White House Secretary Desiree Rogers Resigns: Leave My Home Girl Alone

6 years ago

Not everyone is taking the resignation of White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers so seriously. Two days after the news of Rogers's pending departure broke Feb. 26 and began circulating the Web, Marla Singer tweeted, "First Van Jones and now Desiree Rogers? The White House just got a little less sexy." I was glad for the laugh because I've seen other comments about Rogers's decision with an undeniable sky-is-falling take on the story.

Come on, people! Not to disparage the work of the position, but is a social secretary's resignation anything like what happened to Van Jones? Neither is a social secretary quitting any reflection on the health of the Obama administration. Social secretaries don't make policy. (Jones has rebounded quite well, by the way, after being McCarthyed out of his White House position.)

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Rogers, the first black White House social secretary, has been replaced by the very blonde Julianna Smoot, who I'm sure will do a fine job. She was co-chair of the inaugural committee and served as chief of staff of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and unlike Rogers, Smoot does not seem to be a former Republican.

Rogers is my age and grew up in New Orleans as did I, and so I hesitate to say I don't know her. My memory is horrible, and sometimes I consciously forget parts of my past. Therefore, I've been trying to reach a friend all morning to ask her, "Hey, do I know Desiree?"

Desiree's maiden name is Glapion, and she is the daughter of a former city councilman, the late Roy Glapion, and his wife Joyce, who used to run a daycare center. She graduated from high school the same year I did, 1977, but she went to a private school, Academy of the Sacred Heart.

I, on the other hand, was so through with private school after attending an out-of-state boarding school that was "integrating," that I transferred in my junior year to New Orleans's first African-American public high school, the same one my mother and aunt had attended, McDonogh #35. Go Roneagles!

Rogers apparently is far more focused, ambitious, and driven than I've ever been, however, not to mention she has better fashion sense. She attended Wellesley and later earned her MBA from Harvard Business School. I was accepted to Mount Holyoke, but let my dad talk me out of it. (He bribed me with a car.)

Yes, Rogers was a Zulu Queen twice, 1988 and 2000.

I was the queen of something down here a few times, but nothing as high up the social ladder as the Zulus. I've read that Rogers's father, Roy Glapion, elevated the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club into the sphere of influence it claims today. It's a black organization that started in 1909 and has faced criticism over the years for not being more dedicated to presenting politically correct, positive black images, meaning on Mardi Gras Day, the krewe goes out in black face.

Rogers's father, in some ways, helped the Zulus overcome criticism and helped brand the club with the quirky authenticity that is New Orleans. He had a vision that has evolved into more glitz, glamor, and some serious pomp and circumstance.

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I went to the Zulu Ball this Mardi Gras, 2010, an adventure, and I saw our city's lame duck mayor, Ray Nagin, step to the podium during the ball. However, Mayor-elect Mitch Landrieu did not show. I suspect he'll make a point to show up in the future.

Also while at the the ball, I ran into another former city councilman who used to visit my grandmother's house often, a genuinely nice man from my parents' generation. That was the highlight of my evening and the extent of my social aspirations.

But keeping score here, me vs. Rogers, I was a queen three times, debutante reign included; so, I beat Ms. Rogers in numbers of times on a NOLA throne. However, my royal runs were not as siddity as hers. Furthermore, she likes the social circuit, having far better socialization skills than I do, it seems, no matter what April Ryan implied about Rogers vs. Michelle Obama.

And so, New Orleans queendoms are where Rogers and I part ways.

Rogers waited until after graduate school to marry and then she moved to Chicago with her husband where she hobnobbed with the Obamas and Oprah. On a different trajectory, I married in the middle of my sophomore year at an HBCU (Historically Black College or University), had a baby, and finished my undergraduate degree years later as a non-traditional student.

But Desiree and I are both divorced now. That makes us even on some level, except that she's skinny and called gorgeous at 50. I am 50 and far from thin, and I've never met Oprah or the Obamas or smelled the air at Harvard. So, I lose. It's the American way.

Seriously. I'm giving her decision to resign the contemplation it deserves, a light poke of tongue in cheek. But I know some people out there are dead serious in their examinations of her departure with social critique.

Rogers told the New Orleans Times Picayune that she decided when she took the position as White House social secretary that she knew she'd only stay for about a year, that the White House party crashers fiasco has nothing to do with her leaving.

"Let's just get the record straight," said Rogers, a New Orleans native, in a telephone interview from Chicago, where she made her career before being tapped by the Obamas as White House social secretary.

Rogers announced Friday she was stepping down to return to the private sector; on Saturday, the White House announced that Julianna Smoot, chief of staff to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, will succeed her.

Rogers said she had always intended to leave the all-consuming post after about a year, but the reportage on her departure has brought back to the fore a narrative about how the celebrity-hungry Virginia socialites, Tareq and Michaele Salahi, managed to get into the first state dinner at the Obama White House, a narrative that suggests that Rogers' office did not adequately man the gate when guests arrived.

"It's wrong," Rogers said. "Everyone is saying the same thing, and it's wrong." (Read more at NOLA.com)

I believe her, even if the U.K. Guardian is reporting this story as she left "in wake of gatecrasher scandal." If that incident, which happened in November, spelled her doom, she would have been gone by Christmas, and a resignation back then would have been much more accurately "in the wake of" gatecrashers.

I also think the following comment I read at the Daily Beast makes sense:

Why did the media cover Desiree Rogers more than cabinet members? Quick who is the Commerce Sec? Who is the Sec of the Navy, Army? But who is the Social Secretary?

We simply have a lazy brain dead media, who find greater interest in the person who pick out the table cloths and the entertainment than people who actually set policy. (Comment by reader)

Yeah! Why are the media twisting us into knots about what Desiree does and where she goes? At 50, a woman has a right to do as she pleases. Y'all, leave my home girl alone!

More Links

  • 'Zulu Queen' in charge of Barack Obama's guest list: Rogers, 49, is the latest of Obama's 'black' appointments, and the chattering classes have duly noted that she will be the first black woman in charge of the East Wing guest lists. ... Her rise to such power and influence, however, is not quite as steep or unlikely as it may seem. Rogers is a scion of a black American aristocracy that after generations of waiting discretely in the wings has at last stepped onto the stage.

    Zulu Queen? The title turns out to have nothing to do with Old Country roots, but instead reveals her status at the pinnacle of New Orleans society. Her father, Roy Glapion, ran the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, the city's top black carnival 'crew', and Rogers was the queen of their Mardi Gras balls in 1988 and 2000.

    (First Post, UK)

My comment on that write-up is, "Oh, drama!" And yet, while exaggerated, is not that far off the mark.

Nordette Adams is a BlogHer CE and by no means part of the New Orleans elite that she recalls. You can find her other stuff through Her 411.

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