From The 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.
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.”
The White House’s State Dining Room, for example, can seat only 130 to 140. Many-including close friends from Chicago-are going to be turned away for some of the hottest White House tickets.
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.
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.”
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.
She is wrapping up her duties at Allstate Insurance Co., where she was creating a financial social networking program. 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.”
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.”
Rogers is a longtime friend of the Obama family, worked on the campaign’s fundraising team and is especially close to Valerie Jarrett, another Obama confidant and someone who will be a senior adviser at the White House.
The former president of Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas is also on the board of trustees for both the Lincoln Park Zoo and the Museum of Science and Industry. She is part of Chicago’s effort to woo the 2016 Olympics and is a former director of the Illinois Lottery.
Rogers has a Harvard MBA and 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.
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.”
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