There’s a line repeated in the old Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid movie as trackers followed the two outlaws: “Who are those guys?” It may well be the first response of a majority of viewers of the White House SOTU page with this photo of the President’s speech last evening. They are in good company.
There was a time when looking at a photo like this, I knew the names and faces of all 435 plus the delegates. I recognized their voices on the floor from debates and “one minutes”. A dozen or more I would have spoken or met with the day before.
Despite my federal government career having begun in the US House of Representatives, my ability to identify the names of every US Representative has diminished over the years. I still know all the Senators.
I always knew the members of the President’s Cabinet: Carter’s, Reagan’s, Bush’s, Clinton’s in whose Administration I served, GW Bush’s, and of course I was at the CFTC when President Obama was sworn into office. I served on his transition team.
Someone commented to me today, that looking at the audience last evening, and after 7 years of the Obama Administration, he could not identify everyone sitting in the Cabinet and White House staff rows front and center. It made me wonder just how many Americans feel the same; how many Americans have never heard from or even recognize the Cabinet members.
While I know a few of the current secretaries–a several of the 13 rather well–there are faces that still draw a big blank. That’s not due to a lack of consuming many hours of news each week. Nor is it a reflection of the lack of hours and commitment put in by the cabinet members and White House staff themselves.
My contention is that’s more a result of the lid kept on these folks by what many have termed an “ imperial” presidency. Their names are not household words, their faces indeed largely unrecognizable, by design.
Regardless, we are indebted to them all for their public service over the recent years.
And one more thought on the provocative photo: We still have infinitely more ties than dresses and pantsuits in this “august body”.