Friday, June 5, 2015

Book Review: The Residence by Kate Andersen Brower

I was thrilled when my friend Gloria Nuckles gave me a copy of #1 New York Times Bestseller The Residence. This book of remembrances by White House staff features several pages about her father, Lynwood Westray, who was a butler in "the house" for many years. The author interviewed Gloria as well.

Of course I skipped to the part that highlighted Mr. Westray's career. Such an amazing story of his experiences there! But then I turned back to page one, and I'm not sorry. The stories related to author Kate Bower by living staff and relatives enthralled me. It was so interesting to read what went on behind the scenes with the ever faithful, loyal, and discreet staff of butlers, maids, ushers, chefs, secret service, florists, decorators, electricians, plumbers, and many  more. I had no idea how many people it takes to run our national institution.

We know the public details of many historical events in our lifetime; the Kennedy assassination, the Watergate affair, the Vietnam War to name a few, but to read intimate accounts of how this affected the White House staff is eye opening.

I learned many things. For instance, I was surprised to learn that the first family pays for their own personal expenses for things such as meals not related to the job,  private parties, dry cleaning, etc. The staff reports that even Mrs. Kennedy constantly requested the staff to find ways to cut financial corners when it came to their personal expenses. The personal/federal expenses line did seem blurred in some administrations.

Some of the accounts are humorous, and some well, infuriating. I now have even more respect for leaders whom I already admired. Unfortunately, the same is true in reverse for those whom I have less respect. However, one can learn a great deal about honoring the office of the President, no matter who the man is, from the attitude and behavior of those that serve the first family.

Gloria's father died just short of the release date of The Residence.  I believe he would have been proud of the author's account, and the photographs in which he appears. The high standards Mr. Westray developed during his years at the White House permeated the life of my friend Gloria. He and his late wife instilled the same standard of excellence in her, and she carries it out daily as a professional educator.

Have you ever been to the White House? 
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