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Desiree Rogers Hosts Lunch for New Social Secretary Julianna Smoot

5 years ago
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The White House social secretary, Julianna Smoot, was initiated into an exclusive sisterhood on Saturday, when Desiree Rogers, former White House social secretary, held a lunch for her in Washington with four other women who have had the job.

The lunch wrapped up Smoot's biggest week yet: She helmed a glittery Obama state dinner last Wednesday where President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, honored President Felipe Calderón of Mexico and his wife, Margarita Zavala.

The welcome lunch where the new social secretary gets feted by her predecessors has become something of a grand tradition in recent years whether the president has been a Republican or a Democrat. "It was a wonderful celebration welcoming Julianna to the social secretaries sisterhood," Rogers told me.

Rogers picked the Jefferson Hotel for the lunch, starting with drinks in the Quill and lunch in the Greenhouse. The menu included green salad, crab cakes or chicken, with sorbet and berries for dessert.

Julianna Smoot, Desire RogersThe attendees, besides Rogers and Smoot included:

-- Ann Stock, a social secretary in the Clinton White House (1993-1997) who was tapped by Obama and Secretary of State (and former first lady) Hillary Rodham Clinton to be assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs. Stock started the lunch tradition.

-- Capricia Marshall, who also came out of the Clinton White House (1997-2001) and is now the chief of protocol at the Department of State. She was the woman who met Calderón and Mrs. Zavala at the foot of the red carpet at the White House -- and whose slip and quick recovery from her tumble made for a memorable YouTube moment.

-- Amy Zantzinger, who served (2007-2009) under President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush. She now heads Amy Zantzinger Interior Design. Zantzinger held a lunch for Rogers at the Four Seasons when she came on board.

-- Cathy Fenton, (2001-2005) who also came out of the Bush 43 White House. Fenton worked as a deputy social secretary for Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush.

The Social Office handles all White House events, from parties to bill signings. Smoot's first event was Obama's March 23 signing of the health care bill.

Rogers started with the Obama transition after the 2008 election and left earlier this year in the wake of the dust-up over crashers at the first Obama state dinner. Before the Saturday lunch, Rogers was last seen in Washington at the White House Correspondents Dinner, where she was a guest of Arianna Huffington. Her tablemates included Huffington, Bill Maher and Scarlett Johansson.

Over at the Jefferson on Saturday, the mood was spring festive, I was told, with the women seated at a round table talking only a little shop and throwing compliments to Smoot over the Calderón dinner.

This camaraderie comes from rare shared experiences. Since 1953, according to Zantzinger, only 19 people -- all women -- have run the Social Office.

At the Smoot lunch, besides catching up, a big part was getting to know Smoot. Zantzinger said, "I think it is nice for the incoming social secretary to see the support system she has in place."

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