A Road Well-Traveled
Brenda Wells is the master of the long commute.
Her daily five-hour sojourn to and from the State Department involves a drive, a ride on a commuter train, two subway lines and a bus. In May, Wells, won WTOP Radio’s inaugural Commuter Idle contest for having the worst commute in Washington. Later she was honored for her dedication to her work during a surprise visit with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Wells is an officer at the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, where she assigns security agents to embassies and consulates around the world. Her 50-mile morning commute starts at 4 a.m. in Sparrows Point, Md., and she arrives at her desk in Foggy Bottom around 6:40 a.m.
So, what drives her to continue the daily haul?
“The main motivation is my children. That’s my No. 1 charging point,” says Wells, a single mother of three. She also credits the support network at her office for helping her manage her busy schedule.
“My boss is very supportive and flexible, and having that type of workplace with someone who respects you and your work ethic is very gratifying,” Wells says. Another huge benefit, she adds, are telework policies that allow her to work from home one day a week.
For feds struggling to get to work, Wells suggests using commute time to recharge and take care of personal matters. It’s critical, she says, “just having that balance—saving the work for when you get into the office.”
Just Say It
Rules and legislation aim to compel federal employees to write clearly, but across the pond, the appeal for good writing in government is getting personal.
Self-described “grammar fascist” Alan Duncan, a member of Britain’s Parliament and a minister of state for international development, links jargon-free language to reasoned thinking. An internal memo obtained by The Telegraph notes the minister of state “would prefer that we did not ‘leverage’ or ‘mainstream’ anything, and whereas he is happy for economies to grow, he does not like it when we ‘grow economies.’ ”
And according to The Mail on Sunday, a memo to the staff of the British transport secretary said, “Do not put in too many adverbs . . . avoid phrases like ‘strongly opposed’ and just say ‘opposed.’ ”
The push for clear prose in the U.S. government is more about effectively communicating, says Annetta Cheek, chairwoman of the Center for Plain Language. “We can see situations where you might want to talk or write in a
vernacular style,” she says. “We wouldn’t want the plain language movement to be identified with a sort of
“We have a sacred trust with those who wear the uniform of the United States of America,” President Obama said shortly after taking office in 2009. “It’s a commitment that begins at enlistment and it must never end.”
For many Army veterans and reservists, that commitment will be honored in the great outdoors.
In August, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Army Reserve Chief Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Talley signed an agreement to promote jobs in the nation’s parks and open spaces for soldiers awaiting deployment or returning home.
The initiative is part of the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, launched in 2010 to promote conservation and involve local communities in managing public lands. The agreement will allow Interior to leverage the talents of reservists and veterans for that mission.
“Soldiers are well-trained in a variety of skills critical to maintaining not only the strength and agility of the United States Army, but also the strength and capabilities of DOI,” Salazar and Talley wrote in their agreement.
Ally Rogers of the Army Reserve Employer Partnership Office says these skills can lead to a variety of jobs. “For as many unique jobs as the Department of the Interior has, the military has a soldier qualified to fill the vacancy,” she says.
The program also will provide recreational and volunteer opportunities for soldiers and their families, including wounded warrior programs.