Ted Kaufman - United States Senator for Delaware

In a floor speech honoring the nation's federal employees, Sen. Kaufman applauds Lisa Brown for her work at the White House

January 21, 2010

   Mr. KAUFMAN. I rise once again to recognize one of America's great Federal employees.

   One year ago today, Barack Obama took the oath of office as President of the United States. As with every change in administration, the White House welcomed many new staff members, appointed by the President to help him carry out his policy goals.

   I have spoken many times about career Federal employees who serve regardless of which political party controls the executive branch. Today, I want to use my time to highlight the important work performed by those Federal employees who serve in appointee positions. Although their jobs depend on the outcome of elections and political circumstances, they are no less accountable to the people and no less dedicated in their service.

   This holds true for the appointees from both parties, who, given the opportunity, eagerly leave jobs in the private and nonprofit sectors to serve in government. Many of our Nation's elected leaders once served in this capacity, including some of my Senate colleagues.

   On this first anniversary of President Obama's inauguration, many are reflecting on the past 12 months and trying to gauge his administration's success. One thing I am certain about is that he could not carry out his ambitious agenda without the help of the talented White House staff.

   The great Federal employee I am honoring today has the challenging job of making sure the White House staff are working together and that all of the information the President needs reaches his desk.

   Lisa Brown serves as White House staff secretary. It is a position many Americans are unfamiliar with, but it is one of the most important in the West Wing. The staff secretary is responsible for keeping the lines of communication between the President and his senior staff open and organized. Nearly every memo destined for the President's desk must first pass through the hands of the staff secretary, who filters the most pressing items and ensures that the President's decisions are conveyed to the appropriate staff member. Think about how complex that is.

   Lisa is a native of Connecticut, and she graduated magna cum laude from Princeton with a degree in political economy. She also holds a law degree with honors from the University of Chicago.

   After clerking for the late Judge John Godbold, on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Alabama, Lisa was a partner at the Washington law firm Shea & Gardner. While working in the private sector, she also engaged in pro bono work in the area of civil rights and disabilities law. During that time, Lisa gained valuable expertise in these fields, which she would later put to use in her government service.

   In 1996, Lisa began working as an attorney adviser in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. After a year in that role, she was appointed deputy counsel to Vice President Gore, and in 1999 she was appointed as his counsel. At the same time, Lisa served on the executive board of the President's Committee for Employment of People with Disabilities. She also worked on legislative issues with the Vice President's Domestic Policy Office.

   After the Clinton administration ended, Lisa moved to the nonprofit sector, where she became executive director of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy. When President Obama was elected, he asked her to return to government service as a key part of his White House team.

   Despite her busy schedule in one of America's most stressful work environments, Lisa still finds time to raise a 6-year-old son with her husband Kevin. Juggling family responsibilities and a demanding workload is a challenge she shares with many other West Wing staffers.

   Lisa and other political appointees are a living reminder of the elective nature of our government. When the people decide to give control of the executive branch to the party in opposition, that party is always ready to call on a cadre of talented and dedicated citizens ready to shape policy.

   Many of them bring to their jobs the unique perspective of having worked for a previous administration, and they frequently leave higher paying jobs to return to government service. When they do so, they are not only signing on to serve the President. They also commit to long and stressful hours working on behalf of the American people to whom the President and his West Wing staff are answerable.

   Mr. President, I hope my colleagues will join me in honoring the service of Lisa Brown and all those working and who have worked in the West Wing under Presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton, and their predecessors.

   I yield the floor.

Print this Page E-mail this Page