Kate Andersen Brower takes a look at the U.S. presidency (the Kennedy administration to the Obamas) from the inside out, by documenting their lives by their residence: the White House. The White House is probably best known for the “West Wing”, Rose Garden, and South Lawn, but it is also the place where presidents and first ladies sleep most nights, where birthdays are celebrated, where children grow up. That pampered existence exists because of a long roster of loyal, dedicated staff, many of whom work at the White House for decades, oftentimes putting in 14 hour days to ensure that the president and his family have a private life to counter balance the public scrutiny. Ms. Brower talks to many former White House residents, including the Carters, Reagan children, Ford children, the Bushes, and those who worked for the Kennedys, Clintons, and Obamas. It’s an inside look at how the most powerful person in the world lives behind closed doors.
There are many entertaining tales (Susan Ford roller skating in a ballroom, the Carters and Johnsons trying to economize on food costs, Nancy Reagan’s exacting standards followed by the Bushes who were just the opposite, the Duke of Edinburgh’s insistence on sharing a late night drink with the staff, Mrs. Clinton’s clashes with a French chef), the difficulties many of the staff encounter every 4 to 8 years when a brand new family arrives, the grueling hours the staff willingly work, and most of all, the strict loyalty and discretion that most of the staff adhere to, even long after retirement. If you are a history buff and have studied the presidency at all, you probably won’t find anything earth shattering here. If you’re looking for a tell-all, you’ve come to the wrong place. Many of the stories have already been published elsewhere and the staff (for the most part) uphold a strict code of secrecy when it comes to “dishing” about those they served. This is a quick, light read, and an important one, I think, when it comes to remembering that many very different people have inhabited the White House in the past and many more will in the future; that as our democracy endures, so does a private life in a special residence.
Amazon link is here.