SHORTER IS BETTER

Interior Department In 9 Words or Less

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By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 31, 2007

Coming up with a creed is hard to do.

A few months ago, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne thought his department -- what with it overseeing 20 percent of America's land and all -- deserved a motto. He wanted something pithy, something the department could print on the back of employees' identification cards. And he wanted it to inspire people, of course.

Granted, the department had gotten along fine since 1849 without a creed. But now, it was going to get one.

Kempthorne asked some of Interior's best and brightest to come up with a slogan, and they came back with one that, printed in tiny enough type, would fit on the department's ID cards: "In our commitment to uphold the highest standards, we affirm these core values: integrity, respect, stewardship, and excellence. Respect: We treat all people with civility, dignity, and professionalism. Integrity: We are honest, ethical, and fair, adhering at all times to the letter and spirit of the law. Stewardship: We serve our nation and its people by managing responsibly the resources entrusted to our care. Excellence: We expect world-class performance and we strive for improvement in all we do."

As Kempthorne said during a lunch last week with reporters, "It was excellent, but it was as lengthy as the preamble to the Constitution."

It wouldn't do.

He gave them even more specific marching orders: Keep it to nine words or less.

So they made a counteroffer: "Stewardship for America with Integrity and Excellence."

Kempthorne, who just celebrated his one-year anniversary on the job, loved it. He unveiled it to a bunch of Senior Executive Service employees in March, during their biannual meeting. He made one half of the room say the slogan, and then the other half. And at the end of the conference, the whole room chanted the creed in unison.

Kempthorne likes the motto, he said, because it explains "why we're here."

Now, this whole exercise raises a key question: Do other departments have creeds?

In an interview last week, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson confessed that his department does not, but he's already got a nominee: "In Hamilton we trust."

Just wait for the creed stampede to begin.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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