Pepperdine Voice Magazine
The First Face of Diplomacy
Charity Wallace Brings a Personal Touch to Global Interaction.
by Megan Huard
When an average citizen gets off a plane, her eyes scan the crowd for a friend, spouse, or sibling waiting to greet her. When foreign ministers, ambassadors, first ladies or presidents arrive, they see Charity Wallace.
As deputy chief of protocol of the United States, Wallace ('97) oversees the visits of chiefs of state, heads of government, and other international dignitaries who visit the country to meet with the president, vice president, or secretary of state. "We're with them the entire trip," she explains. "We help them feel comfortable right from the start."
Wallace accompanies delegations representing the president at official ceremonies abroad, and has implemented an "Experience America" program through a new outreach division in her office. Created by Ambassador Nancy Brinker, chief of protocol of the United States, the program features symposia and a speaker series. "Essentially what we're trying to do is engage the diplomatic corps and connect them with thought leaders in this country—governors, mayors, and business leaders."
Such high-level engagement dates back to Wallace's earliest days in politics. She started as a volunteer in then Governor George W. Bush's 2000 presidential campaign before joining his advance team. She participated in the historic Florida recount and moved to Washington, D.C., in time for the inauguration.
Wallace was working in the White House on September 11, 2001. "I felt a lot of fear after those tragic events," she recalls. "I needed to rely heavily on my faith." She had helped plan the prayer service following President Bush's inauguration, and was called upon again for the September 14 service at the National Cathedral. "It was a special time for me, one of healing and personal faith."
Seeking a greater sense of purpose, Wallace joined the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives, which seeks to increase access to federal grants for faith-based and community organizations, then signed on as director of advance for First Lady Laura Bush.
In this position, Wallace bore responsibility for Mrs. Bush's 300 plus annual events as well as logistics for her trips overseas. While the First Lady might only have time to visit four or five locations, Wallace would visit 12, creating possible schedules, proposing exciting itineraries, and facilitating introductions. From AIDS and malaria to literacy and women empowerment programs, Wallace stood at the front lines of Mrs. Bush's global interests.
Though she excelled, the demanding job began to take a toll. "The longest anyone had been in that position before was 20 months," she remembers. "I was there for three years. I was working 16 hours a day, often seven days a week."
Her perseverance and experience paid off when it led to her current position in the Office of Protocol. "It's not the work perse, but the impact," she says of her connection to her job. "I can influence important people and be part of something bigger."