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Desiree Rogers: Inside the White House Social Office operation.

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Desiree Rogers in the White House kitchen. (photo by Lynn Sweet)

WASHINGTON -- A typical day for White House social secretary Desiree Rogers starts at 6 a.m.

She skims the papers, jumps rope for exercise, then heads to the White House for a series of meetings to help shape events that, besides being fun, assist in carrying out the messages and missions of the Obama administration.

Rogers departs from the same Georgetown building where her Chicago pals -- Valerie Jarrett, a White House senior adviser, and Susan Sher, associate counsel and first lady adviser -- also live.

Since President Obama was sworn in Jan. 20, the social office has run more than 60 events, with the Easter Egg Roll last week the most recent, a tradition on the South Lawn since 1878. Rogers accompanied Obama as he made his way through the different events.

The Obamas are out to make new traditions -- from an organic garden on the South Lawn overseen by another Chicagoan: Sam Kass, the assistant White House chef and food initiative coordinator -- to bringing in local students on a routine basis so they can be exposed to the magic of a White House visit.

From the massive egg roll -- drawing some 30,000 -- to 400 for St. Pat's Day and 200 to mark the independence of Greece to smaller parties, organizing for all of these visitors starts in the East Wing, the first lady's turf.

Some of the entertaining is keyed to introducing the Obamas around, with the administration still in its opening act. "Smaller receptions are a great way to work," Rogers said, "inviting people into your home as you arrive in town."

First lady Michelle Obama has already hosted two lunches for congressional spouses and a third lunch -- coming soon -- will include spouses from the Cabinet and "D.C. influentials."

How these coveted invites are allocated is "an art vs. a science," Rogers told me in an interview.

Rogers said she seeks input from a wide variety of White House top staff, "anyone internally who is reaching people externally." That includes Phil Schiliro, who runs legislative affairs; Patrick Gaspard, the political affairs director; Chris Lu, the Cabinet secretary; Cecilia Munoz, intergovernmental affairs chief; Tina Tchen, public liaison director, and Denis McDonough, the deputy national security adviser.

Rogers, a longtime friend of the Obamas, starts with a 9 a.m. meeting with her social office staff. One of her deputies, Joe Reinstein -- another former Chicagoan -- met Rogers when she was running the Illinois Lottery in 1992. Reinstein was in advertising, and one of the accounts for his agency was the lottery.

The next meeting takes place at 9:45 a.m., with the entire first lady's staff, in all about 20 counting Rogers' team. The group meets in Mrs. Obama's office because it is the biggest room in the East Wing -- but the first lady is not there. That meeting lasts about 15 or 20 minutes. Rogers is also part of daily meetings with senior personnel from the East and West wings.

When we talked, Rogers was mulling a poetry slam and something to mark Earth Day. A Cinco de Mayo celebration will take place in the Rose Garden. A lot of the entertaining occurs during the week.

Says Rogers, "Wednesday is a pretty happening place over here."

3 Comments

What a dream job! I love reading about and seeing what Ms. Rogers is doing in assisting to make history with and for the Obama's with all he wonderful events...Give me a call if you ever need any assistance...CP

Oh heaven help us!

Can we stop elevating this very mediocre and unimpressive woman the Obama's have stuck us with?!

If I see or hear about this media hog much more, I'll surely puke-

thanks camille. i often think these folk live in a paralle universe.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on April 20, 2009 5:51 PM.

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