Laurie McCord to share how things really work inside 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
“Stay out of the shot,” is just one of the expressions that White House staffers quickly learn when indoctrinated into life in the “fishbowl,” according to Laurie McCord, former member of the George W. Bush administration.
“A staff member should never be in the background or around the principal being photographed. We should always be invisible,” McCord said. “Did you see President Trump’s inauguration when a military aide walked behind him as he was speaking? That was an awareness we all had to develop of what not to do.”
McCord will share this axiom and others at her Viewpoints talk at Rappahannock Westminster-Canterbury on May 1.
Can friends of the First Family fly on Air Force One on the taxpayers’ dollar? What happens in the White House when one family moves out and another moves in? Who buys the new china that a First Lady selects? These are some of the questions that McCord will address with RWC residents.
After serving in several different roles at the White House from 2001-2006, McCord and her husband Scott, who worked at the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, retired to a farmhouse built in the early 1800s on Route 3 in Lancaster County. Scott’s mother, RWC resident Helen McCord, encouraged them to buy the farm after she and Laurie attended an estate sale there. It is a major lifestyle change from the long hours and prestige of serving at the pleasure of the President of the United States.
“The most surprising thing about working in the White House is that the extraordinary becomes ordinary,” McCord said. “Things happen every day that would make my head spin. I’d be walking through the West Wing to pick up my lunch and run into the President in the hall. It was always somewhat of a shock to the system as it was so unexpected. I had ‘pinch-me’ moments every day.”
While no two days were ever alike, McCord said all days were long and relatively stressful – usually starting at 7:30 or 8 in the morning and ending at 6:30 or 7 at night – or much later if there was a special event.
“On the first anniversary of 9/11, my department was in charge of all the remembrances. President and Mrs. Bush started their day with ceremonies on the South Lawn to coincide with the time the first plane hit the World Trade Center. They continued to the Pentagon, Shanksville, Pa., and concluded at Ground Zero in New York. It was a very draining day, but we all had to keep going, sometimes through the tears.”
The perks helped balance the hard work and long hours. “President and Mrs. Bush were very accommodating to the families of their staff,” McCord said. “We were encouraged to bring our families to the house.”
Laurie and/or Scott’s parents came to a Veteran’s Day breakfast, a Christmas party and a Marine One landing on the South Lawn.
“Helen and Stan McCord even joined us in the Presidential box at the Kennedy Center one evening, thanks to the generosity of Laura Bush,” McCord said.
McCord will be the third speaker in RWC’s Viewpoints series, which features experts on a wide range of topics of current interest. These free presentations begin at 11 a.m. and are held on the first Monday of the month through June 5 in the Chesapeake Center Auditorium on RWC’s campus, 132 Lancaster Dr., Irvington.
Reservations for the May 1 event will begin on April 17 by calling RWC at 438-4000. Attendees are invited to remain after the presentations for a complimentary luncheon. Reservations open for each speaker two weeks prior to the event. RWC maintains a waiting list and honors reservations in the order received. Separate reservations must be made for each speaking event in the Viewpoints series.
The final speaker in the 2017 Viewpoints series will be Selden Richardson, Author, “Tri-State Gang in Richmond,” who will round out the program with his talk on June 5.