children. His wife wore jeans and a sweater and Arne looked like an average joe in khaki dress pants, white shirt and tie. They stood in all of the lines and talked to anyone who approached them. They probably stayed 90 minutes. It was definitely the highest cafeteria attendance ever.

Yesterday afternoon he visited every floor of our building and introduced himself to everyone. We all came out into the hall and he shook everyone’s hand with a “Hi, I’m Arne.”

By the end of the day yesterday, everyone was aglow, since this was already more attention than we’d received from Spellings or Paige. Today, however, was the all-staff meeting, and I can say that the morale in the building increased ten-fold by the end of it.

Our auditorium was beyond packed, with people standing in the aisles. I myself snagged a seat on the floor next to the stage kindergarten-style. Arne stood in front of a blue screen that read “Call me Arne!” in bright yellow letters. He insisted that we call him Arne, rather than Mr. Secretary or anything like that, saying his name was Arne before he got this job and it would be 8 years from now.

I know this isn’t anything earthshattering, but the change in the atmosphere at the Department over the last week has been really astounding. In the past, we all knew that the Secretary had an agenda that she was going to follow, and that we were only there to affirm that her way was best. We really feel that Arne wants to know the truth, whether it fits with his agenda or not.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.
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