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Another Acheson Enters Public Service

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PERHAPS the most striking aspect of ``Eldie'' Acheson's rise to a high-level position in the Clinton administration is not that she got there largely on her own. Rather, it's that she doesn't make a big deal of the fact. Sure, it helped that she was a Wellesley College classmate of Hillary Rodham Clinton. That put her ``on the Clintons' radar screen,'' she acknowledges.

But Ms. Acheson and the first lady are hardly buddies: After graduating in 1969, they crossed paths only at occasional alumnae events.

And it's just a historical curiosity that Eleanor Dean Acheson is the granddaughter and namesake of one of America's most renowned secretaries of state, one of the post-World War II giants who erected the walls of containment around the Soviet Union.

Genealogy won't get you a presidential appointment or Senate confirmation. Ms. Acheson became an assistant attorney general in the Justice Department through the usual route - by dint of ability, experience, and hard work for the president's election. Her position may be listed in the so-called Plum Book of top government jobs, but no one simply plucked the plum and handed it to her.

She should be, and probably is, justifiably proud of that fact. In an interview in her office, however, she makes no special pitch to a reporter about meritocracy, and she doesn't bristle when he brings up either the FOH (friend of Hillary) factor or her famous name.

As she speaks appreciatively both of the first family and her own family, Acheson seems secure in the sense that she earned the responsibilities that have been entrusted to her. Bulging portfolio of duties

Acheson, who reports to Attorney General Janet Reno, directs the Justice Department's office of policy development. Her primary responsibility is to screen candidates for federal judgeships and United States attorney posts.

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