What is great about public service?
Richard Armitage was the 13th United States Deputy Secretary of State, serving from 2001 to 2005. He served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War and then after the fall of Saigon moved to Washington D.C. to work as a consultant for the United States Department of Defense, which sent him to Tehran and Bangkok.
Throughout the late 70s and early 80s, Armitage worked as an aide and foreign policy advisor to politicians including Senator Bob Dole and President-elect Ronald Reagan. When Reagan was elected, Armitage was appointed to the Department of Defense. In the 1990s, Armitage worked in the private sector before being confirmed as Deputy Secretary of State with the election of George W. Bush in 2001. He left the post in 2005.
Armitage was educated at the United States Naval Academy. He is an avid bodybuilder, and speaks many languages, including Vietnamese.
Question: What is your legacy?
Armitage: Oh I think I’m not a big enough fish to leave a legacy. I’ll let my children determine that. I don’t think what I’ve done in government is beyond what anyone else has served, at whatever level. I think most of the people who serve in your U.S. government – whether Democrats or Republicans – do so at great sacrifice, both financial and personal, because I don’t think anyone has an idea of the time that these jobs take. And I’m talking 12 and 16 hours a day. Six and – often in terms of the Secretary of State and Deputy Secretary of State – seven days a week.
Question: What should constituents know about their representatives?
Armitage: I think one could look carefully – should look carefully – at the amount they’re paid, which is not overwhelming. It’s certainly not bad. It’s a living wage. But if you did it by the hour, you’d find you’re probably working for just about minimum wage. But the incredible demands on your time, and the incredible neuralgia that exists now in public service, there’s a great deal of cynicism – some of it richly deserved in our elected officials. And a lot of it spills over into our appointed officials. We’ve seen some officials of this administration who have not done as well with the public trust as they should have, and that spills over on everyone. And as I say, there’s a lot of neuralgia and a lot of pain associated with it.
Question: What do you miss about the public sector?
Armitage: I think the intensity of the public sector. You really feel you’re doing something bigger than yourself. At least that was my experience. And I think there’s something very rewarding in being part of something that . . . that at the best of times is beneficial to the general public good.
Armitage longs for intensity.
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