Obama Should Heed the Advice of George H.W. Bush

By Max Stier
Special to the Washington post
Wednesday, December 24, 2008; 4:19 PM

There has been much talk about President-elect Barack Obama looking to Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt for inspiration and insight on building his administration and charting his first 100 days in office.

But some of the most helpful guidance available could come from an over-looked source -- George H.W. Bush.

Just days after his Inauguration 20 years ago, the first President Bush gathered hundreds of the government's senior career executives at Constitution Hall in Washington to praise their dedication, extol public service and to ask for their help in governing.

"I'm coming to you as President and offering my hand in partnership. I'm asking you to join me as full members of our team. I promise to lead and to listen, and I promise to serve beside you as we work together to carry out the will of the American people." Bush said. "Our principles are clear: that government service is a noble calling and a public trust."

Obama has signaled his own strong commitment to fostering public service -- to "make government cool again." Now it would be smart for him to follow Bush's example, personally meeting with senior civil service executives early in his administration to explain his priorities, set expectations and let them know their expertise and hard work will be needed to meet the many daunting challenges ahead.

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