Friday, February 28, 2014

Meet your Labor Secretary (via an "In the Loop" Background Check) -- plus State Dept. travel tips for students


Labor Secretary Thomas Perez with the boss

by Ken

If Washington Post "In the Loop"-master's idea with the Background Checks is to give us a better sense of the officeholder as a person, I have to say that this one on Labor Secretary Thomas Perez sure did the job for me.

When President Obama nominated Thomas Perez a year ago to be labor secretary, he noted that Perez was then an assistant attorney general for civil rights and had also been Maryland's labor secretary.

But he added that Perez -- the son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic and the first Cabinet secretary of Dominican descent -- had also worked in some less glamorous jobs, helping to pay his way through college as a garbage collector and in a warehouse, before he "went on to become the first lawyer in his family."

In his Background Check, Perez reveals, that, despite his Dominican roots, he can't come around very well on a fastball and that his own fastball, well, left a little to be desired. So he had to seek other professional opportunities.

Which Cabinet secretary would you most like to hang out with, and what would you do?

I have enjoyed working with all my Cabinet colleagues, and, while I have spent a considerable time with my former boss, Eric Holder, I currently work extensively and very productively with Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. We have a shared belief that if we can help workers and businesses succeed, then America succeeds.

What's your favorite non-work-related Web site/blog/

Fill in the blank: People would be surprised to know that I _____.

Ran the Boston Marathon three times and have coached at least one of my children in basketball or some other sport for 10 years.

What's your dream job (other than your current gig)?

Major League Baseball commissioner. I played baseball throughout high school, but, unlike other Dominican Americans, I couldn't hit a fastball. My own fastball had deceptive speed -- it was slower than you think.

What motivated you to go into public service?

My parents emigrated from the Dominican Republic to escape a brutal dictator. [Loop note: That would be Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, a.k.a. "El Chivo," finally gunned down, apparently with CIA help, in 1961.] America was a land of opportunity for them, and they taught my four siblings (all of whom are doctors) and me to work hard, aim high and always give back to others. They taught us that if you want to get to heaven, you better have letters of reference from the underserved.

Favorite TV show?

The Wire.

Which character from that show do you most identify with?

I identify with the young people living in tough neighborhoods for which meaningful opportunity was elusive.

What subject, other than your work, do you know most about?

Civil rights history.

What's one word you wish people would use to describe you?


You can draft one person in the private sector to come work for the federal government. Who would it be, and what would you have them do?

I would resurrect Steve Jobs and enlist him to work with the Department of Labor to develop the next generation of technological tools to enable us to carry out our mission of expanding opportunity for everyone.


Note that in this same column Loop-master Al offers his take on the State Department's just-released "Top Five Travel Tips for Spring Break 2014," which he suggests "read like a helicopter parent gone wild, or a post-Colorado-legalization version of Reefer Madness." You should check out Al's take on them, but here's the official State Department version (there are links onsite):
For some college students, Spring Break is a time to bask in the Caribbean sun. Some use their respite from classes to volunteer in a foreign country. Others venture across the Atlantic to embark upon a European adventure or to visit friends studying abroad. Regardless of the destination, the U.S. Department of State encourages students to follow our tips for traveling abroad:

• Avoid underage and excessive alcohol consumption. “Overdoing it” can lead to an arrest, accident, violent crime, or death.

* Obey all local laws, and remember they might be different from our own. Don’t carry or use drugs, as this can result in severe penalties. Don’t carry weapons either—some countries have strict laws, and even possessing something as small as a pocketknife or a single bullet can get you into legal trouble.

* Before you leave for your trip, learn as much as possible about your destination at our website dedicated to student travelers: Here, you can find out about entry requirements, crime, health precautions, and road conditions.

* Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). This program keeps students up-to-date with important safety and security announcements, such as Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and security messages.

• Keep in touch with your parents. If you will be without Internet or phone service for a few days, let them know. We receive many calls from parents who fear the worst when they have not heard from their children. In most cases, their child is fine, but has been too busy to check in.

• Remember to wear clean underwear and, for heaven’s sake, floss regularly!
This last one, Al admits, "we made up."

The State Department media release notes in conclusion: "Of course, even well-prepared travelers may face an emergency, like a lost passport or an injury. In those cases, our embassies and consulates are available to help 24/7. Be sure to write down the contact information for the U.S. embassy or consulate in your destination country." And there's a link for "members of the media who wish to speak about Spring Break travel tips with an official from the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs."

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