President Bush Gives an Off-the-Record Pep Talk While Many Aides Plan Their Exits

President Bush had some things to say, strictly off the record, to a few thousand appointed administration officials and senior civil service workers.

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Psst. You didn't hear it here, but President Bush had some things to say, strictly off the record, to a few thousand appointed administration officials and senior civil service workers gathered at DAR Constitution Hall, the District's largest auditorium. The March 4 session wasn't on the president's public calendar, and there is no official transcript posted on the White House website.

The secrecy surrounding what, in the past, has been a open event—the president's annual pep talk to the government's top officials—was a bit odd given the content of his remarks. Off the record and not to be quoted, Bush said that being president has been a "joyous experience."

The president said he remains energized to wrap up work on his agenda, and he used his comments to cheer workers on to push for a good ending of his administration. "He encouraged everyone to continue strong efforts and sprint to the finish," said one federal worker.

However, many senior and midlevel White House and administration officials are looking to land private-sector jobs sooner rather than later. And some officials report having a hard time recruiting replacements for those who are leaving. "I guess it's just not attractive enough or they don't see the value in it for your résumé," says a senior administration official who works for a top cabinet department.

Bush touched on several programs that he's most proud of, such as the faith-based initiative, and even showed slides from his recent trip to Africa. "POTUS was very proud of his work," said the insider.

On other topics, Bush said his job was easier because of the love and support from his wife and dismissed a suggestion that he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. Instead, he said that being president "has been a joyous experience," recalled one audience member, and that there are "huge opportunities every day to make a positive difference in people's lives."

—Paul Bedard