The cocktail party at ornate Meridian House on Thursday was hardly the stuff of Skull and Bones, but make no mistake about it — this was an initiation rite. With champagne.

The social secretaries from embassies of countries from Kenya to Monaco had gathered to toast Deesha Dyer, the new White House social secretary, to their unofficial ranks. Clinton-era White House social secretary Ann Stock was there, and chatter was about the heave wave in Europe and the annual near-shuttering of Embassy Row in August.

These are the men and women (though mostly women) who draw up guest lists and seating charts that carry international consequences, the ones who grease the wheels of diplomacy with well-timed canapes. As Meridian International Center President Stuart Holliday put it, “these are the people who really run Washington.”

Dyer’s CV (she was once a freelance journalist covering hip-hop music and came to the White House as a 31-year-old intern) made her an unconventional pick for the job. But she’s perfected a humbled-to-be-here speech on the welcome-to-the-job tour of the Washington cocktail circuit she’s made this summer. And of this particular group, she seemed happy to fit right in: “It’s an awesome club to be a part of.”

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