tv History Bookshelf Lea Berman and Jeremy Bernard Treating People Well CSPAN January 23, 2021 4:00pm-5:01pm EST
in one hour, scholars discussed the story of a u.s. navy messenger who became the first african-american awarded in navy cross. in two hours, scholars discussed the role of the western press during the civil war. >> it is a real treat for us to not have one but two former white house secretaries. i'm sure they are very grateful that they have a plan to execute this white house luncheon. one one of our guest today is a democrat, one republican. they are friends and even show up in public together.
when asked how she lended those jobs, i believe she will tell you she was in the right place at the right time. having known of her many years, i can tell you that she was most assuredly qualified for all of those roles. as she tells it, she has been an event planner her entire adult life, including as a wife, full-time mom to two adult daughters, and a couple of dogs. she hosts a daily blog called "america's table." she offers hints and treats including travel, home life, and food -- glorious food -- tips on home entertaining and etiquette, which she says is not just about knowing which fork to use but
about treating each other with kindness, even and especially in the anonymous abyss of the internet. our second guest originally hails from san antonio, texas, but now he is a fellow southern californian. jeremy bernard served as white house secretary under president obama from 2011 22015. jeremy is the first man ever to serve in this role at the white house. while that was big news at the time, he managed to keep a low profile to do his job, which is all white house staffers are advised, is to serve the president and the united states of america, not yourself. he earned a reputation of being affable and extraordinarily efficient in managing literally hundreds of events with a very young staff with kindness and a lot of laughter. before serving in the obama white house, he earned his stripes as a campaign fundraiser
for presidential candidate barack obama and was rewarded with a job as white house liaison to the national endowment for the humanities. from there, jeremy served as senior advisor to the u.s. ambassador in france. again, after being in the right place in the right time, he managed the role as white house secretary. it is a pleasure to have him here today, and i hope you will be ready to ask him some questions later. please join me in welcoming former white house social secretaries lea berman and jeremy bernard. [applause] lea: we are going to get settled in -- >> we are going to get settled in to talk about the book, and i'm sure not the only
person interested in your backgrounds. lea: it is different for every person. traditionally, they were daughters of senators or governors. it has not been like that for some time now. jeremy and i serve as examples of that. i grew up on a small farm in ohio. i went to washington after college and worked at a think tank, and then i was a full-time mother, which, and suddenly, was the best experience to be a social sec.. after that, a friend of mine said misses cheney is looking for a social secretary and that i was talking with her, and i found myself going from the carpool line one day to learning how to use the white house email system, so it was a big learning
curve, but also very fortunate that i got pushed back into the workforce. jeremy: i started work for the u.s. ambassador, and i got a text from the ambassador asking if i would be willing to throw my hat in the ring for this job, and i was like yeah, right, i will never get it, not in a million years, but i was like, sure. i went to washington, d.c., and had meetings with all the senior staff in the west wing. then going to the east wing to meet misses obama, i realized these meetings were going well, but what am i getting myself into if this should happen? after misses obama and i talked a little bit, i said, i've got to be real honest with you. i'm not real good at arranging patterns -- arranging flowers and i don't know china patterns.
she said, don't worry about it. you will have people there for that. i need someone with good political judgment and how do we get more people who have never been here into this white house. when i got it, i was like, this is surreal. it was never a job i thought i could have, but i loved it. it was very exciting. >> most white house staffers do not actually interview with the boss. the interview is with the boss's boss underneath. however you two did. i'm curious about the interview questions. lea: i had only ever been in that part of the white house once before, and i was dazzled.
the sun was shining and everything is beautiful, and the art was amazing. misses bush was so warm and welcoming and pleasant, and she started talking about the job as if i already had it and saying things like, "i want to entertain a lot more," and "i want to work with the chef because he's got some issues and you should try." i remember thinking maybe i was talking to her about this and going to recommend someone else, and i was so dazzled that honestly if she had said, "we need an upstairs made, could you do that," i would have said yes. jeremy: the interviews were relatively brief. if teen minutes. -- 15 minutes. the president was very brief and reassuring.
misses obama, that interview lasted an hour. i can honestly say when i left i had no idea how it went. it was not a disaster, but i remember, i called my mom on the way back to the hotel and said this is a day i will never forget. i had meetings with the white house and interviewed with the first lady and the president. i kind of assumed i was not going to get the job, and i went back and paris, -- went back to paris, and i did not hear anything. i did not see any of the articles in the washington press. i got a call saying, just in case, would you fill out this paperwork. i thought maybe there was a chance, but she has a very good
poker face. later she said from the moment we talked i knew you were going to be my social secretary. >> let's talk about this new book you two have authored. it's titled "treating people well." how did you turn from being the top social dogs at the white house in the office -- how did this book come about and with your distinctly political views, how did you decide to write this endeavor? lea: we have been friends since we met. a network of former social secretaries in the white house get together regularly and provide resources to whoever's the current social secretary. jeremy and i met, and we just clicked and stayed friends.
it was very helpful to me at the time i started to be talking to someone like letitia baldrige, who worked for jacqueline kennedy, and have her tell these horror stories. misses kennedy told her she wanted a french chef in the white house, so she heard about this wonderful french chef who was working in the french embassy in london, so she called and offered him the job, and the chef reported this to his boss, the french ambassador, who reported it home. the french were very offended, and she found herself early in her career being called onto the oval office carpet by the president being told she was under no circumstances to poach any french chefs. with typical maneuvering, she
found another french chef and worked with customs and had him made a citizen overnight. jeremy: the good old days when you could get something like that done overnight. lea: right. jeremy: it is a great resource. i would ask, do this ever happened to you? and they were like, "oh, yeah, this is what is going to happen." i hate to tell this one at lunch , so i will make it as pleasant as possible, but i said did you ever have problems at holiday
receptions with people getting sick? the eggnog at the white house is really strong. it hits you really quick. at first, you're like this is nothing. what happened was people were drinking and drinking, and they would suddenly start feeling sick and they did not want to get sick on someone, so they would make their way for the christmas trees. there were always games around how many trees would get decorated by the visitors. they were like, don't worry, this has happened before. lea: right, the politics did not matter because we had
similar experiences. we were focused on the job, making sure all of the events went smoothly, and that made us very conscious of getting everything right so that we did not do anything that would embarrass the president or first lady and the worst possible thing, be in the news. we learned so many of the same things about getting along with people more effectively so we could make sure that our events flowed well and people felt happy and welcomed. jeremy: i had dinner with a mutual friend of ours, roxanne roberts, reporter at "the washington post," and she said over dinner, you are close to all the former socialist, but you are especially close to lea
-- you are close to all the former socials. you ought to write a book together. i thought that was a great idea. it took us a while to figure out what to write. we did not want a book about entertaining. it did take a while to figure out what to write, but what we wanted to write was what book we wish we had had when we started. >> i think you can -- i think you just said it, it is a great book to have with your job, but it's not just white house social secretaries. it's wonderful little tidbits that really apply to all of us every day, if you are a stay-at-home mom or the ceo of a company or somewhere in between. i will say the first time i looked at it, i looked and said,
you know, civility is not really an effective topic, but i've had people say this is not really your grandmother's etiquette book, and i even read where some people called it dishy. we all love a little dish. i'm hoping each of you can tell us the most frightful behavior you witnessed. feel free to leave out names if that helps you tell your story. jeremy: well, there's a lot. [laughter] one is that gilbert had warned me -- gail birkhead warned me that in all the administrations, someone that is an entertainer and is scheduled to perform will cancel at the last minute. at the white house, you had no contract because they were doing it for free. you are not paying for anything other than sometimes transportation and hotel room,
so it was just their word that they were going to show it. i thought that was not going to happen. we had no problems with the entertainment. a week before one of misses obama's events, the kids state dinner, but it's really lunch, but it's for kids, i got a call from the entertainment. for this person to appear, they needed to have a private jet for all the backup dancers as well. there were 60 people they were going to bring. 60 people, we would have to throw some of the kids out. the demands were outrageous. i said we could never do -- if we could do it, it would be bad press for both of us. they said, we will just have to try to make it another time.
i said, let me be clear -- the white house will never pay for entertainment. that was a challenge to misses obama because the feeling was -- how did that happen? i texted misses obama, and she texted back -- i texted mrs. obama, and she texted back, "talk to barack. he will have some ideas." he was like, "let me see, maybe there is a military plane coming over." i was like, "he wants 60 people." what was the show? "the lion king" was at the
kennedy center, and we had them perform. it was really a shock that someone would commit to performing, especially somebody of this figure, and i don't want to say the name, but furl -- p harrell williams. lea: i have to say the most difficult guests were always members of congress. i have some very negative memories. i remember waiting to greet a senator who was coming to see president bush up in the family residence, and i saw him pull up to the north portico, and he opened the door, and i saw him take a bottle, drink something,
swish it around in his mouth and spit it out on the steps of the white house. he stumbled out and was clearly very drunk. i took him up to his meeting and i thought that was clearly appalling, and then you go to these picnics, which are an annual very painful thing with members of congress with their immediate family and they all defy the rules and show up with not just their kids, but the attendant they just hired that day, and they will show up at the gate and be very angry that all of the guests cannot be cleared immediately, but we have rules we have to follow. name, social security number, place of birth -- all that information has to be sent to the secret service and i have to say they can come in. they come to the picnic, which was always at least 1200 people, and it was always very hot, and they would just smother the first lady and president and surround them. it was unpleasant for them and they would be out there for
hours and hours, and many of them would be overserved, as they would say, and have trouble finding the porta potty. finally, they would all sort of stumble home with the centerpieces tucked under their arms, and we would be thinking, "good riddance." i'm sure there are good members of congress, but those were not the ones. jeremy: in conversations with my predecessors, everyone had the same reaction. their worst fear every year was the congressional picnic. it did happen in the summer. it was hot. to your point, i was -- as everyone was leaving, the nice thing was when the sun started to go down, kind of push people along, it's time to leave, and i noticed one congressman heading
toward a food warmer and i was like, what in the world? and i realized, i think he thinks it is a porta potty. there's a moment where bad jeremy says, just sit back and watch this. [laughter] i got a hold and said, oh, sir, the exit is over there. if you need to use the restroom -- he stumbled on out. i still go back and forth on if i should have just let that happen. lea: little devil on your shoulder? jeremy: yeah. >> i think a lot of people think the white house press secretary is made to deal with the politics of events, and that probably is one of the toughest aspects of a job that is never on a job interview and is never
discussed, but this time i wonder if you can tell a little story -- and we do want names -- of one event or occasion during your white house that gives us hope that people really can be good to one another. lea: my favorite story -- make a bet -- for most people, coming to the white house is a really important milestone in their life. they tell their family about it. they want the pictures. they want to take home little napkins with the presidential seal. my favorite thing was watching people enter the white house for the first time, and they look around at the portraits and columns, and you can just see them thinking, i share a common heritage as an american with all the people who live in this house. they often become emotional, and it's lovely to see the kind of pride in america, and i'm sure every social secretary has seen
that many times. jeremy: most of the experiences -- it's fun to talk about the negatives, but were positive. i will never forget, we had the portrait unveiling with the bushes at the white house, and we had a lunch with the family beforehand and then the ceremony. about a week later, i got a handwritten letter. laura bush's office i called my assistant and said lower wants to send something to jeremy, but when someone sends something to the white house, if you ever get it, it takes months, and anything that comes to the white house enters the public record, as she wanted it to come to me. i got this beautiful handwritten note from misses bush saying how welcomed they felt, and she
noticed what china i used -- she noticed everything and thanked the chefs for making enchiladas which is one of president bush's favorite, but getting something like that that is just a moment that takes for someone to write, and it's thoughtful and means a great deal. >> which leads perfectly. that is one of the topics in the book. going through it, having self-confidence. we call them the great equalizers. listening first and talking later. these are just a few of the practices both -- practices that are illustrated in the book. not all of them come easy to most people. if you had to choose one place to start, which practice would fall at the top of the list and why?
jeremy: the top of the list, because of the times we live in now, we have a lot of the benefits of technology and getting information so quick, but i feel like becoming accustomed to immediate response that sometimes people don't step back and really listen, and one of our chapters is listen first and speak last. it is really hard in this day and time to get people to really listen to someone else. when i see someone in a store and they are on the headsets in the midst of a conversation and they are at a cashier, i find it so unbelievably rude because you are not acknowledging the person
right across the way, but it has become very normal these days, and i think it is one of the more important things for these times. lea: right? i also think humor is an incredibly powerful tool. we often think i'm not naturally funny or naturally charming, but all those behaviors are learned behaviors. while there are people who are naturally funny like jeremy, there are people like me who had to try to find a way to learn that. our most beloved president -- and it is such a privilege to be here today to talk about ronald reagan. it is so a proper full -- apocryphal. we have never been able to prove it actually happen, but it's a story about ronald reagan out riding with queen elizabeth, and at one point, the queen had a prolonged bout of flatulence,
and she says, oh, i'm sorry, and he says it's all right, your majesty, i thought it was the horse. [laughter] to be the individual in a meeting and say that one correct thing that makes everyone laugh and work together, that's a very powerful thing. >> that's great. not to ruin the story, though i know the president very well, but that sounds just like him. we are going to open up to questions in just a minute, but i want to ask each of you, without getting yourselves in trouble politically, is there one person in washington, d.c. today that you would like to have read your book? and if he or she has time for just one chapter, which would you recommend? lea: no idea who she's talking about. jeremy: i would like to give it to everyone in d.c., especially
congress and the press. i think that bad behavior is unfortunately very, very contagious. when you see someone acting rudely or being inconsiderate, it seems as though it is giving permission. one of the things we felt very early is it takes a conscious effort to be nice, to be kind in this world because there's so many things that go contrary to that. even though it is fairly obvious, you have to think about it, even writing the book, living in l.a. now and li traffic, someone would cut in front of me, don't honk the horn, don't scream. unless they are putting your lives or car in danger, what does it matter? but it took a conscious effort
because my reaction was kind of what i had learned, and that is scream, honk, and curse. >> which doesn't work. might make you feel better. we are going to open it up to questions. please wait until you have the microphone because we are livestreamed. >> thank you for coming here today. this was great. i have a very shallow question. when people come to dinner at the white house, do they ever steal the silverware? lea: it has been known to happen. there's this great old set of silver that we just stopped using because there were so few pieces. now we just use any old set that you would see at a caterer.
jeremy: take the napkins, take the towels downstairs. don't take the silverware because it's not from here. it is somewhat natural. lea told me about this, there was a nameplate at each place. an eagle very attractive, and guests would take it, so i was told early on to pick up those before dessert because most people don't think about it until it gets toward the end. the problem was when we had some shorts, there was no budget to buy that. they were, like, $50 each, but if we were short, it was not like we could get a slush fund to pay for it. we really did not have an account to pay for that stuff.
it was not that we wanted to be greedy with it, but we really could not part with it. >> i think they just put the place card holder in their pocket, and people would ask them to put it back. lea: those alone are so special. it seems to me they would be happy with that, but i can see anything that's not wired down, sadly, even people who attend white house events think that hostess gift means everything on the table. jeremy: right. >> i have two quick questions, one general and one specific. if you were to hire the next social secretary, what would be the top quality you would look
for? jeremy: that's a good question, but i think there is something about -- we both when we started this book, talked about, what are we doing here? how did we get here? but you kind of play it off as if you belong. we all have our insecurities, but one of the things is to be confident enough in yourself that i think everyone in the white house is thinking, when are they going to find out the mistake i made at kick me out of here? you do not want to appear uncertain. that and a sense of humor. it is hard to say one detail is important. it is kind of a combination. sense of humor is really important. most of all because when someone says or does something -- it
could be a guest or someone else at the white house -- you got to let it go. sometimes they can be catty or rude, and you just have to let it go, and that's not always easy. lea: for various reasons, which we get into in the book, as children either of us were particularly extroverted. i think it changes how you deal with people afterward, and i think we were both battle social secretaries were having a sense of how it -- how uncomfortable or intimidated many times people would be when they came to the white house, so we would make the extra effort to make them feel welcome, so i would say every social secretary needs to be able to reach out and make people feel comfortable because that is actually the most important part of the job. >> and it is not always the person you think it would be. one time at the kennedy center
honors, before the ceremony, you have the family members of the honorees go out and sit in the east room where the ceremony is going to take place. meryl streep was being honored that you. -- that year. she said come sit with me, i'm so nervous. i said i think the president is more nervous about him meeting you. she just wanted comfort. it does not matter who it is. everyone has that, and it is important to kind of recognize it and be sensitive to it. >> recognize that everybody is a person. they all have emotions. we had a question over here. >> did you ever have anyone kind of change their place card?
jeremy: at the president's table if it was last minute -- no one changed tables. that's the problem because then someone else is going to go to the wrong table, but they would change places and, you know, it was annoying, understandably, but unless it was at the president or first lady's table, i did not worry about it unless someone changed it to sit next to him. i was like, well, that's obvious. lea: we often start at a deficit of goodwill, because when people are invited, they often think they should have
been and were taken off the guest list. you hear from people afterward. there's a restaurant in washington called the palm and there's lots of caricatures of washington types. this was about a year into working as the social secretary, and i looked over at my caricature, and someone had taken a fork and stuck it all over my face, and i thought this has got to be someone who thought i had taken them off the guest list, so it made us be extra nice to people when we could because in truth, social secretaries do not take people off the list. other people in washington do. jeremy: we were off and the bad guys. >> question over here? thought i saw a hand over here. jeremy: very shy crowd. >> it is a shy crowd. >> i have been question regarding the couple that snuck
into a party. how did that happen? how did they get checked? how did they get in when they were not on the guest list? >> that did not happen on his watch. jeremy: yes, let's make that real clear. [laughter] but it was on june 7 of 2011. it was my first state dinner out in the rose garden. it was gorgeous, but i could not relax for any of it because you know that anything that goes wrong is what makes the story. the gatecrasher's certainly did put the fear in the white house that lasted the entire administration of mistakes happening.
unfortunately, the people that really suffer are guest now because it is such a process. you have to show your id multiple times. it is really awful. it is a shame. they got in -- it was the first state dinner. they were dressed as if they belonged, and it was evidently storming that night. the secret service did not have them on the list, but they were convincing, and they got through. it was really the bad actions of them trying to get attention or getting attention really affected a lot of lives. >> [inaudible] l.a., miami, etc., there was a production company started to -- trying to start a "real
housewives of d.c." at the time, and the couple wanted to get on the show. their plan was to get inside, get some photos and leave before the dinner started because they would have been discovered then because they had no seats. a "washington post" reporter who was watching them come through thought it was odd and ask some of the staff, but they do not have time to focus on it until the next morning when they had posted these pictures on facebook and people realized what had happened. it was inconceivable that any white house could have ever foreseen someone trying to do this because they did not particularly care about coming to the white house. they cared about getting on a tv show. >> we have a question right here. yes. >> [indiscernible] there's so much going on on so
many different levels. how did you coordinate [indiscernible] jeremy: i drank a lot. [laughter] i actually had advised my predecessor, you should have a big bulletin board that tells every event of every day. we would have from 390 to 410 events every year. it was never spaced out the way you would want it to be, so it was keeping and i and knowing -- it was very difficult, so i would tell my staff, we are so busy going from one event to another, don't forget to enjoy the history of it.
when there is a metal of honor or medal of freedom, this is an historic moment. this is something you are not going to see most likely in your post-white house lives, but it's difficult because you are going from one to another to another. i actually changed some of the staff when i got there. there. there was turnover. having a great staff -- i really hired people that had been interns for the social office because they worked the most and had the longest hours, and if they could make it through that, i felt like that would be easy. lea: [indiscernible] the coordination flight really is in the social office and we work with ushers, butlers, white
house staff, and of course, our bosses to make sure everything is organized and we all know what we are doing. there was never a time when, you know, i walked onto the ground floor and found out there was an event going on that i did not know about. >> supreme multitaskers. anyone over here? >> how did your office interface with the office of protocol in the state department? lea: whenever there were foreign visitors or state visits required, we did more interactions with them and we also had interactions with the staff, so we would get those names from the nfc, there order of precedence so i could pass them on to the calligrapher, and we would put them in place, and
it was almost all of -- almost always flawless and they were almost always right. there was only one occasion when i remember the emir of kuwait was coming, and when the delegation arrived, there was one extra person, and he kind of looked around, and he laughed and was escorted out, and the next day, the kuwaiti ambassador 's wife called and said you because my husband -- said you cost my husband a really big problem because he was supposed to be at that lunch and now thinks he was taken off the list and now he has a political problem at home. these small things can blow up
in your face. there is a coordination point for foreign policy within the white house. jeremy: i worked with the office of protocol on this on an almost daily basis. what was a benefit for me was the chief or protocols had had my job during the clinton years. patricia marshall was great in my first months, and i would ask her, what did you do about this, or did you ever have this -- >> and the chief of protocols is assigned to the state department. jeremy: right. but they would tell us right away when we found out a leader was visiting if it was for a meeting for lunch and or full state visit, what their likes and dislikes were, what colors would be offensive.
if we have flowers that were white, that could be offensive to certain cultures. what food allergies -- we relied on the state department and office of protocol a great deal. that was one thing we did not have to worry about as much. >> during the reagan administration, we did have one social office event, a state visit overseas, and it was a visit by president and misses reagan to moscow, and they hosted a visit. did either of you host a dinner or state event outside of the white house? lea: in a very rare situation -- jeremy: whenever we did one of the summits. if russia was coming, those were usually out of town. one was at camp david.
one was in hawaii. there was one in chicago. we were in charge of it. and we always had to do the united nations reception. when the president had to speak at the united nations, you would host all the leaders. if you were the host country, we had to be there, and it made us realize and appreciate how much we enjoyed doing things at the white house. not that you ever really have control over anything, you have a lot more control then in new york, you had to deal with -- my first trip there we did at the new york library, which was beautiful, but unfortunately, because secret service has to block off so much that president and misses obama, they could just as well be in an air force
hangar. you learned, let's just do it at the hotel, and you just kind of learned by mistake because it was not your footprint. it was not the usual, which was being at the white house. >> we have time for one more question out here. >> speaking of state dinners, it's my understanding that now when you have a state dinner, you serve only american wine. since we are in california, i'm really interested in knowing how those winds get chosen for events -- how those wines get chosen. lea: there was an usher who had connections up and down the west coast. he was really clever about it. i remember there was a foreign
visit with china, which was always problematic because countries are always at loggerheads, and he chose a wine called conundrum, which i thought was very clever. i'm sure they have someone else doing it now, but -- [laughter] jeremy: he was there the entire time i was at the white house, and it made it easy because we would have wine tastings. he would pick out wines for state visits. i would have a visit with mrs. obama and her mom, and especially mrs. robinson and i would be drinking the wine, but it was the ability to choose great selections to begin with, so that was a big plus for us.
>> i was kind of saddened to hear about so many bad behavior events with all the alcohol. kind of curious -- why didn't they ever reduce the number of alcoholic drinks or reduce the alcohol level in eggnog? with the british wedding that took place recently where you are supposed to wear this kind of thing -- was there that kind of thing for the white house? jeremy: we started having -- i think it was the previous administration that started having nonalcoholic eggnog. the recipe was such tradition that you cannot mess with the recipe, but we would have the person serving it warn people, hey, this is really potent, and you have to be careful. people used to drink a lot more,
and now, it is such that for a lot of people, it hit quicker. we did certainly offer other alternatives. we were very careful at what events we served alcohol. lea: the st. patrick's day event was a particularly liquid event every year. after a nun knocked down one of the military social aids in her zeal to get to the president to shake his hand, we stopped doing that as well and just had a lovely irish-themed event. we probably are making it sound worse than it is because you remember the bad behavior. kind of like in the media, you hear the bad stories, nothing good stories about people being kind and so forth, but i think people like to hear some of these more unusual stories.
i understand there are many here from the reagan library, and i want to say thank you for your service. without the volunteers, i don't think we could function at all. jeremy: that is true. absolutely. >> we just have a couple of minutes. i know there was a story about somebody getting arrested at one of your events, and there was a little bit of dicing this -- diceyness that your events as well. i wonder if you could leave us with one pearl clutching moment. as you say, there were so many wonderful days and moments, and to be there, to attend an event there is an extraordinary opportunity. jeremy: i think what happens
more often than is usually reported, though it is not certainly common, i don't want to say, but when you submit your information to come into the white house, the secret service check it, and if you have a warrant for your arrest, they are going to know it. now how this idiot showed up at the white house after giving his information and did not know he would be arrested is kind of shocking, and it goes to, you know, one of the dumbest, you know, possible felons. but sometimes we would get a call, and it would be the secret service who would say someone on your list is a "do not admit" and we don't want you to be embarrassed, so i would call the person and asked things like did you get a speeding ticket somewhere. i got a speeding ticket in georgia years ago i never paid -- it does not go away.
they attach it, and if you are pulled over, they will see you have an unpaid ticket, and i don't want you to come to the white house and get arrested for having an unpaid parking ticket -- a speeding ticket. it was always scary to get those calls. the other thing is people would be stuck at the gate and i would try to figure out what went wrong and how the information got mixed up. they would say i was actually born in 1953 but my husband things it's 1958. [laughter] lea: i had a particularly bad day when we had an official confirm the chinese president. i will only tell you the last part of the horror. the luncheon was about to begin, and i was approached by a state department employee who would
say the chinese always try to push the american translator out of the way. president bush has to have his own translator, so make sure that does not happen. i would walk over to the president's table, and i see a chinese woman sitting in the american translator's seat, and the american translator is kind of nervous and trembling and says, she will not let me sit in my seat, and i walked over and explained to her very politely, and she pretended that she was the translator and did not speak english. i could see the thing was about to happen, so i said to the american translator, when i get the seat open, do not leave -- when i get the seat open, sit in it and do not leave until the luncheon is over, sorry pushed the woman's chair forward, as she jumped up like what are you doing, and the american translator jumps into the seat,
and i was literally saved by the marine band playing "hail to the chief" as the president walked in. >> we are going to leave everyone with your best moments, if you could help out with that. jeremy: at the end of a state dinner or the holiday reception, it was -- you can see how happy people were. i remember at the british state dinner, prime minister cameron and his wife said thank you for the most amazing, special night of our lives. moments like that, you see people that had never been there before leaving and they are so happy and excited was always a great, great moment. i would get to the holiday
reception staff there were so many we could not wait for them to end, but when it ended, i was sad because it was the end of a season and it was so special. lea: every administration has times when they are up and times when they're down. when you are feeling in battle with the white house, it is a daily struggle to move on and do the best possible job you can do. i was in the white house at the time when the iraq war was not going very well. the president decided to do and ishtar dinner, a breaking of the ramadan fast dinner. the portraits were covered, prayer rugs put down, and at exactly the moment of the sunset, an imam stood in the grand for your and called all the guests to prayer and invited them to pray in the east room,
i hope you all will take the time to do that, and in honor of that, i have one for each of you today, and i want to thank you for coming here and joining us. there you go. jeremy: thank you so much. >> we are going up to the museum floor in just a few minutes. i hope you will join us there with your copies of books.
and you all for coming. we hope to see you again next time. jeremy: thank you. thank you very much. [applause] >> history bookshelf features the country's best-known history writers of the past decade talking about their books. you can watch our weekly series every saturday at 4:00 p.m. eastern here on american history tv on c-span3. >> you're watching american history tv, every weekend on c-span three american history tv on c-span3, created by america's cable television companies. we are brought to you by these television companies who provide american history tv to viewers as a public service. >> during the december 7, 19 41 japanese attack on pearl harbor, u.s. navy mess attendant dorie miller helped those aboard the
uss west virginia and fired guns at the attackers, though he had never been trained on the weapons. this grandson of slaves became the first african-american awarded a navy cross. next, two scholars talk about dorie miller's story, and explore how the memory of his heroics evolved over the years. the national museum in new orleans hosted this event and provided the video. >> i am in my study, and this is a clever simulation of one of our galleries, the iwo jima gallery. as all of our guests know, whenever anniversaries come up, we think deeply about just how we want to commemorate the various events of the calendar year. december is always a big time at the museum, because of the world war ii students know it