Desiree Rogers will be the Obama White House Social Secretary

What a fun job to have! I would consider myself the hostess with the “mostess.” I love to entertain. I get such great satisfaction of making certain everyone has a great time around me. It is such a thrill to accomplish this…your guest’s satisfaction with the experience you have helped to create. I also enjoy the details of crafting a memorable event. So in this role as the White House Social Secretary, I am definitely eyeing this position for the future. (*wink*) What is ironic, I attended my company’s Children Holiday party this past weekend and a co-worker asked if I coordinated the effort, passively I was insulted. I bring so much more to the table than coordinating events…I thought! Consequently, event planner is not my role at my company, but I do find myself volunteering for such efforts, because I demonstrate excellent project management skills and behaviors. My creativity is limitless and most often is only controlled by the dollar…I hate when that happens!!!…I had to wean myself away from raising my hand to add-value on cross-functional efforts, as many of these projects are vey time-intensive and compete with my “day job”. So whenever the house is 90-95% complete, I will be at it again, hosting functions at my home in da’ hood, for all to enjoy. I can’t wait!


So what exactly is the White House Social Secretary? The White House Social Secretary is responsible for the planning, coordination and execution of official social events at the White House, the official residence and principal workplace of the President of the United States.

The Social Secretary is head of the White House Social Office, located in the East Wing of the White House Complex which is the domain of the First Lady. The Social Secretary plans events ranging from those as simple as a tea for the First Lady and a single official guest, to dinners for more than 200 guests. The Social Secretary works with the White House Chief Usher to coordinate domestic staff and with the Chief of Protocol of the United States, an official within the United States Department of State, to plan state visits and accompanying state dinners. The Social Secretary works with the White House Graphics and Calligraphy Office in the production of invitations to social events.

The Social Secretary works on both the non-political functions of the presidency and the political, coordinating events for the President, the First Lady, and senior political staff. The White House Social Secretary serves at the president’s pleasure and is appointed by each administration.

As reported in November 25, 2008 Chicago Tribune. For those clamoring for invitations to future White House functions—everything from Christmas parties to state dinners—there will be few people more important than Desiree Rogers. Desiree, please include me on the guest list!! I would hate to show up at the White House door….and the doorman tells me…There is no guest list tonight!!! (LOL)

Rogers was raised in New Orleans and arrived in Chicago after picking up an undergraduate degree from Wellesley College and an MBA from Harvard. Rogers, is a former Illinois Lottery director, Peoples Energy chief and current president of Allstate Financial’s Internet play, who has been a major social and civic figure in Chicago for years. After a stint at AT&T, Rogers worked for Larry Levy, the restaurant and real estate developer. From there, former Gov. Jim Edgar, a Republican, appointed Rogers lottery chief. Rogers even attended the 1992 GOP convention as an alternate delegate. Rogers, 49, will be the first African-American to serve in the full-time position, one responsible for organizing and overseeing all White House functions and ceremonies. The Chicago businesswoman will have major clout for such events as the next White House social secretary, an appointment President-elect Barack Obama’s transition office announced Monday. “It will probably be overwhelming, initially, as people want to get into the White House and want to be a part of all this,” Rogers said. “We’re not going to be able to have everyone there in the first year. . . . People are going to have to be a little patient with us.” All I have is time…..8 years, so I am willing to wait for my invitation to be invited to a White House function. “If you do what you are supposed do” in the mortal words of First Lady Michelle Obama. Referring to Barack’s re-election bid in 4 years on the Barbara Walter’s special – Wednesday, 26 November 2008.

The White House’s State Dining Room, for example, can seat only 130 to 140. Despite the limited access to many events, Rogers said she wants to help Barack and Michelle Obama make the White House a welcoming and inspirational place. I admire this approach tremendously. She said she hopes the future Obama home will be a place to showcase the best the nation has to offer for arts and culture, but also be a place that highlights “great minds, great Americans and everyday Americans.”

The Obamas seem highly disciplined. Rogers was coy when asked whether they can also party. “We’ll see, won’t we,” she said. “I think the one thing that is very obvious is that they enjoy life and each other and their friends.” I’m sure they know how to party….but please do not play the Electric Slide music at any of these functions. (LOL)

Rogers was once married to millionaire Chicago financier John Rogers, the head of Ariel Capital Management and another close Obama friend and fundraiser. She has one daughter, Victoria, 18, a student at Yale University. “She just has this great ability to do things world class,” said her former husband, John Rogers, another close friend of the Obamas who will be one of the Inauguration co-chairs.

Rogers said she never imagined she would work in the White House. “I am giddy with excitement. As I look at my career and the work I have done, this is the perfect combination of some of the skill sets that I have,” she said. “I don’t think it can get much better than this.”

Preparing for the next big opportunity

She is wrapping up her duties at Allstate Insurance Co., where she was creating a financial social networking program (see my blog discussion on this topic in a future entry). But she is already studying the Kennedy White House, an administration renowned for its White House functions. “This is not just going to be about the culture and the arts,” she said. “Part of this is reaching out to all Americans.” Yes, please don’t forget to include all the Americans that walk among us everyday, the very people that helped to elevate the President Elect (PEOTUS) to his current assignment.

As reported in the December 1, 2008 Chicago Sun Times, Rogers was in Washington, dining at the home of former Clinton White House Social Secretary Ann Stock to learn more about the position. On Sunday night, the deal was sealed over a meal in the private dining room of the Mayflower Hotel here with Michelle. “During that discussion was when I started to have better understanding of what they had in mind for this post,” said Rogers. And what is that? “This whole idea of having people feel comfortable, and having people be able to, in the warmth of wonderful surroundings, be able to develop relationships that are really deep is really what this is about.” This is spot on!! This is what is all about relating to one another to create change within ourselves.

Another person Rogers turned to for advice is Ann Jordan, who, with husband Vernon are fixtures in Washington society — she is also Jarrett’s cousin as well as a trustee emeriti at the University of Chicago. “One of the things [Jordan] said is, ‘Desiree, you really have to make nice with the people that are working there. They’ve been there for many years.’ ”

This my America, This your America, This is everyone’s America

As reported in Monday, November 24, 2008 New York Times. “Wonderful picnics outside, tree decorating, inviting military families over,” Desirée Rogers, the White House social-secretary-in-waiting, said Monday in a telephone interview. “One of the things that is particularly important for this administration is that we continue along this vein of making it everyone’s America. We are inviting all of America and all of the world to share in that splendor.” In the announcement, Mr. Obama said Ms. Rogers shared his commitment to “bringing people together to achieve results for the American people at this time of great national challenge.”

Barack and Michelle Obama have said they want to be part of life in Washington, and Ms. Rogers will be responsible for helping accomplish that. She will oversee every social event on the White House grounds, from Easter egg hunts to lavish state dinners. Though her plans for the White House are just beginning to come together, Ms. Rogers made one promise. “You will definitely see some new things,” she said. “We’re not going to be super predictable, where everything looks the same.”

President of Social Networking

What a cushy job! Again, this is a role I would take to the next level. I have demonstrated success with the awards, recognition and plaques for my commitment of service as the Board Development chair at the YMCA and in my current role at my company. I enjoy bringing people together to create meaningful connections that add mutual value for all involved.

As reported in Rueters on June 26, 2008. Allstate Appoints Desiree Rogers to Create Social Networking in Growing Financial Services Division. Former President of Peoples Gas/North Shore Gas and Director of Illinois Lottery Well-Respected Civic and Community Leader in the Greater Chicago Region. Allstate Insurance Company today announced it has appointed. Chicago area business and civic leader Desiree Rogers to the newly created position of president of Social Networking for Allstate Financial, a business unit of The Allstate Corporation. She will also be a member of Allstate Financial’s Executive Committee.

Rogers will assume the new role starting in July and report to Jim Hohmann, president and CEO of Allstate Financial. In her role, Rogers will be responsible for building a social network that connects middle-market consumers–often alienated and confused by a myriad of financial products and services–with other like-minded Americans to share experiences, insights, and wisdom. Social networks are a new approach to harness the collective experience of consumers through interactive communities, affinity groups and new external relationships. “The ability to recruit exceptional leaders, like Desiree, demonstrates the strength of Allstate’s reputation, strategy and team,” said Thomas J. Wilson, chairman, president and CEO of The Allstate Corporation. “While sound strategies and great processes are important, it is talented people who will achieve our vision of reinventing protection and retirement for the consumer.” This new position builds on the continued expansion of the Allstate Financial business unit. Allstate Financial offers innovative products to middle-market consumers that simplify the investment process and address growing retirement needs.

Prior to joining Allstate, Rogers was president of Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas, now divisions of Integrys Energy Group. In this role, she launched a range of strategic initiatives to improve customer service and integrate technology into company operations. Previously, she was director of the Illinois Lottery, where she led a reinvention effort that culminated in the launch of the Mega Millions multi-state game.

“Desiree’s strong business acumen and demonstrated leadership abilities combined with her deep civic engagement position her as an ideal leader to accelerate Allstate’s mission of helping working Americans address their growing financial needs,” said Jim Hohmann, president and CEO of Allstate Financial. “Our research shows that middle-market consumers need help planning for their retirement and are often overlooked by financial services companies.”

“I’m excited to join Allstate and look forward to my new role with Allstate Financial,” said Rogers. “The company’s emphasis on reinventing protection and retirement for the consumer is a smart strategy and its product innovation geared to hard-working Americans is inspiring.” A well-known and highly respected business leader in the Chicago area community, Rogers was the first female African-American president of Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas. Rogers serves on two corporate boards: Equity Residential, a $15 billion residential REIT and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois. She also sits on the boards of the Northwestern Memorial Foundation, Museum of Science and Industry and The Polk Foundation. She has been named one of the 50 most powerful African-American women in business by Black Enterprise. Throughout her career, she has been regularly featured as an industry spokesperson and business leader in national and local media including the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Crain’s Chicago Business, Black Enterprise, Ebony, and Vogue.

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