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Federal File: Official speech; Horn blowing; Enter laughing

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Some employees of the Education Department "don't have the linguistic competence in English to perform their activities," Ronald Saunders, the executive director of U.S. English, said at the National Press Club last week.

Mr. Saunders, whose organization is dedicated to having English declared the nation's official language, declined to specify which individuals or divisions of the agency he was referring to.

But John C. Ciccone, a U.S. English spokesman, said, "I think he probably had a specific section in mind."

Department officials declined to comment.

"This is probably the only time I've ever been in a position to confirm a fellow trombonist," Senator Howard Metzenbaum, Democrat of Ohio, told Lamar Alexander at his confirmation hearing last week. "I hope you will be a better education secretary than I am a trombonist."

Others picked up the leitmotif.

"We need a trombonist in a sense, to blow the horn of education," said Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut.

"But noise alone isn't going to do it," observed Senator Paul Simon, Democrat of Illinois, adding: "I'm sure that's not a description of your ability or Senator Metzenbaum's."

Mr. Alexander said he can also play the washboard, but "I learned that the trombone could drown out the washboard, so I stuck with the trombone."

The House Education and Labor Committee did a little organizational business at a meeting last week, but mostly they laughed at the new chairman's jokes.

Representative William D. Ford of Michigan introduced the new Democratic members and commented: "Now that's an All-American line-up if I've ever seen one--Bob, Bill, Jack, and Tim," referring to Robert E. Andrews of New Jersey, William J. Jefferson of Louisiana, John F. Reed of Rhode Island, and Tim Roemer of Indiana.

Bill Goodling of Pennsylvania, the ranking Republican, then introduced his new members, including Scott L. Klug, who is the panel's third Wisconsinite and replaces a Vermont lawmaker.

"I'm not surprised to see you've kept the dairy farmers well represented," Mr. Ford said.

Later, as panel members congratulated Mr. Ford, the new chairman quipped that his colleagues memorized the laudatory words "exactly as the staff wrote them."

--ps, mp, & jm

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