I saved the economy and all I got was this glass eagle

January 31, 2014

Ben Bernanke (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

How do you say good-bye to the man credited with saving America from the next Great Depression?

Today is the last day of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke's tumultuous eight-year tenure as the shepherd of the U.S. economy. And if tradition is any guide, he is likely to be seen off with this gift from his Fed colleagues: a glass replica of the eagle that graces the entrance to the central bank's headquarters at the historic Marriner S. Eccles building.

The eagle – a gift paid for through contributions from central bank staff – is typically given to departing governors at an informal farewell ceremony in the building's marbled atrium. They also usually receive a U.S. flag that has flown on the top of the building, along with a framed collection of dollar bills from each of the 12 regional Fed districts. Afterward, a few cookies might be laid out.

There is also usually a lunch or dinner during the official's last meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee, the central bank's policy-setting arm. The meal is usually held at the Fed, sometimes in the room used for press conferences. (That should bring back some fond memories.) The remarks at the meal tend to be typical farewell fodder – a little bit sad, a little bit funny, a little bit flowery.

It would be an appropriately low-key exit for a chairman who has made connecting with Main Street and increasing transparency two of his top priorities at the Fed. Bernanke has said he plans to stay in Washington, at least for now. However, a noted Nationals fan, Bernanke has pointed out that baseball commissioner Bud Selig plans to retire in a year.

Home run.

Ylan Q. Mui is a financial reporter at The Washington Post covering the Federal Reserve and the economy.
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