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tv   History Bookshelf Lea Berman and Jeremy Bernard Treating People Well  CSPAN  January 20, 2021 8:00pm-9:02pm EST

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he will be joined by douglas brinkley, who will interview him on his new book. the presidents versus the press. thank you. next on history bookshelf. former white house social secretaries, lea berman and
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jeremy bernard, talk about the book, treating people. well the extraordinary power of civility in life, their thoughts on public unprofessional civility. miss berman worked for the george hill to bush administration and jeremy bernard for the obama administration. the ronald reagan museum holed it this event in 2016. >> it's a treat for us to have not one but two former social secretaries with us today. i'm sure that they are grateful that they don't have to plan and execute this white house luncheon. one of our guests today is a democrat. one a republican. they aren't afraid to be friends. they support one another. in the even show up in public together. imagine that. originally from a small town in ohio, lea berman service white house social secretary from 2004 to 2007 under president and mr. george w. bush. prior to that, she was chief of
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staff to second lady lint cheney, and before that service secretary to vice president cheney, when asked which a lot of those jobs i believe that she will tell you that she was in the right place at the right time. and having known of her for many years, i can tell you that she was most assuredly qualified for all of those rules. as she tells, it she has been a event planner her entire adult life, including as a wife, full-time mom to now two adult daughters, and a couple of dogs. she has a daily blood called americas table which i have now secretly pockmarked on my computer at my desk. don't tell anybody. she offers up hints of travel of cooking and food. glorious. food and tips on entertaining connecticut, which she says is not just about knowing would fork to use, it's about treating each other with kindness, even, and especially
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in the anonymous abyss of the internet. our second guest today, originally hails from san antonio, texas, but now he's it fellow southern californian. jeremy bernard served as the white house social secretary under president obama from 2011 to 2016. jeremy is the first man ever to serve in this role at the white house. and while that was big news at the time, he managed to keep a very low profile in order to do his job, which is all white house staffers are advised. to serve the president and the first lady of the united states of america, not yourself. he earned a reputation of being affable and extraordinary efficient, managing literally hundreds of events for the very young staff, and dare i say it? a lot of laughter. before serving in the obama white house he had a campaign fund-raiser for presidential candidate, barack obama, and then was rewarded with a job as the white house these on to the
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national endowment for the humanities. from their germ me served as the are for france, and again after being in the right place at the right time he landed his role as the white house social secretary. it's a delight to have them here today, i hope you will be ready to ask them some questions later. ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming former social secretaries, lea berman and jeremy bernard. >> [applause] we are going to get settled in. before we get to the book, i'm sure i'm not the only one in the room who is very interested in your backgrounds. so can you tell us, how did you get to be the secretary of the united states? lia, will start with. you it's very different for
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every person who's at the job i believe. traditionally, they were daughters of governors or centers where their families were in politics in some formal and aristocratic way. it hasn't been like that for sometime now. jeremy can serve as examples of that. i grew up on a small farm in ohio. i went to washington after college and i worked in the strategic -- in george universities think tank. i want to graduate school there. i was a mother for ten years which incidentally was the best possible experience to be a social secretary. after that, a friend of mine said you know, mrs. cheney is looking for a social secretary, you should talk with her. that's kind of how it all happened after that. i found myself going from the -- line one day to learning how to use the white house email system and learning how to clear people into the vice president's home, working with the secret service. it was a big learning curve, but i also felt very fortunate
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that i got pushed back into the workforce that way. >> had just moved to paris to start working for the u.s. ambassador. i got a text, or an email, that said would you be willing to throw your name in the hot for this job? i would like, yeah right. not in 1 million years. but i thought, sure. and i went to washington d.c. and had meetings with all the senior staff in the west wing. then as i was going over to the west wing to meet mrs. obama, -- the east wing to meet mrs. obama, i thought the meetings were going very well, what's am i getting myself into if this were to happen? after mrs. obama came in, we talked a little bit and i said, i have to be honest with you. i'm not good at arranging flowers and i don't know china patterns. i'm not certain i'm the right guy for this job. and she said, don't worry about
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it. you will have people there who will help you with that. i need someone with good political judgment and how to get more people that have never been here into the white house. when i got it i was kind of ... this is surreal because it's never a job i thought i would have. but i loved it and it was very exciting. >> so i'm excited -- interested, most white house staffers don't interview with the boss. they interview with the boss of the boss underneath. however, you to actually interviewed with the boss. i'm interested, what's their standard interview question? >> i was asked to come see mrs. bush in the family residents. i had only been part -- in part of that white house once before. i was dazzled. there's this big fan window. the sun was shining in. everything is beautiful. the artwork is amazing. mrs. bush was so warm and
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welcoming and pleasant. she started talking about the job as if i had already had it. she was saying things like, i want to entertain a lot more. i need you to work with the chef because he has some issues and we've been trying to work with him. it was almost like a list of things that i should expect to do. i went in thinking that maybe i was talking to her about this and going to recommend someone else. i was so dazzled that i honestly, if she had said, you know we need an upstairs and made, could you take that over,? i would've said yes. afterwards, i came out and said, wow, i've got a job. >> the interviews in the west wing -- so they were relatively brief. the president was very brief. very reassuring. then mrs. obama, that interview lasted an hour. i can honestly say that when i left that i had no idea how it
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went. i do not think it was a disaster, but i did not think that when i was in the west wing, then i knocked it out of the ballpark. i called my mom on my way back to the hotel and said, you know, this is a day i will never forget. i had meetings at the white house. i actually had a reason to go. and i interviewed with the first lady in the president. it was an amazing day. i will always remember it. i kind of assumed i was not going to get the job. so i went back to paris and did not hear anything. i did not see the articles that were in the washington press. so when i got a call a couple of weeks later saying, would you fill out this paperwork? you already have security clearance, but just in case it's you, would you fill this out. then i started thinking maybe there's a chance, but i was surprised when i got that call. she's a good interview or. it wasn't tough, it's just that she has a good poker face.
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i did not know. later, she told me that she knew when we were talking that i was going to be her social secretary. >> okay. now, let's talk about this new book in the two of you have coauthored. you entitled it, treating people well, the extraordinary power of instability at work and in life. so i want you to tell us. how did you turn from being the social -- the top social -- how did this book come about? and with you distinctly different political views, how did you decide to ride it together? >> we have been friends since we met. there is this wonderful network of former white house official secretary in washington. they get together regularly. and they provide themselves as a resource to whoever the current social secretary is. so when jeremy became social secretary, we met and just clicked and state friends. it was very helpful to me at
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the time when i started to be talking to someone like laetitia paul rich who work for jacqueline kennedy, and have fertile these horror stories of things that happened to her when she was the social secretary. for example, when she first working as social secretary, mrs. kennedy told her that she wanted a french chef in the white house. and so she heard about this wonderful french chef who was working in the french embassy in london. so she called and offered him a job. the schiff reported this to his boss, the french ambassador, who reported it home to the french. they were very offended. she found herself early in her career being called into the awful office carpet by president kennedy and told her that under no circumstances were she to poach any french chefs. on the other side of the coin, she had mrs. kennedy saying i want a french chef. so she found another french chef. she worked with immigration and customs and had him made a u.s.
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citizen overnight. so mrs. kennedy got hurt frenchs chef, but she did not violate president kennedy's rule that it had to be an american citizen. >> the good old days when you could get something done like that overnight. it's a great resource. i would call on lee, gayle work for reagan, and would say did this ever happen to you? oh, yeah, this is what is going to happen. it was not that they had the magic answer all the time, but there was comfort in knowing others went through the same horrible or miserable experiences. i hate to tell this one at lunch, so i will make it as pleasant as possible. but i said did you ever have problems at holiday receptions with people getting sick?
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the eggnog at the white house is really strong. >> really strong. >> and it hits you really quickly. you're drinking it and you're like this is nothing. and then the third when you're like, and what would happen is people would be drinking and drinking and then suddenly it would hit them and then they would feel themselves getting sick. they did not want to get sick on someone else, so they immediately went toward one of the christmas trees. they said, oh yeah, we had vomit trees. how many would get hit? it was always kind of a game to figure out how many trees would get decorated by visitors. so a lot of it wasn't that they had the answer, but it was like, don't worry, this is happened before. >> the politics did not matter because we had similar experiences. however different the administrations that have been that we work in. we found that we were changed by the job because we were very focused on making sure that all
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of the events go smoothly. that they reflected the style and the policies of the administration, of the president and first lady. that made us very conscious of getting everything right so that we did not do anything that would embarrass the president and first lady. or the worst possible thing, to be in the news as a negative press story. that is how we came around to writing the book because we realize we learned so many of the same things about getting along with people more effectively so that we could make sure our events flowed well and people felt happy and welcome. >> in all due credit, i had dinner with a friend of ours, roxanne roberts, a reporter at the washington post, and she said over dinner, you know, you are close to all the former socials but you're especially close to lea. you guys should write a book together because no one won't buy it because it's bush or one was obama. you guys have it covered.
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i thought, that's a great idea. it took us a while to figure out what to write because we did not want to book about entertaining. there's been a number of those. so a take a little time to figure out what's to right. but what we really figured out was would book do we wish we had had before we started this job, or any job. a lot of it is common sense, but it helps when it is spelled out. >> that leads me to my next question. i think you just said it. it's a great book to have for your jobs. i can honestly tell you it's not just for the job to the white house social secretary. it's filled with great stories. little hints. wonderful little tidbits that really apply to all of us every day, whether you are a stay at home mom or you are the ceo of the company were somewhere in between. and i will say that the first time i looked at it, i looked and said, you know, civility is not really a sexy topic and.
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but i've had people say that this is not your grandmother's etiquette book. i even read where some people called it d.c.. so let's face it, we all love a little dish now and then. so i'm hoping the two of you can each tell us the most frightful behavior you witnessed during your white house days. and feel free to leave out names if that helps you tell the story. we can start with you, jeremy. >> well, there's a lot of them. one is that gail burton had warned me that at one point, in all administrations, someone that is an entertainer and is scheduled to perform will cancel at the last minute. you had no contract at the white house because they were doing it for free. you weren't paying for anything other than sometimes the transportation and hotel room. so it was just their word that
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they were going to show up. and i thought that's not going to happen. we have no problem getting entertainment. well, a week before one of mrs. obama's favorite events, the kids state dinner, which is really a lunch, but it's for kids so ... i got a call that the entertainment, that for this person to appear, they needed to have a private jet for all of the backup dancers as well. there were 60 people he was bringing. 60 people, we would have to throw some of the kids out. it's not that big. the demands were outrageous. and i said, we can never do this. if we could do it, it would be bad press for both of us. they say, well we will have to try to make it happen another time. let me be clear, the white house will never pay for
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entertainment. that was the worst telling mrs. obama because the feeling was, how did that happen? when did you not tell? and i had texted mrs. obama. i got a text back saying, talk to barack. he will have some ideas. so i passed susan rice and go in there and say, can we talk about the kids state dinner? he was like, let me see, maybe there's a plane a military plane that's coming over. i said, he wants 60 people. i said, we looked into it, what was the show? the lion king was at the kennedy center. so we had them come perform. but even that, when i talked to the president about it, he said that's a good idea.
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you will tell mrs. obama? so it was awful. but it was really a shock that someone would commit to performing at the kids state dinner, and i don't want to say the name because ... >> i'm glad that -- i think we're glad that taxpayers are not paying for performance and entertainment at the white house. >> i would have to say that the most difficult guests have always been members of congress. there is a sense of entitlement there. whether it's an individual senator or at the entire congression, i have some negative memories. i remember waiting to greet a senator was coming to see president bush. he pulled up to the north portico, i saw him walk out the car and switch something from a
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bottle in his mouth and then spin it on the steps of the white house. then he stumbled up, because he was clearly drunk, and then brought into his meeting. i thought that was fairly appalling. then you go to these congressional picnics which are an annual and painful thing. it's all members and their spouses and immediate family. and they all defy the rules and will show up with not just their kids, but you know, people they just hired that day. they will be at the gate and be very angry that all of their guests can't be cleared in immediately. you know, we have rules we have to follow. name, data birth, social security number, place of birth. all of that information has to be fed to the secret service and then they have to come back to us and say yes, they can come in. so there was no way we could control that. they would be very irate. then they would come into the picnic, which was always at least 1200 people, and it was always very hot. and they just would smother the president and first lady and surround them. it was quite unpleasant for them that they would be out there for hours and hours. and then, many of them would be
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over served as we would say. they would have trouble finding the porta-potties. and finally they would all sort of stumble home with the centerpiece is tucked under their arms. and we would be thinking, good riddance. i'm sure there are wonderful members of congress, but those are the ones who stand out. >> yeah, it's funny because in talking with my predecessors, everyone had the same reaction. and that is the most feared event every year is the congressional picnic. because it would happen in the summer. it was hot. there were so many people. and to your point, as everyone was leaving, the nice thing is when the sun starts to go down and it pushes people along and it's time to leave. i noticed one congressman kind of heading toward the food warmer. and i was wondering what on
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earth he was doing. and then i realized, i think he thinks it's a porta-potty. so there was a moment where that germany said, just sit back and watch this. but i got a hold of him and said, sir, the exit is over there. if you need to use the restroom you have to ... and he stumbled on out. but i still go back and forth with whether i should have just let that happen. >> a little devil on your shoulder. >> yes, exactly. >> i think a lot of people think that the white house social secretary is really meant to deal with the politics of an event. that certainly is one of the toughest jobs that probably is never discussed in an interview. and it's certainly not on the job description. but it seems to me that it's not so much about the politics, but about the people as we have been talking about. so this time i wonder if you
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could tell a little story, and we do want names this time, of one event or occasion during your white house stint that gives us hope. that people can really be good to one another. >> my favorite story, let me just say more generally to come back, for most people, coming to the white house is a very important milestone in their life. they tell their family about it. they want the pictures. they want to take home little paper napkins with the presidential seal. they are very proud of it. my favorite thing was watching people enter the white house for the first time. they look around and the portraits and the columns. you can just see them thinking, you know, i share a common heritage as an american with all the people who lived in this house. and they often become very emotional. it's just a very lovely reinforcing thing to see this kind of pride in america. and i'm sure that every social secretary has seen that many times. >> yeah. most of the experiences, it's
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more fun to talk about the negatives, but they were positive. i will never forget. we u÷z2ug$u$e portrait unveiling of the -- bush at the white house. we had a lunch for the family beforehand and then the ceremony. and then about a week later, i got a handwritten letter, laura bush whose office had called my assistant said, laura wants to send something to jeremy. if you ever get something at the white house, it takes months. also, anything that goes to the white house becomes public record. and she wanted this to go to me. so i got home one day and this beautiful hand written note from mrs. bush saying how welcomed they felt and how she noticed would china i used.
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i used their personal china from upstairs. the tablecloth. she noticed everything. she thanked the chefs for making enchiladas, which is one of president bush is favorite. but getting something like that, it's just a moment, but it's thoughtful and really means a great deal. >> that leads perfectly, that's in the book, that's one of the topics in the book. going through it, being consistent, having self confidence, using humor and charm. you call them the great equalizer's. being loyal and honest. listening first and talking later. just a few of the 12 practices that they both are illustrating in the book as the cornerstones of the art of treating people well. they all sound obvious, right? common sense. but not all of them come easy to most people. so i will ask each of you. if you had to just choose one place to start, which practice would fall at the top of the list and why? jeremy? >> the top of the list, because
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of the times we live in now, we have a lot of benefits from technology and getting information quickly. but i feel like, because of becoming accustomed to immediate response, that sometimes people don't step back and really listen. one of our chapters is listen first and speak last. it's really hard in this day and time to get people to really listen to someone else. when i see someone in a store and they are on the headsets or something, talking to someone in the middle of a conversation and a cashier or something, i feel it's so unbelievably rude because you're not even acknowledging the person right across the way. but it has become very normal these days. i think it's one of the more
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important things for these times. >> i agree. i also think humor is an incredibly powerful tool. you know, we often say i'm not naturally funny or i'm not naturally charming. but all of those behaviors are learned behaviors. while there are people who are naturally funny, like jeremy, there are people like me who had to try to find a way to learn that. our most favorite and beloved presidents, and it's perfectly fitting to be talking about ronald reagan here today,.c5zú e are so honored to be here by the way, to tell my favorite story that i tell it every event we do. it's probably apocryphal. we've never been able to prove that this actually happened. but it's a story about president reagan out riding horses with queen elizabeth in windsor park on a visit to england. at one point, the queens horse had a prolonged bout of flatulence. she said, oh, i'm sorry. it's quite all right, your majesty. i thought it was the horse.
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that kind of natural humor, you see it relaxes everyone and makes them happy. but to be the individual to sit in a tense meeting and say that one correct, anything that makes everyone relax and be able to work together again. that is a very powerful thing. >> that's great. >> i cannot confirm the story, although i know the president pretty well, but it sounds just like him. so i will go with i think that is true. we are going to open it up to questions in just a moment. i want to ask each of you, without getting yourself in trouble politically, is there one person in washington d.c. today that you would like to have read your book? and if he or she only has time for one chapter, which one would you recommend? >> i would like to give it to virtually everyone in washington d.c., especially congress and the press. there is a built-in animosity. and i think that bad behavior
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is unfortunately very very contagious. when you see someone acting rudely or being inconsiderate, it seems to grow because it's giving permission. so one of the things we felt very early is that it takes a conscious effort to be nice. to be kind in this world. because there are so many things that go contrary to that. even though it's fairly obvious, you have to think about it. even once we started writing this book, i'm living in l.a. now and l.a. traffic and someone would cut in front of me and, don't talk in the horn -- don't honk the horn, unless they are putting your life in danger, why does it matter? it will take another 30 seconds. but it took a conscious effort because my reaction was kind of
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what i had learned about it, scream, hot and curse. >> which doesn't work. >> it doesn't work. >> okay, we will open it up to questions. we do have someone with a microphone. please wait until you have the microphone because we are live streaming. >> hi, thank you for being here today. this is great. i have a very shallow question. when people ever come to dinner at the white house, do they ever like the silver? -- lift the silverware. >> it's been known to happen. >> can you tell? do you know when they do it? >> there was some beautiful old silver that is engraved. we stopped using it because we did not have enough pieces to use it because it had been taken. but now we use something that you would see at any caterer so that there is less desire to take. >> president obama would actually say at holiday parties, take the napkins, take details downstairs in the restroom, but
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don't take the silverware because it's rented. it's not from here. because it's somewhat natural. also, lia told me about this for the name plates. in eagle is very attractive. and guests would take it. so i was told early on to pick up those before desert. because most people don't think about it before it gets towards the end. and one of the problems was when we would be short, there was no budget to buy that. i mean it was like pulling teeth and they were like 50 dollars. but if we were short, it wasn't like we will get the slush fund to pay for it. we really didn't have a account to pay for that stuff. so it wasn't just that we want to be greedy with it, but we really couldn't part with it.
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>> the butlers would go to somewhat and very politely say excuse me sir, but i think you just put the place card holder in the pocket and that actually stays here with the white house. and she put it back. >> the place cards, when you allowed them to take them, -- i know they were in our white house. those alone are so special. if you have a place card from the white house, you are a very rare person to have that. it seems to me that they would be happy with that but yes i can see anything that is not wired down sadly, even people who attend white house events just think that they get everything on the table. >> right. right. >> question over here. >> i have one question. one specific. one general. the first general is that if you are tired the next social secretary well with the top quality look for b?
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>> that's a good question. i think that there's something about, when we started our jobs we really quite are we doing here? how did we get here? you play it off as if you belong. we all have our and securities. one of the important things is to be confident enough in yourself that i think everyone at the white house feels like when are they going to find out the mistake they made and i will be thrown out of here. so it's common. but you don't want to appear to be uncertain. so that and a sense of humor. it's hard to say one. details important. it is a combination. sense of humor is really important. most of all because when somebody says or does something it could be a guest or someone
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else at the white house you have to let it go. and sometimes they could be caddie or rude. you just have to let it go. and that is not always easy. >> for various reasons which we get into and our buck, as children neither of us were particularly extroverted. when you go through a stage in your life where you feel like it outside or it changes how you feel afterwards. i think we were better social secretary for having a sense of how uncomfortable and intimidated many times people would be when they came into the white house. we would make that extra effort to make them feel welcome so i would say that every social secretary needs to be able to reach out and be comfortable and make people feel comfortable there because that is actually the most important part of the job. >> so you're the bridge between the guest. >> it's not always when you think it will be. for a lot it is. from my time and the --
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before the ceremony you have the family members of the honorees go out and sit in the east room where the ceremony is going to take place. and so meryl streep was being honored that year. someone took her family out and said sorry. come sit down with me. i'm so nervous. i was like you're nervous? she's like i'm so nervous. i think the president is more nervous about him meeting you then you -- she's like i'm so nervous. she just wanted comfort. it doesn't matter who it is. everyone has that and it's important to kind of recognize that and be sensitive to it. >> he's a person. we all have a motions. we were here. >> did you ever have anyone tried to change the postcards at the table. how did you handle that? >> all the time.
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>> at the presidents table if it was last minute. nobody changed tables because that is a problem. then somebody else is going to be at the wrong table. but they would change places. and you know, it wasb19vyannoyi, was at the president and first lady's table i wouldn't. if somebody moved so that think it's the next time that is obvious. >> a social secretaries we often started from goodwill because so many people think that they should be fit and headed to the white house and when they aren't they tend to take -- blame us. we took them off the guesthouse. for years afterward we would run into people who had comment. i know jeremy would hear from people saying i was never invited when you were there.
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at one point, there's a restaurant in washington called the palm and there are lots of character types of washington on the walls. i was with my husband and this was a year into working a social secretary and i looked at my character and someone had taken a fork and stepped all over my face and -- it made us be extra carefully nice to people when we could because in truth social secretaries don't take people off the list. other people in the white house do. >> i mean we can't exactly say valérie jarrett said now. so we were often the bad guys. >> absolutely. >> question over here. >> very shy crowd. >> it is a tsai crowd. >> jeremy, i have a question about the party who snuck into a party.
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how did that happen? how didn't they get checked? how did they get in and they weren't on the guest list? >> li knows it even better than i do because i was, let's make that real clear, but it was in fact on june 7th of 2011 was my first state dinner for chairman which was out in the rose garden. it was gorgeous. but i couldn't relax for any of it because you know that anything that goes wrong is what makes the story. and that gate-crashers certainly did put the fear in the white house that lasted the entire administration of mistakes happening. and unfortunately, the people
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that really suffered our guests now. it is such a process. you have to show your i.d. multiple times. >> it's worse than the airplane. >> it's really awful. it's a shame. they got in. it was the first state dinner. they were dressed as if they belonged and it was evidently stormed that night. and the secret service didn't have them on the list. but they were convincing. and they got through. unfortunately, it cost secret service agents a job or two. it was really the bad actions of them trying to get attention. or getting attention really effected a lot of lives. >> the house folks of l.a., miami, etc, there was a production company trying to start a real housewives of washington d.c.. at the time the couple worked
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gate-crashers trying to impress the producer by saying that we got invited to a state dinner. the woman dressed in a sorry because it was india state dinner and their whole plan was to get inside. get some photos. leave before the dinner started because they would have discovered it because they had receipts. a washington post reporter who was watching people come through saw them and thought that it was very odd, and asked some of the staff, but they didn't really have time to focus on until the next motor earning when they had posted these pictures on facebook. and people realized what had happened. it was inconceivable that any white house could have ever forcing someone trying to do this. they didn't particularly care about coming to the white house. they cared about getting a free shuttle. >> a question right here. yes. >> i'm just trying to figure out the logistics. there is so much going on on so many different levels, how did
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you corny with the other activities that were going on? how did you fit those in? >> i drink a lot. i had actually advised my predecessor one she took the job and i went into office. you know a big bulletin board would be needed that would tell every event of every day. we would have from three to 90 to 410 events every year. 30 sundays with three events and some days there would be nothing. but it was never spaced at the way you would want it to be. so it really, it was keeping an eye, and knowing, it was very difficult. i would tell my stuff we are so busy going from one event to another. making one event happen after. don't forget to enjoy the history of it because when
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there is a medal of honor or medal of freedom, this is a historic moment. this is something that you're not going to see most likely in your post white house life. but it was difficult because you're going from one to the other to the other. and i lucked out. i actually changed some of the stuff when i got there. there was turnover. having great staff and people that are detailed. i mainly hired people who have been in terms for the social office because they worked the most. and had the longest hours. if they can make it through that i felt like a staff will be easy. >> the secretary is responsible for every event that happens in the white house with exception of the oval office in the press room. so the coronation point is in the oval office and we work with the butlers and various
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white house staff and of course bosses to make sure that everything is organized, and we all know what we are doing. so there was never a time when i walked on to the grand floor and found that there was a event going on that i didn't know about. >> multitasker. the supreme multitaskers. >> one over here. >> how did your office interface with the office of protocol in the state department? >> we did regularly whenever there were foreign visitors and certainly state visits required more interaction with them. we also had a lot of interaction with nsc staff because they were regular none luncheons with the president and whatever head of state and delegation would, be so we would get all of those names from the nsc. the order of precedent so that i could then pass it onto the calligrapher. we would put them in place. it was almost always flawless.
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they were almost always right. there is only one occasion where the mayor of kuwait was coming for lunch for president bush, and i got that list from the nsc and we didn't just as they said, and when the kuwait delegation arrived there was one extra person there. and he kind of looked around. there was a flurry of arabic and he was. left he was excluded. out the next day the kuwait ambassador's wife called me and said you cost my husband a big problem yesterday, i said, how she said he thinks that the ambassador kept him out of the lunch now he has a political problem at home. so these tiny seemingly in significant things would have consequences, i went back to the nsc and they were apologetic. i'm sure that they did whatever they needed to do to try to smooth things over which is why being social secretary can be nerve-racking, because something that's milk and blow up in your face. >> and as he by the way is the national security council, those who don't know that term,
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they are the coronation point within the state department within the white house. >> i worked in the office of protocol, on a daily basis what was of benefit to me was that the chief of protocol had my job under the clinton years, so could pre-show marshal was great in my first months. she would be there, i would ask her, but did you do about this? what did you do about this? >> the chief of protocol as a sign to the state department. they handle our international protocol. >> right. and protocol was great because they would tell us right away when we found out a leader was visiting whether it was for a meeting or a luncheon or a full state visit. what their likes and dislikes were. what colors would be offensive. if we had flowers that were white, that could be offensive to certain cultures.
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what's food allergies there were. so we relied on state department and the office of protocol a great deal. that was one thing we did not have to worry about as much because we knew they had that information. >> during the reagan administration, we did have one social office event, a state dinner overseas. it was during the visit of president and mrs. reagan to moscow, when they hosted a dinner in moscow at the ambassadors home. did either of you hold a state dinner or state event outside of the white house? >> it's a very rare situation. >> whenever we did one of those summits, opec orgy seven or eight. -- or g7 summit or g8 depending on if russia is coming. one was in camp david. one was in hawaii.
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there was one in chicago. if it was a white house event, we were in charge of it. we also had to always do the united nations reception when the president would go speak at the united nations. he would host all the leaders. and so if we are the host country, then we would have to be there. and it made us realize and appreciate how much we enjoyed doing things at the white house. not that you really have control over anything. you have a lot more control than in new york where we had to deal with might first un trip there, we did in new york -- we went to the new york library. but because secret service had to block off all so much with five and drape, the president and mrs. obama could not, they might as well just be in an airport hangar. and so you learn let's just do
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it at the hotel. and you kind of learn by mistake because it wasn't your footprint. it wasn't the usual, which is being at the white house. >> we have time for one more question here. >> speaking of state dinners. it's my understanding that now when you have state dinners, you serve only american winds. and since we are in california, knowing how those winds get chosen for state dinnersg"ei]. >> there was an asher who just recently retired who was a sommelier. he had connections with all the vineyards up and down the west coast. he was very clever about it. he would not just fine the wines that the food, but he would find wines with really interesting dates. i remember there was a foreign visit with china. that was always problematic for
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us because the countries are always at loggerheads. he chose a wine named conundrum. i thought it was very clever. i'm sure they have someone else doing it. >> we use that when a lot here. >> do you? >> he was there the entire time i was at the white house. it made it easy because we would have wine tasting. he would pick out wines. four state visits, i would have a tasting with mrs. obama and her mom. and we would, especially mrs. robinson, i would be drinking the wine. mrs. obama would have a taste. her mother and i would. it was the ability to choose of great selections to begin with. that was a big plus for us. >> we do have a question right here. >> i'm from pasadena. i really enjoyed hearing it, but i was kind of sad and about so much bad behavior events
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with all the alcohol. i was kind of curious. why didn't they ever reduce the number of alcoholic drinks or the alcohol level in the eggnog? on that vein, talking about protocol, we hear so much about the protocol that took place with the british wedding recently. the etiquette that you're certain -- supposed to wear a certain thing and speak a certain way. was there also that kind of thing to visit the white house? >> well. the first question about alcohol. we started having non alcoholic eggnog. and there was, the recipe is such a tradition that there was this ... you can't mess with the recipe. but we would have the person serving it warn people, hey, this is really potent. and just be careful because people used to drink a lot more years ago. now, i think for a lot of
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people, it hit quicker. we certainly offered other alternatives. we were very careful on wet events we served alcohol. >> the st. patrick's day event in particular. it was also really fun. then after a none knocked down one of the military social aides in her zeal to shake the president and. we stopped doing that. we had a lovely irish themed event instead. but we probably are making it sound worse than it is because you remember the bad behavior. kind of like on media you hear the bad stories, you don't hear the good stories about people being kind, honest and faithful and so forth. but i think people like to hear some of these more unusual stories. and i understand there are many doses here from the reagan library.
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i just want to say thank you for your service. without the volunteers we had at the white house, both military and the nonmilitary volunteers, i don't think we could function at all. >> no, that's true. absolutely. >> we have just a few minutes. i know in the book you have something that you call pearl clutching moments at the white house. i know there was a story about somebody getting arrested at one of your events. and there was a bit of dizziness at one of your events as well. i wonder if you could each share one pearl clutching moment and leave us with that. certainly, not all of the bad stuff because, as you say, there's so many wonderful days and moments at the white house. and to be there, to work their, to attend an event there is an extraordinary opportunity. >> well, i think we just witnessed yesterday what happens more often than is usually reported, although it's
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not terribly common i want to say. but when you submit your information to come into the white house, the secret service check it. and if you have a warrant for your arrest, they will know it. now this idiot showed up at the white house after giving his information and did not know he would be arrested is kind of shocking. sometimes i would get a call and the secret service would say, look, someone on your list is a do not admit. we don't want you to be embarrassed by them getting here. so i would call the person and often it was, did you get a speeding ticket summer? i got a speeding ticket in georgia years ago that i never paid. i'm like, it doesn't go away. they attach it. if your pulled over and they
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are checking, they will see you have an unpaid thick -- parking ticket. and i don't want you to come to the white house and get arrested for having in unpaid speeding ticket. so it was always scary to get those calls from the secret service. the other thing that happened a lot is that people would be stuck at the gate and i will try to figure out what it was that went wrong. how did the information get mixed up. then they would usually say that the secret service or something, okay, i was actually born in 1963, but my husband thinks it's a 1958. so they would have to resubmit the information. >> i had a particularly bad day when we had an official visit from the chinese president. i will only tell you the very that -- last part of the horror. it was just as the luncheon was about to begin. i was approached by a state department employee who said, the chinese always try to push
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the american translator out of the way. president bush meets his own translator. make sure that does not happen. so i walk over to the presidents table. people are slowly starting to come into the luncheon. and i see a chinese woman sitting in the american translators seat and the american translator is kind of nervous and trembling and says, she won't let me sit in my seat. so i walk over and i tried to explain to her very politely that she needs to just move over one seat. she pretended, this is the translator, that she did not speak english. so i could see that the presidents were starting to come down the hallway and the thing was about to happen. and so i said to the american translator, when i get the seat open and -- sit in it and do not leave until the luncheon is over. i pushed the witness chair forward a little bit and she world over and ask me when i was doing. i shoved him a contract later into the chair and i was literally saved by the marine ban who struck a pale to the chief as they walked into the dining room.
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otherwise, i honestly don't know what would have happened. but that was a pearl clutching moment. >> that sounds like it. we will leave everybody with one of your best moments at each of your white house is. if you can help us out with that. >> at the end of a state dinner or the holiday receptions, it was, you would see how happy people were. i remember after the british state dinner, prime minister cameron and his wife turned to me and said thank you for the most amazing special night of our lives. you're taken aback. well, thank you, but moments like that, you see people who had never been there before leaving and they are so happy. and excited. that was always a great moment. and i would get the holiday receptions, there were so many that we cannot wait for them to end, but when they ended i was said because it was the end of
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a season. it was just so special. >> lea? >> every presidential administration has times when they are up in times when they are down. as joanne can tell you, when you are feeling embattled within the white house, it's a daily struggle to just move on and do the best possible job you can do. and i was in the white house at the time when the iraq war was not going very well. it was before the surge. and the president decided to do in -- a dinner, which is a breaking of the ramadan fast. it's a very complicated dinner so that all the religious observance were done properly by the white house. we were very focused on it. the east room was emptied a furniture. the portraits were covered. rugs were put down. and and exactly the moment of the sunset, in imam stood in the grand foyer and called all of the guests, who were prominent muslim clerics and ambassadors from countries that had muslim populations, he called them to prayer and invited them to pray in the east room. a number of them went in and closed the doors and the
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prayers went on and then they came out and the dinner began. and i remember standing there feeling so impressed and proud that i was working in this white house where, yes the war was going terribly and everyone was angry at us and thought we could not do anything right. and yet, we were exhibiting this level of religious tolerance to the very people who had knocked down the towers. we were able to make that intellectual distinction between terrorism and religion. and i always think of that is my proudest moment at the white house. >> well, many of you know ronald reagan was a man who absolutely understood the extraordinary power of civility in work and in life. he always treated people well, even if he did not agree with their political views. in fact, he always treated people the same. he did not care if you are the queen of england or at the school bus driver. he always said hello to you. and if there was time, he asked if you were doing.
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what was going on in your life. he actually -- he would actually stick around to hear the answer. he would not just blow you off. one of my favorite ronald reagan quotes, which was engraved on a black on the desk in his oval office says, there is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go as long as he doesn't mind who gets the credit. it reminds me so much of what is in this a book. and i hope that all of you will get your copy. it's a great gift for someone in your life. a daughter. a son. a niece. a nephew. the granddaughter. i hope you all will take the time to do that. and in honor of that plaque, i have one for each of you today. i want to thank you for coming here and joining us. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> thank you so much. >> we are going to take jeremy and lead up to the museum store in just a few minutes. we hope you join us up there with your copy of the books. i know we will be and happy to answer questions as we move to the line. thank you all for coming. we hope to see you next time.
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>> thank you. >> [applause] >> thank you so much. live thursday on c-span 3, white house senior adviser and director of the office of public engagement, cedric richmond will talk about president biden's first day in office and his top legislative priorities. watch live coverage of this? discussion hosted by politico playbook beginning at 1:30 pm eastern thursday on c-span 3. weeknights this, month we're featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what is available every weekend on c-span 3. thursday, historians discuss the role of ethnic and immigrant troops during the civil war. they talk about, germanñ%4d and african american soldiers, as well as the newspapers that0ñ serve these communities. the session kicks off a night of programs from an annual symposium from the 19th century press and the civil war hosted by the university of tennessee in chat nubia.
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watch on thursday at 8 pm. enjoy american history tv every weekend on c-span 3. >> next on history bookshelf, adrian miller talks about his book, the president's kitchen cabinet. the story of the african americans and first families from the washington's to the obamas. he spoke at the 2017 roosevelt reading festival at the fdr presidential library in hyde park new york. >> good morning. my name is kirsten quarter and i am the archivist at the presidential library. on behalf of the law


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