When President-elect Barack Obama announced the appointment of longtime friend Desiree Rogers to the position of White House social secretary, her accomplished corporate work history showed that his plans for the position might reach beyond event planning.
Rogers, a Harvard MBA, was the president of social networking for Allstate Financial and the first female African American president of Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas (now divisions of Integrys Energy Group).
Rogers, named among Black Enterprise magazine’s “50 Most Powerful African Americans,” will be taking a sharp turn from the corporate hierarchy that she has dominated for more than a decade. As the White House social secretary she will plan events ranging from those as simple as a tea for the first lady and president with a single official guest, to dinners for more than 200 guests. She will work with domestic staff and plan state visits and dinners. Most important to her and Michelle Obama, she will work to create stability for the White House staff and their families.
After 20 years as a close personal friend to the Obamas, Rogers talks about her new role and how she expects to assist the first lady in that capacity.
BlackEnterprise.com: Nancy Reagan told America to ‘Just Say No’ to drugs. Hillary Clinton championed healthcare. Laura Bush targeted literacy. As a close friend of Michelle Obama, what causes do you think she will advocate? What areas close to her heart will take a center stage during this presidency?
Desiree Rogers: I think she will focus on work/life balance. As the mother of two young girls that is very important to her. She recently recounted to me that she felt concern for the families of the secret service people charged with protecting her family. She knows that the White House staff will have families to care for outside of the White House, and she would like to make sure that all of the families connected to the White House are stable. That warms my heart and shows me what an extraordinary woman she is.
Before your appointment as White House social secretary, you were appointed to president of social networking at Allstate Financial. Do you expect that social networking might play a part in planning and coordinating events for the White House?
With all of the people on the Internet that played a part in the election, I want to figure out how we can let them be a part of the White House — or what is really the people’s house. How can we do that? Could that mean we will have events online that people can see? There has got to be a way to bring the White House to them so that they don’t always have to be there.
How will this position differ from what you’ve done previously, and in what ways is it similar?
It is very different in that I am moving from a corporate job into a government position. I will be serving the president-elect