Socially speaking, a princess of poise
Tubman is 'one-woman army' on White House's entertaining front
By Dan Zak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Samantha Tubman will say that she's a boring person and -- on the surface, in the most positive sense, with all due respect -- this may be true.
She's super-nice. She's an Ivy Leaguer who radiates modesty and competence. No one will say a bad word about her, even in jest. She dresses well, loves her family, lives near Logan Circle, brunches with friends on Sundays, balks at turning 30 next month, and is one of those former bright-eyed campaign troupers who (cliche alert!) constantly pinches herself when reporting for duty at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Everyone who went from being a grunt on the campaign trail to a star in the White House has his or her own story of how things fell into place, but perhaps none is as chancy and unboring as the assistant social secretary's. Her origin story starts on a Kentucky plantation in the 1800s, progresses through the highest office of Africa's first republic and ends in planning sessions for the Obama administration's first state dinner, coming up Nov. 24.
But before this marquee international event, Sam Tubman is snapping gingham tablecloths on the South Lawn by the vegetable garden, getting ready for another of Michelle Obama's healthy-living events with schoolchildren. Tubman compliments a White House butler's haircut as she places hand sanitizer on the tables. She asks the National Park Service to fetch rope and stakes to fashion a media corral. She checks the nearby restrooms to make sure they're open and flushable. She strides up and down the grassy expanse in sensible flats, touching base with the pastry chef, the head of operations, the first lady's advance team and anyone else involved with the show.
"She's a genius, she's a hero, she's a one-woman army," says Assistant White House Chef Sam Kass as he eyeballs luscious red calico lettuce in the garden. "She makes this whole thing work."