In 2002, I met one of the people I admire most. It was culinary legend Julia Child, and I was just one of many fans lined up at a cooking school where she was signing her books. I have a photo of me with Mrs. Child, which I wish I could have printed here. However, the fellow disciple who shot the picture was so nervous, her hands shook. As a result, it's hard to tell the difference between Mrs. Child, me and the walk-in in the background.
Although that was the only face-to-face meeting I had with Mrs. Child, I dealt with her once professionally years before. While working for the state restaurant association, I invited her to come to our big trade show and sign her cookbooks. Her office sent a lovely, handwritten reply turning down the request. Now, I've been turned down many times and in many ways, but never as gracefully as this. I still have the note.
In the articles I've read about Mrs. Child, she turned down other opportunities too. She would not, for example, endorse products, or even write those glowing little paragraphs of praise that often appear on book jackets. She had a clear vision of what her role was and had the integrity to stand up for it.
I was reminded of this when we worked on our coverage of Jenna Bush's wedding last month. (It starts on page 23.)
We weren't at all sure we could break this story. Although this was news the whole world — and particularly the world of special event professionals — wanted to see, one would have to be blindly selfish not to be sensitive to the wedding party's privacy. After all, the bride — U.S. President George W. Bush's daughter — chose to get married not in the limelight of the White House but at home, at her family's ranch in Crawford, Texas.
I'm nobody famous, but at my own wedding 10 years ago, my Episcopal priest was adamant in cutting off both my professional photographer plus a couple of camera-happy friends. As she told my personal paparazzi, the shooting stops once the ceremony begins. She demanded that my wedding be treated as a sacred rite, not a photo op.
Even though they are all proud of the beautiful wedding reception they created, the event professionals we interviewed were all respectful of the First Family's privacy. They had a wonderful story to share, but not at the expense of the families to whom this milestone event meant the world.
In special events, we so often document the showy, the dramatic, the “wow.” But Mrs. Child and the event professionals for the First Family's wedding show that professionalism is not just about skill, but also restraint and respect.