tv History Bookshelf Lea Berman and Jeremy Bernard Treating People Well CSPAN January 31, 2021 8:00am-9:01am EST
berman worked for the george w. bush administration, mr. bernard for the obama administration. the ronald reagan presidential foundation and library hosted the event. in one hour, we will talk about dorie miller. in two hours, scholars discussed though -- the role of the western press during the civil role. joanne: it is a real treat for us to have not one but two former white house secretaries with us today. and i am sure they are grateful they did not have to plan and execute this white house luncheon. one of our guests today is a democrat, one a republican. they are not afraid to be friends. they support one another. and they even show up in public together. imagine that.
originally from a small town in ohio, lea berman served as white house social secretary 2004 to 2007 under president and mrs. george w. bush. prior to that, she was chief of staff to second lady lynn cheney and before that served as social secretary to vice president cheney. when asked how she landed those jobs, i believe she will tell you 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 roles. as she tells it, she has been an event planner her entire adult life, including as a wife, full-time mom said now two adult daughters, and a couple dogs. she hosts a daily blog called "america's table." which i have now secretly bookmarked at my own desk. do not tell anybody. lea offers hints and treats including travel, home life, and
food -- glorious food -- and tips on home entertaining and etiquette, which she says is not "just about knowing which fork to use, it's about treating each other with kindness, even and especially in the anonymous abyss of the internet." our second guest today originally hails from san antonio, texas, but now, he is a fellow southern californian. jeremy bernard served as the white house social secretary under president and mrs. obama from 2011 to 2015. 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, as all white house staffers are advised, is to serve the president and the first lady of the united states of america, not yourself. he earned a reputation of being both affable and extraordinarily efficient when managing literally hundreds of events with a very young staff and,
dare i say it, a lot of laughter. before serving in the obama white house, he earned his stripes as a campaign fundraiser for presidential candidate barack obama and then was rewarded with a job as the white house liaison to the national endowment for the humanities. from there, jeremy served as the senior advisor to the u.s. ambassador in france. and again, after being in the right place at the right time, he landed his role as the white house social secretary. it is a pleasure to have them both today, and i hope you will be ready to ask them questions later. ladies and please join me in welcoming former white house social secretaries lea berman and jeremy bernard. [applause] jeremy: thank you. lea: thank you. joanne: so we are going to get settled in. and before we get to the book, i
am sure i am not the only person in the room who is very interested in your backgrounds. so can you tell us how to get to be the social secretary of the united states? lea, we will start with you. lea: it is different for every person who gets the job. traditionally, they were daughters of senators or governors. it has not been like that for some time now. jeremy and i serve as examples of that. i grew up on a small farm in ohio. i went to washington after college, and i worked at the center for strategic studies, which is the georgetown think tank, and then i was a full-time mother, which, incidentally, is the best experience to be a social secretary. after that, a friend of mine said mrs. cheney is looking for a social secretary and you should talk with her.
and that is how i found myself going from the carpool line one day to learning how to use the white house email system and working with the secret service. that was a big learning curve, but also i felt very fortunate that i got pushed back into the workforce that way. joanne: jeremy? jeremy: i had just moved to paris to start work for the u.s. ambassador. and i got a text or an email that said would you be willing to throw your hat into the ring for this job? i was like, yeah right, never -- i will never get it, not in a million years, but i was like, sure. i went to washington, d.c., had meetings with all the senior staff in the west wing. and then, as i was going to the east wing to meet mrs. obama, i realized these meetings were going well, but what am i getting myself into, if this were to happen? and after mrs. obama and i
talked a little bit, i said, i've got to be real honest with you. i'm not real good at arranging flowers, and i don't know china patterns. i am not certain i am the right guy for this job. she said, don't worry about it. you will have good people there to help with that. i need someone with good political judgment and how do we get more people who have never been here into the white house. so when i got it, i was kind of like this is surreal. because it has never been a job i thought i would have. but i loved it, and it was very exciting. joanne: so i am interested -- most white house staffers do not actually interview with the boss. the interview with the boss of the boss, you know, underneath. however, you two actually did interview with the boss. so i am curious, what is their standard interview question? lea: i had asked to come to meet
mrs. bush in the part of the white house i had never been before. and i was dazzled. the sun was shining and everything is beautiful, and the art was amazing. mrs. bush was so warm and welcoming and pleasant, and she started talking about the job as if i had already had it, and saying things like, "i want to entertain a lot more," and "i want to work with the chef, because he's got some issues and we have been trying to work with him, and i think you should try." it was almost like a list of things i expect you to do. i remember thinking maybe i was talking to her about this and going to recommend someone else, and i was so dazzled that honestly if she had said, "we need an upstairs maid, could you take that over?" i would have said yes. [laughter] jeremy: the interviews in the west wing were one after another. they were relatively brief. maybe 10, 15 minutes.
the president was very brief and very reassuring. mrs. obama, that interview lasted an hour. and i can honestly say, when i left, i have no idea how it went. i did not think it was a disaster, but i do not think, when i was in the west wing, that this was knocked 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, and i interviewed with the first lady and the president. this was an amazing day, i will remember it always. i kind of assumed i was not going to get the job, and i went back to paris. and i did not hear anything. i did not see any of the articles in the washington press. so when i got a call a couple of weeks later saying, will you fill out this paperwork? you already have security clearance, but just in case it is you, would you fill this out?
then i started to think maybe there is a chance. but i got surprised when i got that call. but she is a good interviewer. she was not tough. she just has a good poker face. later, she told me i knew from the moment we were talking that you are going to be my social secretary. i was just like -- you know? [laughter] joanne: well, it is said you know in the first five minutes. jeremy: i did not. [laughter] joanne: let's talk about this book you have co-authored. you have entitled it "treating people well: the extraordinary power of civility at work and in life." so i want you to tell us, how did you turn from being the top social dogs at the white house in the office -- how did this book come about? and with your distinctly political views, how did you decide to write it together? lea: well, we have been friends since we met. there is this wonderful network of former white house social secretaries in washington. they get together regularly, and
they provide themselves as a resource to whoever their current social secretary is. so when jeremy became social secretary, we met, we just clicked and stayed friends. and it was very helpful to me, i the time i started as social secretary, talking to someone like letitia baldrige, who worked for jacqueline kennedy, and have her tell these horror stories that happen to her when she was social secretary. for example, when she first began as social secretary, mrs. kennedy told her she wanted a french chef in the white house, so she heard about this wonderful french chef who was working in the french embassy in london, so she called and offered him the job. and the chef reported this to his boss, the french ambassador, who reported it home. the french were very offended, and she found herself, early in her career, being called on the oval office carpet by president kennedy and being told that, under no circumstances, where
she to approach any french chefs. and yet mrs. kennedy wanted a french chef. so, with typical maneuvering, she found another french chef and worked with customs and had him made a u.s. citizen overnight. so mrs. kennedy got a french chef, but she did not violate president kennedy's rule that it had to be an american citizen. jeremy: the good old days when you could get something like that done overnight. [laughter] it is a great resource. i would call on lea, i called on gail, who worked for reagan, and say did this ever happen to you? and they were like, "oh, yeah, this is what is going to happen." there was comfort in knowing others went through the same horrible or miserable experiences. and i hate to tell this one at lunch, so i will make it as
pleasant as possible. but i said you ever have problems during the holiday receptions with people getting sick? and the eggnog at the white house is really strong. lea: really strong. jeremy: and it hits you really quick. you are drinking it, and it is like this is nothing. in the third one was like -- and what would happen was people would be drinking and drinking, and it would suddenly hit them. they would suddenly start feeling sick, and they did not want to get sick on someone, so they immediately went for one of the christmas trees. there were like, "oh yeah, we had vomit trees." and how many would get hit -- it was kind of like a game how many trees would get decorated by the visitors. so a lot of it was like don't worry, this has happened before. lea: misery does love company.
the politics did not matter because we had similar experiences, however different in the administrations were that we may have worked in. and we were changed by the job, because we were very focused on making sure the events went smoothly, that they reflected the style and administration of the president and first lady, and that made us very conscience of getting everything right so we did not do anything that would embarrass the president or first lady and, the worst possible thing, be in the news as a negative press story. and that is why we came to write the book, because we learned so many of the same things about getting along with people effectively, so that we could make sure our events flowed well and people felt happy and welcomed. jeremy: and i will give credit. i had dinner with a mutual 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 are especially close to lea. you ought to write a book together. because someone will not buy it because someone is bush or someone is obama. you guys got it covered. i thought that was a great idea. it took us a while to figure out what to write. because we did not want a book about entertaining. it did take a little time to figure out what to write. but what we really figured out is what book do we wish we had had before we started this job or any job? and a lot of it is common sense, but it helps when it is spelled out. joanne: that leads me to my next question, which i think you just said it -- it is a great book to have for your jobs, but i can honestly tell you it is not just for the jobs as white house social secretaries. honestly, it is filled with great stories, little hayden's -- hints, wonderful little tidbits that really apply to all of us every day, whether you are
a stay-at-home mom or the ceo of a company or somewhere in between. and i will say that, the first time i looked at it, i looked and i said, you know, civility is not really an effective topic. but i've had people say that this is not your grandmother's etiquette book. and i've even read where some people called it "dishy." let's face it. we all love a little dish now and then. i am hoping the two of you can each tell us the most frightful behavior you witnessed during your white house days. [laughter] feel free to leave out names if that helps you tell your story. let's start with you, jeremy. jeremy: well, there's a lot. [laughter] one is that gail birk 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.
now the white house, you had no contract, because they were doing it for free. and you were not paying for anything other than someone's transportation and hotel room, so it was just their word that there were going to show up. and i thought that is not going to happen. we have no problems getting entertainment. well, a week before one of mrs. obama's favorite events, the kids state dinner, which is really a lunch, but it is for kids, i got a call that the entertainment for this person to appear, they needed to have a private jet for all of the backup dancers as well, and there were 60 people he was bringing. 60 people -- we would have to throw some of the kids out. the room is not that big. the demands were outrageous. and i said, well, you know, we could never do -- if we could do
it, it would be bad press for both of us. and they said, well, we will just have to make it happen another time. i said, let me be clear. we will never pay -- the white house will never pay for entertainment. that was a challenge for mrs. obama, because of course the feeling was how did that happen? how could you not tell? i had texted mrs. obama, and i got a text back saying "talk to barack. he will have some ideas." joanne: you just said that very casually. jeremy: well, there was serious and everything else, and i went in and was like can we talk about the kids state dinner? he was like, "let me see, maybe there is a military plane coming over." i was like, "he wants 60 people." and i said we looked into it, what was the show?
lea: "the lion king." jeremy: thank you -- my memory. "the lion king" was at the kennedy center, and we had them perform. but the president was like that is a good idea. you are going to tell mrs. obama ? it was awful. but it was really shocked that someone would commit to performing, especially something like the kids state dinner, and i do not want to say their name, but it was pharrell williams. [laughter] joanne: i am relieved, and i think we all are, that we are not paying, taxpayers are not paying for entertainment at the white house. jeremy: yeah. joanne: i am sure you have a good one. lea: i would have to say the most difficult guests were always members of congress. there is a sense of entitlement there, and whether it was an individual senator or the entire congressional picnic -- i have some very negative memories. i remember waiting to greet a senator who was coming to see president bush up in the family residence, and i saw him pull up
to the north portico, and he opened the door, and i saw him take a bottle and drink something, sort of swish it around in his mouth, and spit it out on the steps of the white house. and then he stumbled up, because he was clearly very drunk. i took him up to his meeting, and i thought that was fairly appalling. and then you go to these congressional picnics, which are an annual, very painful thing. they are all members of congress with their immediate family, and they all defy the rules. and they show up with not just their kids, but the 10 interns they just hired that day, and they will show up at the gate and be very angry that all of the guests cannot be cleared immediately. but we have rules we have to follow. name, date of birth, social security number, place of birth -- all that information has to be sent to the secret service, and they have to come back to us and say they can come in. they would be very irate.
and they come to the picnic, which was always at least 1,200 people, and it was always very hot, and they would just smother the first lady and president and surround them. it was quite unpleasant for them. and they would be out there for hours and hours. and many of them would be "overserved," as we would say, and have trouble finding the porta potty's. and finally, they would sort of stumble home with the centerpieces tucked under their arms, and we would be thinking, "good riddance." so i'm sure there are good members of congress, but those are not the ones who stand out. jeremy: it is funny, because in talking with my predecessors, everyone had the same reaction. and that is the worst feared event every year is the congressional picnic. because it would happen in the summer. it was hot. and there were so many people. and, to your point, i was -- as everyone was leaving, the nice thing is, when the sun starts to
go down, you kind of push people along that it is time to leave. and i noticed one congressman kind of -- he was heading towards a food warmer. and i was like, what in the world? and i realized, i think he thinks it's a porta potty. and so there was a moment where jeremy said, "oh, just sit back and watch this." [laughter] but i got a hold and said, "oh, sir, the exit is over there. if you need to use the restroom --" and he stumbled on out. and i still go back and forth on whether i should have let that happen. joanne: the little devil on your shoulder? jeremy: yes, exactly. joanne: you know, i think a lot of people think the white house social secretary is really meant to deal with the politics of an event. and that is really one of the toughest jobs that never is
discussed in an interview, certainly not in the job description, but it seems to me it is not so much about the politics but about the people, as we have just been talking about. so this time, i wonder if you each have a little story -- and we do want names this time -- of one event or any vacation -- or an occasion during your white house that gives us hope that people really can be good to one another. lea? lea: you know, my favorite story --let me go back more generally. for most people, coming to the white house is a really important milestone in their life. they tell their family about it. they want the pictures. they want to take home the little paper napkins with the presidential seal. my favorite thing was watching people enter the white house for the first time, and they look around at the portraits and the columns. and you can just see them thinking, you know, i care -- i share a common heritage as an american with all the people who lived in this house, and they
often become very emotional. and it is just a very lovely, reinforcing thing to see this kind of pride in america. and i am sure that every social secretary has seen that many times. jeremy: most of the experiences were -- it's funner to talk about the negatives, but there were positives. i will never forget -- we had the portrait unveiling of the bushes, george w. and laura, at the white house, and we had a lunch for the family beforehand and then the ceremony. and then, about a week later, i got a letter, handwritten letter. laura bush's office had called my assistant and said laura wants to send something to germany -- to jeremy but knows that -- when someone sends something to the white house, if you ever get it, it takes months. and anything that comes to the white house enters the public
record, and she wanted this to go to me. so i got home one day, and this beautiful handwritten note from mrs. bush saying how welcomed they felt, and how she noticed what china i used -- i used their personal china from upstairs, and the table -- she noticed everything. and thanked the chefs for making enchiladas which is one of president bush's favorite. but getting something like that, it is just a moment for someone to write, and it's thoughtful and means a great deal. joanne: and which leads perfectly -- in the book, it is one of the topics in the book. going through it, having self-confidence, using humor and charm -- you call them the great equalizers. being open and honest, listening first and talking later. these are just a few of the practices that both are illustrating in the book as the cornerstones of treating people well. that sounds obvious. common sense.
not all of them come easy to most people. so i am going to ask each of you, if you had to choose just one place to start, which practice would fall at the top of the list and why? jeremy? jeremy: the top of the list, because of the times we live in now -- we have a lot of benefits of technology and getting information so click, but i feel like, because of -- so quick, but if you like, because of becoming accustomed to immediate response, that sometimes people don't step back and really listen. and one of our chapters is listen first and speak last. it is 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 midst of a conversation and they are at a cashier, i find it so unbelievably rude because you are not even acknowledging the person that is right across the way. but it has become very normal these days. and i think it is one of the more important things for these times. lea: i agree. i also think humor is an incredibly powerful tool. you know, we all often say i am not naturally funny or naturally charming, but all those behaviors are learned behaviors. and 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. and, you know, our most favorite and beloved president -- and it it is perfectly fitting to be talking about ronald reagan today. we are so honored to be here today. the tell my favorite story of every event we do. and it is probably apocryphal. we have never been able to prove it actually happened. but it's a story about ronald reagan out riding horses with
queen elizabeth at winter park in london. and at one point, the queen had a prolonged bout of flatulence, and she says, oh, i'm sorry, and he says it's all right, your majesty, i thought it was the horse. [laughter] that kind of natural humor -- to be the individual in a meeting and say that one correct, funny thing that makes everyone laugh and work together again, that is a very powerful thing. joanne: that's great. i cannot confirm the story, though i know him pretty well. but that sounds just like him. we are going to open up to questions in just a minute, but i want to ask each of you, without getting yourselves 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 would you recommend? lea: we have already given it to them, and i do not think there's any hope.
[laughter] joanne: we have no idea who she's talking about. jeremy: 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 is, unfortunately, very, very contagious. and when you see someone acting rudely or being inconsiderate, it seems to grow, because it is giving permission. and so one of the things we felt very early is it takes a conscious effort to be nice, to be kind in this world. because there's so many things that go contrary to that. and so, even though it is fairly obvious, you have to think about it. and even once we started writing the book, i am living in l.a. now, and l.a. traffic, someone would cut in front of me, and i would say don't honk the horn, don't scream.
unless they are putting your life or your car in danger, what 's it matter? it is going to take another 30 seconds. but it took a conscious effort, because my reaction was kind of what i had learned, and that is scream, honk, and curse. [laughter] joanne: which doesn't work. jeremy: doesn't work. joanne: it might make you feel better. ok. we are going to open this up to questions. we do have someone with a microphone, so please wait until you have the microphone, because we are livestreamed. >> hi. thank you for being here today. this was great. i have a very shallow question. when people ever come to dinner at the white house, do they ever lift the silverware? lea: it has been known to happen. >> can you tell? do you know when they are doing? lea: there's this great old set of silver that is engraved with "this is the president's house" that we just stopped using because there were so few pieces. now we just use any old set that
you would see at any caterer, because there is less desire to take. lea: president obama would actually say, at holiday parties, take the napkins, take the towels downstairs in the restrooms, don't take the silverware. because it is rented. because it's not from here. it is somewhat natural. also we -- and lea told me about this -- for the nameplates at each place. it's an eagle, very attractive, and guests would take it. so i was told early on to pick up those before dessert, because most people don't think about it until it gets toward the end. and one of the problems was, really, we would be short. there was no budget to buy that. i mean, it was like pulling teeth. and they were like, what $50 each? but if we were short, it was not
like we could get the slush fund to pay for it. we really did not have an account to pay for that stuff. so it was not just that we wanted to be greedy with it, but really -- we really could not part with it. lea: and the butlers would go to someone and very politely say, excuse me, sir, you just put the place card holder in their pocket, and people would ask them to put it back. and the postcard, you would allow them to take it. they were beautiful calligraphy. those alone are so special. it seems to me they would be happy with that, but i can see anything that's not wired down, sadly, even people who attend white house events think that hostess gifts means everything on the table. jeremy: right. joanne: another question right here? >> i have two quick questions,
one genera, one specific. -- general one specific. ,the first general one is, if you were to hire the next social secretary, what would be the top qualities that you would look for? jeremy: that's a good question. but i think there is something about -- we both, when we started these jobs, we talked about it. we were like what are we doing here? how did we get here? but you kind of play it off as if you belong. and so i think we all have our insecurities, but one of the important things is to put on the -- be confident enough in yourself -- that i think everyone in the white house is thinking when are they going to find out the mistake they made and i am going to be thrown out of here? and you do not want to come in front of your staff, appeared to be uncertain. so that and a sense of humor -- i mean, it is hard to say one.
detail is important. it is kind of a combination. and sense of humor is really important most of all, because when someone says or does something -- it could be a guest or it could be someone is at the white house -- you got to let it go. and sometimes they can be catty or rude, and you just have to let it go, and that's not always easy. lea: for various reasons, which we get into in our book, as children, neither of us were particularly extroverted. and when you go through a stage in your life when you feel like an outsider, i think it changes how you deal with people afterwards. and i think we were both better social secretaries for having a sense of how uncomfortable it and intimidated, many times, people would be when they came to the white house, so we would make the extra effort to make them feel welcome. so i would say every social secretary needs to be able to reach out and make people feel comfortable there, because that is actually the most important
part of the job. joanne: you are really the bridge with the guests. jeremy: and it is not always the person you think it would be. one time, for kennedy center honors, 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. you know, someone took her family out. i said i am sorry we had to take your family out. she said, no, thank you for getting rid of them. but come sit with me, i'm so nervous. i said you are nervous? i said i think the president is more nervous about him meeting you. she said no, i am so nervous. she just wanted comfort. it does not matter who it is. everyone has that, and it is important to kind of recognize it and be sensitive to it. lea: and to recognize that everybody is a person. we all have emotions. we had a question over here.
>> did you ever have anybody try to change their place card at their table, and how did you handle it? jeremy: change plays cards. all the time. [laughter] unless it was at the president's table, if it was last minute -- the only thing is no one changed tables. because that is a problem, because then someone else is going to go to the roundtable. but they would change places. and, you know, it was annoying, understandably. but i usually -- unless it was at the president or first lady's table, i did not worry -- if someone moved themselves so they would sit next to him, that was like, well, that's obvious. lea: as social secretaries, we often start at a deficit of goodwill, because when people should be invited to the white house, and when they are not, they often blame us and think we
would take them off the guest list. you hear from people afterward. i know jeremy would hear i was never invited while you're are there. at one point -- there is a restaurant in washington called the palm, and there's lots of caricatures of washington types. i want to dinner with my husband -- this was about a year into working as the social secretary, and i looked over at my caricature, and someone had taken a fork and stuck it all over my face. and i thought this has got to be someone who thought i took them off the guest list. so it made us be extra carefully nice to people and we could, because, in truth, social secretaries do not take people off the list. other people around the white house to. jeremy: we cannot exactly say, well, valerie jarrett said no. so we were often the bad guys. joanne: absolutely. question over here? thought i saw a hand over here. jeremy: very shy crowd. joanne: it is a shy crowd.
>> jeremy, i have a question regarding the couple that snuck into a party. how did that happen? how didn't they get checked? how did they get in when they were not on the guest list? jeremy: lea knows it even better than i do, because -- lea: that did not happen on his watch. jeremy: yes, let's make that real clear. [laughter] but it was, in fact, on june 7 of 2011 was my first state dinner out in the rose garden. it was gorgeous, but i could not relax for any of it, because you know that anything that goes wrong is what makes the story. and that gatecrasher certainly did put the fear in the white house that lasted the entire
administration of mistakes happening. and it was -- unfortunately, the people who really suffer our guests now, because it is such a process. you have to show your id multiple times. lea: it is worse than an airplane. jeremy: it is really awful. and so it is a shame. they got in -- it was the first state dinner. they were dressed as if they belonged, and it was evidently storming that night. and the secret service did not have them on the list, but they were convincing, and they got through. and unfortunately, you know, cost secret service agents a job or two. and it was really the bad actions of them trying to get attention or getting attention that really affected a lot of lives. >> you know the television show
of "real housewives of l.a.," miami, etc., there was a production company trying to start a "real housewives of d.c." at the time, and the couple wanted to get on the show. they wanted to impress the producers by getting into the dinner. the woman dressed in a sari because it was a state dinner. their plan was to get inside, get some photos, and leave before the dinner started, because they would have been discovered then because they had no seats. and a "washington post" reporter who was watching them come through thought it was odd and ask some of the staff, but they did not really have time to focus on it until the next morning, when they had posted these pictures on facebook and people realized what had happened. and so it was inconceivable that any white house could have foreseen someone trying to do this, because they did not particularly care about coming to the white house. they cared about getting on the tv show. joanne: we had a question right here. yes. >> i am just trying to figure
out the logistics of the job. there's so much going on, on so many different levels. how did you coordinate with the other activities that were going on, figuring out how things were going to occur? jeremy: i drank a lot. [laughter] you know, it was -- i actually had advised my pet assessor, when she took the job and she went into the office, you should have a big bulletin board that tells every event of every day. we would have from 390 to 410 events a year. there were some days there would be three events. some days, there would be nothing. but it was never spaced out the way you would want it to be. and so it really was keeping and i and knowing -- it was very
difficult, though i would tell my staff, we are so busy going from one event to the other, making one event happened -- don't forget to enjoy the history of it. because when there is a medal of honor or medal of freedom, this is an historic moment. this is something that you are not going to see, most likely, in your post-white house lives. but it's difficult, because you are going from one to the other to the other. i actually changed some of the staff once i got there. there was turnover. and having a great staff and people that are detailed -- i mainly hired people that had been interns for the social office, because they worked the most and had the longest hours, and if they could make it through that, i felt like, well, staff will be easy. lea: and the social secretary is responsible for any event that
happens on the white house rounds, with the exception of the oval office and the press room. so the coordination point -- fight really is in the social office. and we work with the archers, butlers, various white house staff, and come off course, our bosses, to make sure everything is organized and we all know what we are doing. there was never a time when, you know, i walked onto the ground floor and found that there was an event going on that i did not know about. joanne: multitasker. the supreme multitaskers. we had one over here? >> how did your office interface with the office of protocol in the state department? lea: we did regularly. whenever there were foreign visitors, and certainly state visits required more interaction with them. then we also had lot of interactions with the nfc staff, because there were regular lunches with the president and whichever visiting dignitaries
of state. so we would get those names from the nfc, their order of precedence so i could pass them on to the calligrapher, and we would put them in place. and it was almost always flawless, and they were almost always right. there was only one occasion when i remember the emir of kuwait was coming for lunch with president bush. and i got the list from the nfc, and we did it just as they said. and when the kuwaiti delegation arrived, there was one extra person there. he kind of looked around, and there was a flurry of arabic, and he laughed and was escorted out, and the next day, the kuwaiti ambassador's wife called and said you caused my husband a really big problem, because he was supposed to be at that lunch, and now thinks he was taken off the list, and now he has a political problem at home. so these tiny, significant things really have consequences.
i went back to the nfc, and they apologized. being social secretary is nerve-racking, because these small things can blow up in your face. joanne: the nsc is the national security -- lea: they are a coordination point for foreign policy within the white house. jeremy: i worked with the office of protocol on an almost daily basis. what was a benefit for me was the chief of protocol had had my job during the clinton years. so capricia marshall was great in my first months, and i would ask her -- she would be there, and i would say what did he do about this? lea: and the chief of protocols is assigned to the state department. they handle the national protocol. jeremy: right. joanne: they are not on the white house staff. jeremy: and protocol was great, because they would tell us right away when we found out a leader was visiting if it was for a
meeting or a luncheon or 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. what food allergies there were. so we relied on state department and the officer protocol a great deal. that was one thing we did not have to worry about as much, because we knew they had that information. joanne: you know, during the reagan administration, we did have one social office event, a state dinner overseas. and it was during the visit of president and mrs. reagan to moscow, when they hosted a dinner at the ambassador's home in moscow. did either of you host a dinner or a state event outside of the white house? lea: we rarely -- we very rarely did -- jeremy: whenever we did one of the summits.
opec or one of the g7's -- those were usually out of town. one was at camp david. one was in hawaii. and there was in chicago. oneand if it was a white house event, we were in charge of it. we also always had to 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, where you have -- not that you really have control over anything. you have a lot more control than in new york, we had to deal with -- my first year end trip there, we did the new york library, which was beautiful. but unfortunately, because
secret service had to block off so much with pipe and drape, the president and mrs. obama, they could just as well be in an air force hangar. so you just learned, let's just do it at the hotel. and you just kind of learned by mistake, because it was not your footprint. it was not the usual, which was being at the white house. joanne: so we have time for one more question. out here. >> speaking of state dinners, it's my understanding that now, when you have state dinners, you serve only american wine. and since we are in california, i'm really interested in knowing how those wines get chosen four state dinners -- for state dinners. [laughter] lea: well, there was an usher who just retired who was formerly a sommelier.
he had connections up and down the west coast. he was really clever about it. he would find wines with really interesting names. i remember there was a foreign visit with china, which was always probable attic for us, because our countries are always at loggerheads, and he chose a wine called "conundrum," which i thought was very clever. [laughter] i'm sure they have someone else doing it now, but -- joanne: they probably use that a lot here. [laughter] jeremy: yeah, he was there the entire time i was at the white house, and it made it easy, because we would have wine tastings. he would pick out wines for state visits. i would have a tasting with mrs. obama and her mom. and especially mrs. robinson and i would be drinking the wine. [laughter] mrs. obama would have a little taste of it. [laughter] but it was the ability to choose great selections to begin with,
so that was a big plus for us. joanne: we do have a question right here. >> hi. i am from pasadena. i really enjoyed it, but i was kind of saturn to hear about so many bad behavior vence with all the alcohol. so i am kind of curious -- why didn't they ever reduce the number of alcoholic drinks or reduce the alcohol level in eggnog? and you were talking about protocol -- we hear so much about the protocols that took place with the british writing recently and the etiquette that you are supposed to wear a certain thing or speak a certain way. was there that kind of thing to visit the white house that people were given? jeremy: so the first order of thing -- we did -- i think it was the previous administration that started having nonalcoholic eggnog. and the recipe was such tradition that you cannot mess with the recipe. but we would have the person that was serving it warn people, hey, this is really potent, and
you have to be careful. because, you know, people used to drink a lot more coming years ago. and now, i think for a lot of people, it hit quicker. but we did, certainly, offer other alternatives and tried to -- we were very careful in what events we served alcohol. lea: a lot of events you do not serve hard liquor. like the st. patrick's day event was a particularly liquid event every year. and also very fun. after a nun knocked down one of the military social aides in her zeal to get to the president to shake his hand, we stopped doing that as well, and we just had a lovely sort of irish-themed event. but we probably are making it sound worse than it is, because you remember the bad behavior. kind of like, on the media, you hear the bad stories, you do not
hear the good stories about people being honest and kind and faithful and so forth. but i think people like to hear some of these more unusual stories. and i understand there are many docents here from the reagan library, and i want to say thank you for your service. because without the volunteers we had at the white house, both the military and nonmilitary volunteers, i do not think we could function at all. jeremy: yes, that is true. absolutely. joanne: so we have just a couple of minutes. i know in the book you have something called pearl clutching moments at the white house. i know there is a story about somebody getting arrested at one of your events. and there is a little bit of diceyness at your events as well. i wonder if you each could share pearl clutching moment. oneleave us with that. certainly not all of the bad stuff, because, as you say, there are so many wonderful days and moments at a white house. and to be there, to work there, to attend an event there is an
extraordinary opportunity. jeremy: well, i think that we just witnessed yesterday that what happens, more often than is usually reported, although it is not common, i don't 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 are going to know it. now how this idiot showed up at the white house after giving his information and did not know he would be arrested is kind of shocking. and it goes to, you know, one of the dumbest, you know, possible felons. but we would -- sometimes, i would get a call, and it would be the secret service would say, look, someone on your list is a "do not admit." and we don't want you to be embarrassed by their getting here. so i would call the person him and often it was like, did you
get a speeding ticket somewhere? well, i got a speeding ticket in georgia years ago i never paid. i said it does not go away. they attach it, and if you are pulled over, and they are taking, they will see you have an unpaid parking ticket. and i do not want you to come to the white house and get arrested for having an unpaid parking ticket -- or a speeding ticket. so it was always scared to get those calls from the secret service. the other thing that would happen a lot is people would be stuck at the gates. and i would try to figure out what it was that went wrong, how did the information got mixed up. and they would usually say to the secret service or something, ok, i was actually born in 1953, but my husband thinks it's 1958. so they had to resubmit the information. [laughter] lea: i had a particularly bad day when we had an official from the chinese president. and i will only tell you the
very last part of the horror. it was just as the luncheon was about to begin. and i was approached by a state department employee who said the chinese always try to push the american translator out of the way. president bush has to have his own translator, so make sure that does not happen. so i walk over to the president's table, and people are just slowly starting to come. i see a chinese woman sitting in the american translator's seat, and the american translator is kind of nervous and trembling and says, she will not let me sit in my seat, and i walked over and try to explain to her very politely, and she pretended -- she was the translator -- that she did not speak english. i could see the president walking down the hallway, i could see the thing was about to happen, so i said to the american translator, when i get the seat open, sit in it and do not leave until the luncheon is over. so i pushed the woman's chair forward, as she jumped up like
what are you doing, and i could see the chinese office of protocol, in and the american translator jumps into the seat, and i was literally saved by the marine band playing "hail to the chief" as the president walked into the dining room. otherwise, i do not know what would've happened. but that was april clutching moment. [laughter] joanne: so we are going to leave everybody with each of your best moments at each of your white house is, if you could help us out with that. jeremy: you know, at the end of a state dinner or a holiday reception, it was -- and you would see how happy people were. i remember, at 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." and you kind of are taken aback, like, well, thank you. but it is moments like that, at the end, you see people that had never been there before leaving, and they are so happy and excited -- was always a great,
great moment. and i would get -- the holiday receptions, they were so many, we couldn't wait for them to end. but when they ended, i was sad, because it was the end of a season, and it just was so special. lea: you know, every presidential administration has times when they are up and times when they are down. as joanne can tell you, when you are feeling and battled in the white house, it is 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. the president decided to do and iftar dinner, a breaking of the ramadan fast dinner. the east room was emptied of furniture, the portraits were covered, prayer rugs put down, and at exactly the moment of the sunset, an imam stood in the
grand foyer and called all the guests, prominent muslim clerics, ambassadors from countries with muslim populations, and called them prayer and invited them to pray in the east room. and a number of them went in and closed the doors, and the prayers went on, and they came out in the dinner began. and i remember standing there feeling so impressed and proud of the i was working in this white house where, yes, the war was going terribly, and everyone was angry with us and that we cannot do anything right, and yet we were exhibiting this level of religious tolerance to the very people who had knocked on the towers, and we were able to make that distinction between terrorism and religion, and i always think of that as my proudest moment out the white house. joanne: well, many of you know ronald reagan was a man that absolutely understood the extraordinary power of civility in work and in life. he always treated people well, even if you did not agree with their political views.
in fact, he always treated people the same. he did not care if you were the queen of england or a school bus driver. he always said hello to you. and if there was time, he would ask how you are doing, what was going on in your life. and he actually stuck around to hear the answer. he did not just blow you off. one of my favorite ronald reagan quotes, which was engraved on a plaque 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 does not mind who gets the credit." it reminds me so much of what is in this book, and i hope that all of you will get your copy. and it is a great gift for someone in your life. a daughter, son, a niece, a nephew, a granddaughter. i hope you will all take the time to do that. and in honor of that plaque, i have one for each of you today. and i want to thank you for coming here and joining us. jeremy: thank you. lea: that is so lovely. joanne: there you go.
jeremy: thank you so much. joanne: we are going to take jeremy and lea up to the museum store in a few minutes. i hope you will join us there with your copies of books. i know they will answer questions as you move through the line. thank you all for coming. we hope to see you again next time. jeremy: thank you. thank you so much. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2021] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> you are watching american history tv. every weekend on c-span 3, explore our nation's past. american history tv on c-span 3. created by america's television companies. today, we are provided by these television companies who provide american history to viewers as a public service. >> during japanese attack on pearl harbor, u.s. navy mess attendant dorie miller helped those aboard the uss west virginia and fired guns at the attackers, though he had never been trained on the weapons. this grandson of slaves became the first african-american
awarded a navy cross. next on american history tv, two scholars talk about dorie miller's story and explore how the memory of his heroics evolved over the years. the national museum in new orleans hosted this event and provided the video. >> i am in my study, and this is a clever simulation of one of our galleries, the iwo jima gallery. as all of our guests know, whenever anniversaries come up, we think deeply about just how we want to commemorate the various events of the calendar year. december is always a big time at the museum, because of the world war ii students know it is the anniversary of pearl harbor and of the largest battle ever fought in the history of the