Meet America’s greeter in chief

With dozens of world leaders in the nation's capital this week for the US-Africa Leaders Summit, former U.S. Chief of Protocol Capricia Marshall talks to The Reliable Source about hospitality's role in strengthening diplomatic bonds. (Davin Coburn and JulieAnn McKellogg/The Washington Post)


Remember that guy at last night’s White House dinner for African leaders — the one who greeted all 50-plus heads of state and many of their spouses outside the White House? You might also recall him as the man who repeatedly wiped his brow as he sweated it out in a suit on a toasty D.C. summer night. His name is Peter Selfridge, and he’s the U.S. chief of protocol. Essentially, he’s America’s greeter in chief.


He was responsible for making sure President Obama knew all the African leaders’ names and how to greet them, for informing the White House kitchen of all the dignitaries’ dietary restrictions, and for making sure there was nothing offensive about the decor, the entertainment … or anything, really.

That’s a hefty job when you’re dealing with just one head of state, let alone 50-plus. Selfridge, who is relatively new to the job, appeared to be keeping all the leaders straight with a trusty cheat sheet, stored in his jacket pocket. His predecessor, Capricia Marshall, explains in this video how the State Department job —  and finding a good gift for a foreign leader — is crucial to global diplomacy.

JulieAnn McKellogg is the video producer for The Reliable Source.
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Helena Andrews · August 6, 2014