The White House Gets Its First Male Social Secretary

Updated 1:23 p.m.

Jeremy Bernard, a senior advisor to the U.S. Ambassador to France, will be the first male social secretary in White House history.

"Jeremy shares our vision for the White House as the People's House, one that celebrates our history and culture in dynamic and inclusive ways. We look forward to Jeremy continuing to showcase America's arts and culture to our nation and the world through the many events at the White House," President Obama said in a statement announcing the news that Bernard would be special assistant to the president and social secretary.

"I am deeply humbled to join the White House staff as Social Secretary and support President Obama and the first lady in this role," said Bernard in a statement released by the White House. "I have long admired the arts and education programs that have become hallmarks of the Obama White House and I am eager to continue these efforts in the years ahead."

A San Antonio, Tex., native, Bernard previously served as the White House liaison to the National Endowment for the Humanities and a finance consultant for Obama's presidential campaign.

Bernard also will be the first openly gay White House social secretary, having been a board member of of A.N.G.L.E. (Access Now for Gay & Lesbian Equality) and the National Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, as well as several LGBT advisory committees to Los Angeles government.

News of his appointment was first reported by Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post. Observed Capehart:

Full disclosure: Bernard and I are friends. He will bring a certain warmth and irreverence to the job that will make him a joy for his colleagues to work with. His knowledge of the Obamas and his intense attention to detail will ensure that their vision for the people's house continues seamlessly. And he has a reverence for the presidency and the meaning of the White House that will make him an imaginative steward of their image.

The president and the first lady have made an excellent choice.


The Post also profiled Bernard and his partner Rufus Gifford in 2009 for a story on Washington power couples. Reported Richard Leiby:

To be a full-fledged power couple, you need a decent-size kitchen and/or the number of a good caterer. This is essential to staging one of those fabled dinner parties, which are usually held in a baroque-looking house somewhere on the Hill, Kalorama or Georgetown. But not always: Obama brings with him some young, urban cool; a nice downtown apartment will do.
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Rufus Gifford, 34, and Jeremy Bernard, 44 -- leading candidates for Washington's new same-sex power couple -- just migrated from Los Angeles, where they raised millions of dollars for Obama. They landed a two-bedroom apartment in a trendy "green" building in Logan Circle.

"We had that conversation: Is it big enough to entertain," says Gifford, new finance director for the Democratic National Committee. "It's certainly more confined that we are used to, but we can fit a cocktail party for a couple dozen people."

Initiated to Washington ways as deputy treasurer for the Clinton '93 inaugural committee, Bernard has been appointed White House liaison to the National Endowment for the Humanities. He and Gifford have been together three years; they placed on Out magazine's 2008 list of the country's 50 most influential gays.

"We had a certain amount of juice out West, but we're newcomers here and we're going to have to work hard," says Gifford, a former entertainment industry executive. He and Bernard mainly knew the Obama Chicago crowd from a distance, by phone. Here, "we will have time to cement relationships, and to expand the circle ... and see what makes this town tick."


Thumbmail image credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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