In Wednesday’s White House briefing, a reporter asked White House Press Secretary Jay Carney if President Obama’s pick for Treasury Secretary, Jacob Lew, has been working on his signature. Why was this a relevant question? The secretary’s signature appears below the seal of the Treasury, on the right side of all printed dollar bills once he takes office. Last year, Jack Lew’s signature was revealed to the public while he was Director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Lew signed this government memo titled “Eliminating Excess Conference Spending and Promoting Efficiency in Government,” in which it specifies ways the government can increase efficiency and create cost-cutting measures. This really is his signature. There are eight loops, one loop for each letter in his full name, Jacob Lew.
As someone who is about to become the next Treasury Secretary (and who will have to tackle the nation’s budget challenges during Obama’s second term), Lew may have to practice his penmanship for Federal Reserve notes and all dollar bills.
In an interview with NPR, Timothy Geithner said he had to re-do his illegible signature before it was fit to print on the nation’s currency. Geithner admitted that he had “a completely illegible scrawl that did not seem suitable for the dollar bill. So I had to change it so people could see my name.”
He also told the radio show Marketplace that he was asked to change his signature. The following transcript shows Geithner’s signature, before and after.
Kai Ryssdal: I gotta ask you about your handwriting. Is it true that this used to be your signature and you changed it into that chicken scratch?
Timothy Geithner: Yes it is true.
Ryssdal: And why would you do that?
Geithner: You mean from this to that ?
Geithner: You mean you like this one ? I thought you liked the one on the one dollar bill .
Ryssdal: No, that one is horrible. I like that one .
Geithner: Well, I think on the dollar bill I had to write something where people could read my name. That’s the rationale.
Geithner: I didn’t try for elegance. I tried for clarity.
Ryssdal: ‘Cause you know Mrs. Quiggly, my 1st grade teacher, she would have given me the big F on that one.
Geithner: Well, I took handwriting in the third grade in New Delhi, India, so I probably did not get the best instruction on handwriting.