WASHINGTON, DCDefense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld sheepishly admitted Monday that he's looking forward to National Secretary's Day on April 21.
"I know it's just a silly Hallmark holiday," Rumsfeld said of the annual event now formally known as Administrative Professionals Day. "Even so, I have to admit that seeing that bouquet of flowers on my desk... Well, it makes me feel real good."
Rumsfeld, who was hired by the executive branch of the federal government in December 2000, said he loves his job and doesn't expect special treatment from his boss, U.S. President George W. Bush. According to the overworked secretary, this is exactly why he so greatly appreciates it when Bush Administration officials make an effort to show the secretarial pool their gratitude.
"Whether it's a card, a Mylar balloon, or a big decorated cookie, it's really nice for someone to say 'Good job. I notice what you do,'" Rumsfeld said. "Some secretaries say, 'I work my hiney off all year round, and I'm supposed to go nuts over a $25 Bath & Body Works gift certificate?' But I'm telling you, every smidgen of recognition counts. I've worked in places that didn't observe Secretary's Day at all, like the Ford White House."
Rumsfeld's secretarial duties include coordinating all functions of the government relating directly to national security, formulating defense policy, overseeing the affairs of the military, and ordering new supplies.
But, according to National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Rumsfeld does "much more than that." She praised his "nearly psychic" ability to spot and prevent potential sticky situations.
"Donald's the one who really runs the Department of Defense," Rice said. "He's always a few steps ahead of us. Like, when he heard that [first lady] Laura [Bush] was going shopping last Friday, he made sure a car was available to pick her up from the mall, because he knew the president would forget. And don't think the president was solely responsible for that lovely birthday lollipop bouquet [Colorado senator] Wayne Allard got this week, or for the reorganization of the worldwide command structure that resulted in the establishment of the U.S. Strategic Command. Nope, it was all Donald's doing. I swear he has five arms!"
National Economic Council director Stephen Friedman lavished the overworked secretary with praise.
"Donald should get an award for what he did the afternoon someone accidentally scheduled a lunch with the foreign minister from Guyana at the same time as a meeting with French president Jacques Chirac," Friedman said. "Instead of just sticking the foreign minister in a waiting room with some magazines, Donald had a representative from the Housefellow by the name of Daniels or Peterson or somethingtake him to lunch at The Jockey Club, and he got him a pair of tickets to that night's Washington Wizards game. The foreign minister had such a great time, he practically forgot he'd never met with Bush. Boy, did Don put out that fire."
Added Friedman: "It's exactly like it says on Donald's coffee mug: 'A secretary's work is never done.'"
Rumsfeld's stellar work ethic and attention to detail have earned him two White House Employee Of The Month awards.
According to employees at the Department of Defense, Rumsfeld is a "very important" member of the team. Chief of Staff Angie Thomas said she appreciates him for "the way he lights up a room," while receptionist Arthur Samuel praised the way Rumsfeld "makes you feel like an important part of the office, even if you're only a part-timer."
"Without my even saying anything about it, Donald ordered me a new office chair, because he'd noticed that the height-adjustment mechanism was no longer functioning on my old one," Samuel said. "And he always asks about my fiancée. The last secretary [William Cohen] barely said 10 words to me during his entire tenure."
Undersecretary for Acquisition and Technology Phoebe Underwood said that, when her son was kicked in the head in gym class last October, Rumsfeld insisted she take off the rest of the week to stay home with him.
"It was kind of touch-and-go for a while, and I didn't know how long I would need to be away," Underwood said. "Donald said, 'You just look after Evan. I'll make sure your report on strategic deterrence is completed on time.' And, sure enough, it was. That guy is a true miracle worker."
Rumsfeld said he doesn't know what's planned for his fourth Secretary's Day with the Bush Administration, but he expressed confidence that the day won't pass without notice.
"We secretaries are pretty spoiled around here," Rumsfeld said, laughing. "Last year, the whole DoD gang chipped in and got me a nice antibacterial humidifier for my office, because the air gets so dry in the winter. It must have set them back quite a bit. Then, at lunch, the president treated me and the other secretaries to burgers at Johnny Rockets."
Last year, Bush expressed his appreciation for Rumsfeld in particular, in a letter proudly fastened to the secretary's cubicle partition.
"Donald Rumsfield [sic] is a fine employee and human being," the letter read. "He's an indispensable asset to my administration, and he is cordial, well-groomed, and punctual. I am also told that he lights up a room. I hope he continues to serve my administration well into the future. People like him make America strong."