Think your job is difficult? Imagine being the White House social secretary—and no, it’s not all flowers and teacups. You play host to thousands every year, risk insulting world leaders with a small misstep, and your bosses are the president and first lady of the United States. In Treating People Well, former social secretaries Lea Berman, who served the George W. Bush White House, and Jeremy Bernard, who served the Obama White House, share their stories. Berman and Bernard are good friends, and they are often asked, “How could two people from such disparate political viewpoints find anything to agree on?” Their answer: “We stay connected out of a fundamental belief that we both want what’s best for our country and that we can . . . get there by working together.”
Part memoir, part career guide, Treating People Well sorts Berman’s and Bernard’s experiences into social principles such as “listen first, talk later” and “own your mistakes,” then details their own failures and successes. Bernard almost crossed the line when joking too familiarly in front of staffers and the Obamas, and Berman recounts calamities early in her tenure, such as mistakenly combining the enormous White House Congressional picnic with a PBS concert one summer evening. Each chapter offers common-sense guidance for finding success in both personal and professional relationships and navigating social settings with grace.
Berman and Bernard also sprinkle in anecdotes about other presidents, first ladies and their staffs, including the Reagan, Carter, Eisenhower, Roosevelt and even Washington administrations. Occasionally these anecdotes feel shoehorned to fit the book’s principles, but the book’s theme—treat others well, and you’ll do well, too—is more needed than ever.