White House social aide
|Competencies||Military commission, Single marital status, Impeccable appearance|
A White House social aide is a United States Armed Forces officer assigned to attend to the personal needs of visiting dignitaries at the White House and to facilitate interactions with the President of the United States and the First Lady of the United States. White House social aides were first appointed in 1902; as of 2014, there were 45 such officers.
The first White House social aides were appointed in 1902 during the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. Until 1969 only men were permitted to serve as social aides; in that year, Richard Nixon approved the appointment of female social aides. As of 2014, there were 45 social aides. Social aides have been drawn from the United States Army, United States Navy, United States Air Force, United States Marine Corps, United States Coast Guard, and the National Guard of the United States.
White House social aides report to a coordinator in the office of the White House Social Secretary. Their duties include managing "guests who attend social functions at the White House, [facilitating] interactions with the president and first lady and [escorting] dignitaries". In the past, this has included entertaining single guests, such as providing dance companions; initiating small talk with lonely guests during teas; directing the flow of traffic at receiving lines; and greeting visitors.
When visitors are received by the President of the United States, three social aides are assigned to coordinate the interaction: the "whispering aide" who whispers the visitor's name to the president, the "introducing aide" who presents the visitor to the president, and the "pulling off aide" who encourages the visitor to step away once the president signals the interaction has concluded.
Social aides are also expected to identify and resolve social miscues; during one visit by King Hussein of Jordan to the White House during the presidency of Ronald Reagan, a reporter attempted to cut in on the king to ask him questions during social dancing. According to The New York Times, a social aide "came to the rescue by cutting in and deftly waltzing the young woman off the dance floor".
White House social aides cannot be married, must be commissioned officers with a rank no higher than major (or lieutenant commander in the Navy or Coast Guard), be assigned to Washington, D.C., and have "impeccable appearance".
According to a statement provided to The New York Times, the restriction on married social aides is due to the significant evening demands placed on aides that might interfere with their marital relationship. However, Stephen Bauer – who served as a social aide – has written that the prohibition on wedded aides is to prevent a scandal developing in the event a social aide is invited into a romantic relationship with a guest.
Because social aides have direct access to the President of the United States, prospective aides must successfully pass a Yankee White review demonstrating their "unquestionable loyalty to the United States".
- As daughter of President of the United States Lyndon Johnson, Lynda Bird Johnson was given "pick of the litter" of White House social aides and ultimately selected Captain Charles Robb as her personal escort. She later wed Robb in 1967 in a White House ceremony; Robb would ultimately become the 64th Governor of Virginia.
- Gerald F. "Gerry" Richman, a corporate lawyer and formerly president of Richman-Greer, a South Florida law firm, was a White House social aide during the Johnson administration. Richman is rumored to have had the opportunity to escort Lynda Bird Johnson, but passed on it to Robb because Richman already had a conflicting date with a Miss Universe contestant.
- Brian Lamb, later chief executive officer of C-SPAN, was a White House social aide during the Johnson administration; among his duties were escorting Lady Bird Johnson during the wedding of Lynda Bird Johnson and Robb.
- Abelardo L. Valdez, assistant administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, served as a social aide during the presidency of Lyndon Johnson.
- Major General Marcelite J. Harris was a White House social aide during the presidency of Jimmy Carter.
- Vice Admiral Jody A. Breckenridge was a White House social aide.
- In 2015, Captain John Fesler became the first social aide appointed from the Air National Guard.
Two White House social aides attend President Donald Trump as he awards the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor in 2017
White House social aides pictured during the presidency of John Kennedy in the Diplomatic Reception Room
A White House social aide leads Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones to the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony in 2012
- Tice, Jim (March 12, 2015). "Applications open for White House social aide duty". Army Times. Retrieved May 19, 2018.
- Bohn, Michael (February 6, 2014). "White House social aides have front seat to history". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 19, 2018.
- Key, Kyle. "Airman appointed first White House Social aide from the Air National Guard". ang.af.mil. Air National Guard. Retrieved May 20, 2018.
- Faram, Mark (March 14, 2018). "Navy officers, want a part-time job at the White House?". Navy Times. Retrieved May 20, 2018.
- Gamarekian, Barbara (July 3, 1981). "Making White House Social Guests Feel at Home". The New York Times. Retrieved May 20, 2018.
- "Junior Officers Sought as White House Aides". navy.mil. United States Navy. Retrieved May 20, 2018.
- Bauer, Stephen (2004). At Ease in the White House: Social Life as Seen by a Presidential Military Aide. Taylor Trade. pp. 124–128. ISBN 1589790790.
- "Selection of DoD Military and Civilian Personnel and Contractor Employees for Assignment to Presidential Support Activities (PSAs)" (PDF). whs.mil. White House Military Office. Retrieved May 20, 2018.
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- "MAJOR GENERAL MARCELITE J. HARRIS". af.mil. United States Air Force. Retrieved May 20, 2018.
- Hawkins, Carol Hooks (2008). American Women Leaders: 1,560 Current Biographies. McFarland. p. 45. ISBN 0786438479.