This is my last week at the White House. Since announcing my departure plans last June, everyone has asked, almost daily, "Where are you going?" and "How about lunch?" Leaving the White House has been the longest goodbye.
I review my plans for the week. There are memoranda to be written, calls to be returned, books and papers to pack. A messenger brings a book from David Allsbrook, the archivist preparing for the future Carter presidential library. I discovered from David last week that all exiting White House staff are asked to give taped interviews for the Carter library. I readily agreed, but some have refused -- especially those leaving hastily. During the interview, David and I discussed education. He promised to send me the book. I must remember to thank him.
One of my most lasting memories, I told David, was my first meeting with the president about two days after I arrived at the White House, in the spring of 1977. There was a meeting in the Cabinet Room on the proposed Department of Education, with the president, Vice President Mondale, HEW Secretary Califano, by boss Stu Eizenstat and the leaders of the National Education Association all there. I spilled my coffee on the Cabinet table. Terrific first impression.
On the lighter side, I also recalled explaining at one of Stu's staff meetings why changing the names of hurricanes to include males was so incredibly complicated. All the nations of the Western Hemisphere, through a United Nations subcommittee, had to agree to the change. Now we not only will have male as well as female storms, but their names are going to be French and Spanish as well as English.
In between presidential meetings and hurricanes, of course, were endless battles and the shaping of administration policy on education and women's issues, my two responsibilities on the Domestic Policy Staff. But by now the last major education bill -- the Higher Education Act -- has been sent to the Hill, the Department of Education bill is awaiting conference, and the increased spending for education has all been approved. So I am returning to private life.
I answer the routine mail: letters to the president, to Stu and to me. The work load has not declined just because it is my last week, though there are no more emergency sessions until 2 in the morning, thank goodness. Well-wishers call to say goodbye and to find out who is taking my place. So far as I know, nobody. Tuesday
I proof several memoranda I've written to Stu, reviewing some current policy questions -- on asbestos in the schools, the fiscal 1981 budget, the Department of Education -- and future needs. Several calls, some about a rumor that the administration would support a higher education loan proposal competing with our own bill. I assure the callers it is not true.
The whole Executive Office Building smells of paint. Room assignments of other White House staff are changing almost hourly. Most of the first floor of the building is moving either in or out. There are the usual rivalries over who gets which office. I stop by to see a former office-mate, who is returning to Florida. The movers are already busy putting his furniture in the hall and preparing for the new occupants. Wednesday
The office is busy speculating on who else is leaving the White House staff and who is staying. A special assistant to HEW Secretary Harris calls to reschedule a meeting from Thursday to the following week. I am to brief the new HEW team on federal education issues. I agree to meet in my new offices, when I am supposed to be a private citizen again.
The movers deliver more boxes. Now all I have to do is finish the packing.
I hurry to an appointment with Stu and Roger Estep, vice president of Howard University, to discuss Howard's budget. But Stu is running two hours late and is out of the building. We reschedule the meeting -- again for next week. Will I ever be able to concentrate after I'm gone on the new business I am going into?
I make several calls transferring responsibility for some smaller projects -- The Commission for Foreign Languages and Area Studies, the presidential scholars program, etc. -- to other staff members. Louie Martin, in charge of minority affairs at the White House, calls me from home to say goodbye. E. T. Dunlap, chancellor of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, calls to discuss the student loan program.
At home, at about 10 p.m., David Rubenstein, deputy director of the Domestic Policy Staff, phones about an unusual crisis. A group of Iranian students at the Hebrew Academy in Silver Spring, Md., is going to be deported unless the school is certified as eligible to accept students on visas. I'll start off my morning on this one. Thursday
I finish packing and try to arrange for the movers to take my boxes to the West basement. They will try to sandwich me in about noon. They have their hands full, literally, moving almost everybody from the West Wing of the White House to the East Wing or to the Executive Office Building.
David Rubenstein and I go to work to help the Iranian students. I contact people at the three agencies that have to certify the Hebrew Academy as eligible to teach them -- the Maryland Department of Education, the U.S. Office of Education and Justice's Immigration and Naturalization Service. David arranges for a limousine and a messenger to drive all over Washington and Baltimore to pick up the signed papers. We both wait.
I have a farewell lunch with Goler Butcher, head of African affairs at the Agency for International Development, and Bernard Coleman, an international affairs consultant.
After lunch I make arrangements with Evelyn Boyer, my old friend and soon-to-be partner in private business, and Carol Beadle and Crystal Kuykendall, our future senior staff, to pick out office furniture over the weekend. The Alexis Herman, director of the Labor Department's Women's Bureau, calls to arrange a farewell luncheon for me next week. My calendar is filling up fast.
I look proudly at my freshly packed files: They have never looked so good.
Finally I get a call from the Office of Education telling me that all the work on the Hebrew Academy certification has been completed. The Iranian students will not be deported. Friday
My last day at the White House. No crises in sight. The building is very quiet just before the Labor Day weekend.
I spend the morning answering more letters and messages and finishing the rest of my packing. By now my schedule for next week is filled with lunch appointments. Other staffers stop by for final farewells. I review several matters with HEW and call my husband, Michael, to cancel lunch because the movers are coming then.
They do indeed arrive about lunchtime. It is extremely hot outside. Every morning I entered the office at about 8 and seldom stepped outside until after 7 p.m. In the month of farewell lunches I have seen more sun than in the past 2 1/2 years.
The mover loading my boxes is an old friend: He has moved me three times already within the Executive Office Building. I leave a note for LaWandra Hicks, my secretary, giving her the address of our new firm. A colleague then helps me carry my personal boxes out to my car.
Another secretary hands me a 2-page checkout list that I must complete before my resignation is final. I am also told that I have to check out with about 10 different offices -- the White House telephone operators, the security people, etc. -- to tell them that I'm going. Getting out of the White House seems harder than getting in. I wonder if Richard Nixon had to do this before he could get his last paycheck.
I cannot possibly finish all that running around today. I will have to return next week to check out on top of everything else. My long goodbye is destined to be longer still.