Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Penultimate Decision


Before a president signs an important piece of legislation, as President Barack Obama did when he signed the historic health care reform legislation into law, his staff has a trivial yet interesting decision to make: how many pens will POTUS use and who will receive them as gifts afterward? President Obama used 22 pens to sign the legislation. That is not a typo--22 pens to sign his name. With 11 letters in his name that averages out to a half of one letter per pen. According to Politico, the recipients were:

1. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
2. Sen. Dick Durbin
3. Sen. Max Baucus
4. Sen. Tom Harkin
5. Sen. Chris Dodd
6. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
7. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer
8. Rep. James Clyburn
9. Rep. George Miller
10. Rep. Henry Waxman
11. Rep. Sandy Levin
12. Rep. John Dingell
13. Rep. Charles Rangel
14. Vice President Joe Biden
15. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
16. Vicki Kennedy (Senator Ted Kennedy's widow)
17. Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform
18. Phil Schiliro, assistant to the president for legislative affairs
19. Sister Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association
20. President Obama himself
21. & 22. NARA

The multiple souvenir pen tradition began with Harry Truman. Lyndon Johnson's signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 where he gave a pen to Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. is perhaps the most famous of all pen giveaways. Using all those pens to construct a legible and flowing signature has to be a difficult task unless the president prints his signature.

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