What is the meaning of the observances of National Secretary's Day? Is it a conspiracy dreamt up by the real illuminati: the florist (FTD, to be precise), restaurant (perhaps the National Restaurant Association is the real NRA), candy, and the "surprise" (e.g., the singing moose, magical clown, stripper) service industries? Or is the ritual honestly meant to acknowledge the worthiness and appreciation of the person occupying the role, especially as it is often this person who really keeps the wheels of corporate America turning?
With the exception of National Temp Help Week, not many calendrical slots are dedicated to subordinates within the American hierarchies of work (unlike Burma, where there's even a Peasant's Day). There is a National Boss Day, which, contrary to popular belief, it is not every day but rather occurs on October 16 (as of yet, there is not yet an American CEO Day--maybe they already get the entire year). However, a number of occupations do receive their temporal recognition. Some receive an entire month, like Be Kind to Editors and Writers Month. Others have a week, like the National Surveyors Week, National Municipal Clerk's Week, National Food Workers Week, National Bookkeepers Week, and, of course, the National Professional Pet Sitters Week. And then there are those jobs with but a single day of acknowledgement, such as National Waitresses/Waiters Day, National Public Employees Appreciation Day, Inventors Day, Accountants Day, National Correction Officers Day, and National Third Shift Worker's Day. The centrality of the medical institution to our cultural value of heath undoubtedly accounts for the disproportionate number of times its workers receive: National Nurses Week, Operation Room Nurse Week, National Physical Therapy Week, National Cardiovascular Technologists Recognition Day, International Nurses' Day, and National Pharmacist Day.
National Secretary's Day actually occurs during Professional Secretaries Week. Unlike the other occupation-based holidays, National Secretary's Day now comes with the expectation of some special gift. What precisely is to be given poses some interesting challenges. It cannot be too personal, like something from Victoria's Secret (or could this day be the cause of the well-known liaisons between boss and secretary?), nor too utilitarian, which would be like giving mom a vacuum cleaner on Mother's Day. It is supposed to represent a type of "corporate gift" as opposed to representing some private present from one's superior. And with male secretaries becoming the new corporate status symbol, are they too to be taken out by their male bosses? Is it the case that a female boss can get away giving flowers to her male secretary while a male boss cannot?
Perhaps the meaning of National Secretary's Day can be inferred from those other groups sharing its place on the calendar. According to the "J" World Dates Archives, the month of April is the Uh-huh Month, the National Occupational Therapy Month, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month, and the Awareness Month for Autism and Stress. National Secretaries Week shares its days with Big Brothers/Sisters Appreciation Week, Teacher Appreciation Week, and (thinking again about the gift business) National Lingerie Week. And what else is recognized on April 24 this year? Interestingly, Secretary's Day is also the National Remembrance of Man's Inhumanity To Man Day, Hostage Heroes Day, and (in Magnum, Oklahoma) Rattlesnake Day. What more needs to be said?
Postscript: Since this brief essay was written the winds of PC labeling change have altered this observance, first to Professional Secretaries Day/Week and subsequently to Administrative Professionals Day/Week. The semantic drift is interesting. I guess the administrators wanted in on the action. Thank you all for the corrections.