I’ve made no secret of my skepticism about the Obama administration’s purported desire to “make government cool again.” But Matt Collier, a senior advisor to Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry, is sticking with it, and at IRMCO this morning threw out a recruitment pitch I honestly had never considered:
You know there’s someone in the Inspector General’s office at Homeland Security who has to do penetration tests. How cool is it to try to sneak a gun through airport security?
If there’s one phrase I’m tired of hearing over and over from senior White House leaders, it’s their desire to ”make government service cool.”
An occasional quip would be one thing. But it’s become a mantra for the Obama administration, included in everything from official bios to speeches to interviews to strategic plans. And what’s worse, it’s a meaningless catch phrase.
If the government is having a hard time attracting and retaining talented young people, it’s probably because it takes five months to hire somebody and because hard workers don’t feel properly rewarded and think slackers aren’t dealt with — not because of a perceived lack of cool. After all, there’s a good deal of evidence suggesting many young people are already interested in public service.
All the coolness talk reminds me of the Simpsons episode “Itchy and Scratchy and Poochie.” In it, television executives try to boost the ratings of the Itchy and Scratchy cartoon by adding a new, “hip” character called Poochie, who they describe as “extreme!” and “totally in-your-face!” But the transparent and desperate attempt at coolness falls flat with the show’s audience, and Poochie is quickly killed off.
Young people can see right through such superficial talk, and it only turns them off of what you’re saying. Simply repeating “we’re going to make government cool” may be the least cool thing anyone can do.