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What is the White House Social Secretary?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 08 September 2016
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The White House Social Secretary is a functionary in the White House who is responsible for coordinating all entertaining and events, from peace conferences at the White House to a private tea for the First Lady of the United States. While the title of “Social Secretary” may not sound that important, the White House Social Secretary is actually an extremely powerful person in the White House, and the job is complex, demanding, and sometimes quite exciting.

This White House official heads up the White House Social Office, a small empire located in the East Wing of the White House. Usually, the White House Social Secretary works closely with the White House Chief Usher and the Chief of Protocol for the United States to coordinate events and ensure that all guests are well cared-for. The Social Secretary also works with the White House Graphics and Calligraphy Office, which provides hand-written invitations to White House events.

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When an event is scheduled at the White House, the White House Social Secretary takes care of every detail, handling things like flowers, food, music, invitations, seating arrangements, security, entertainment at the event, and so forth. He or she usually keeps an extensive list of guests along with their needs and preferences, along with their history at the White House. Handling both personal and political events at the White House places the White House Social Secretary in the position of knowing a large number of people and needing to accommodate them all with grace, courtesy, and friendliness.

Hospitality at the White House has varied throughout American history. Some Presidents kept a very open White House, with numerous social events and parties which members of the general public could attend. Others have preferred a more quiet Presidency, reserving the White House for official state events and conferences of great importance, and restricting access for security reasons. In either case, the White House Social Secretary deals with a wide variety of situations, people, and events.

White House Secretaries usually come from a background in entertaining and public relations. In 2008, Desiree Rogers made history by being the first African American woman appointed to the position, expressing a desire to make the White House under the Obama Administration more open to the public with events year-round. Compensation for the White House Social Secretary tends to be very good, reflecting the fact that the Social Secretary is constantly on duty and often challenged with complex tasks, like pulling together a party for 4,000 people in four days.

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gravois
Post 3

I wonder who had the most open White House of all time? Which is basically to say, what President threw the most parties?

I could not even begin to venture a guess, and it is probably someone who would surprise you like Nixon or Lincoln. I bet some things have gone on at some of those parties that would shock even a true libertine.

Ivan83
Post 2

So how has Desiree Rogers done as Social Secretary? Has the White House become a more open and friendly place?

I do not live in Washington and have never been anywhere near the White house so I am not really in a position to know.

ZsaZsa56
Post 1

I have often thought how strange it would be to get elected president and then to have an endless stream of social functions often with people you have never met. On Tuesday you meet with the president of the Philippines and his wife. On Thursday you lunch with a delegation of diplomats from Israel. On Saturday night you are at a gala dinner for NATO.

All those dinners with all those strangers. What a weird life. It's like the President has to be a smart and strong person and also an engaging dinner party host/guest.

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