WASHINGTON — First lady Michelle Obama paid a visit on the neighbors Wednesday, but scorching temperatures forced the party inside.
Mrs. Obama strolled from the White House to the Treasury Department next door for the latest in a series of visits she is making to government agencies to praise the employees for their efforts.
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Treasury had planned to hold the event outdoors, but with temperatures expected to top 100 degrees again Wednesday in the midst of a heat wave, Mrs. Obama’s appearance was moved inside to Treasury’s ornate and air conditioned Cash Room.
Despite the heat, Mrs. Obama enjoyed a rare pleasure given the heavy security that surrounds a president’s family. She got to walk across the street.
“I don’t get to walk much outside the gate,” she told the Treasury employees. “It was a thrill.”
In addition to praising Treasury workers for their efforts in dealing with the nation’s financial crisis and providing support in shaping financial overhaul legislation which is close to final passage in Congress, Mrs. Obama singled out two longtime employees of the Internal Revenue Service for special mention.
Valerie Hunter, an IRS employee in Austin, Texas, was recognized. Ms. Hunter was the wife of Vernon Hunter, another IRS employee who was killed in February when a pilot upset by his treatment by the tax agency crashed a single-engine plane into an IRS building in Austin where Hunter and his wife both worked.
Mrs. Obama also recognized Pauline Fenderson, an employee with the IRS in Detroit, who has worked for the agency for 60 years, starting as a clerk-typist when Harry Truman was president.
“But now, 60 years later, she’s still working as an individual taxpayer assistance specialist,” Mrs. Obama said. “She does it because she enjoys giving folks a helping hand.”
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who worked at Treasury as a civil servant two decades ago, said that the career employees had been vital in the Obama administration’s efforts to provide tax relief through the economic stimulus program and to deal with the financial crisis.
“We still have a long way to go. We still have a lot of challenges to meet, but we are coming back,” Geithner said. “We are healing the damage caused by the crisis. We are growing again.”