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Overview:

The Office of the Chief of Protocol, a division of the Department of State, primarily advises and assists the president, vice president and secretary of state on matters of diplomatic protocol, or etiquette. The office arranges detailed itineraries for foreign dignitaries visiting the United States, and accompanies the president on official travels abroad. It also plans and executes diplomatic ceremonies and dinners, oversees the accreditation of foreign ambassadors and manages the Blair House, which is the president’s guest residence for visiting foreign leaders.

 
more
History:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The concept of diplomatic protocol is steeped in history, dating back to the first recorded exchange of foreign envoys initiated by the Babylonians. Today, almost every country has a counterpart to the U.S. chief of protocol.

 
Like everyday manners, many aspects of diplomatic protocol are unwritten. Guidelines are rooted in the concept of civility, which helps states to agreeably interact with each other. Hierarchy is also an important factor. For example, protocol dictates that officials gathered for a dinner be seated according to their rank.
 
Diplomatic etiquette has changed with time—especially in the 20th century, when it was injected with a degree of informality. It should also be noted that each U.S. presidential administration brings with it a different take on certain aspects of protocol. For example, President George H. W. Bush followed credentialing ceremonies with a meeting among the newly invested ambassadors, his national security advisers and himself. Meanwhile, first lady Barbara Bush offered cookies to spouses and their children while an orchestra played. The Clintons, on the other hand, simplified the ceremonies, cutting out the first lady entirely and dropping the orchestra.
 
In this country, the U.S. State Department initially appointed a protocol official in 1916, with the protocol office established 12 years later. The chief of protocol assumed the title of ambassador in 1961, requiring Senate confirmation of any presidential nominee to fill the position from then on.
 
The following are some recent examples of diplomatic protocol in action:
 
 
A Few Recent Notable Breaches of Protocol
 
For more information, see:
Developments in Protocol ( by Erik Goldstein, University of Birmingham)

Diplomatic Protocol

(eDiplomat)

 

more
What it Does:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A chief of protocol must pay careful attention to detail and be well-versed in cultural differences to ensure diplomatic events proceed smoothly. For example, he or she must, when planning a state dinner, be aware of officials’ ranks when making seating assignments, must choose entertainment that doesn’t offend foreign sensibilities and must even choose a culturally appropriate color for flowers, among other responsibilities. Pamela Ahearn, who served as chief of protocol during the Reagan administration, was also scrupulous about checking the dietary requirements of visiting heads of state and government.

 
The slightest mistake in protocol can be embarrassing at best and headline-making at worst. Former protocol chief Joseph Verner Reed told the Washington Post about how he once went to greet the ambassador of Gabon, a former French colony, at the White House. He was surprised when the man he had been talking to in French told him in British English that he was in fact the ambassador from Tanzania.
 
The Office of the Chief of Protocol contains five divisions designed to aid the chief with his or her duties:
  • The Blair House division maintains 1651 Pennsylvania Ave., or the president’s guesthouse for visiting heads of state and government. The federal government purchased the house during World War II, and it underwent substantial renovations in the 1980s. Blair House has hosted guests an average of 24 times each annually and served as the venue for 30 events over the past few years.
  • According to the OCP Web site, the Ceremonials division “organizes ceremonial and official functions hosted by the vice president, secretary of state and other high-ranking United States government officials” and also maintains the U.S. order of precedence, answers questions on diplomatic etiquette and helps send out presidential holiday greeting cards. The gifts officer, who is responsible for suggesting, purchasing and delivering official gifts for the president, vice president and secretary of state, is a part of this division.
  • Generally speaking, the Diplomatic Affairs division handles all issues having to do with foreign diplomatic missions in the United States. This includes the accreditation of foreign ambassadors and other diplomatic officers who have been assigned to this country and the registration of non-diplomats who are working in the United States as employees of their government. The division, which publishes the Diplomatic List, is led by the assistant chief of protocol for diplomatic affairs.
  • The Management division is the administrative unit of the Office of the Chief of Protocol. It oversees human resources, finances, information technology, security and the Blair House division. It also helps coordinate the other divisions when planning for ceremonies.
  • The Visits division is responsible for devising and executing detailed itineraries when high-ranking foreign officials visit the United States. The division also facilitates foreign press and handles the logistics when U.S. presidential delegations travel abroad.
 
For more information, see:
Visits and Ceremonials (during the George W. Bush administration)

Fact Sheet: The State Visit in Honor of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness The Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh

(a press release from the White House Web site)

 

more
Former Directors:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Child star Shirley Temple Black served as chief of protocol from July 1, 1976, to Jan. 21, 1977.

 
Bush’s chief of protocol [Donald Ensenat] bows out (by Bill Walshes, New Orleans Times-Picayune)

 

more

Comments

TL Bartel 2 years ago
in writing the president what is the proper greeting? dear mr. president? dear president obama? something else?
Bryan kobylik 3 years ago
what was the answer to the comment below? rae williams - 1/13/2011 9:37:39 am when the president bestows a medal of honor on a deserving person, in the presence of congress members, the honoree and family what is the protocol for seating of all of the above?
Rae Williams 3 years ago
When the President bestows a medal of honor on a deserving person, in the presence of congress members, the honoree and family what is the protocol for seating of all of the above?
Harry Costello 3 years ago
Did someone from the Office of Protocol tell the President that it is his Honor and duty to be the first one to render a hand salute to a recipient of the Medal of Honor. The look on sargent Giuntas face was one of surprise and then embarrassment when expecting a salute the President hugged him. I see this as a show of disrespect to the recipient and the military as a whole. Nice Job.
Michael James 4 years ago
Love the way the RepubliCons and the Christian Right [which is neither] for bowing to the Saudi King and continue to whine about Obama's protocol. Perhaps he should hold the King's hand and give him a big kiss on the lips like George W. Bush did on his visits? What a bunch of pathetic hypocrites.
Mark Pasewark 5 years ago
Where may I find the official lists of dos and don'ts for greetings between president and foreign heads of government?
Dennis Osha 5 years ago
Hi, I'm trying to determine (as are a lot of other people apparently!) if there is any written protocol regarding the President greeting other heads of state. Could you provide/guide me to that information? Regards, Dennis Osha
mayo 5 years ago
What exactly IS the protocol for a President visiting foreigns leaders. Do they typically bow to them?
B A Ramsey 5 years ago
For heaven's sake. Teach Obama some protocol while we still have some friends left. His cheap gift to the PM of Britain is unforgiveable. He needs to learn how to behave like a president and his calling the press corps "guys" all the time is just plain ignorant. Deference to not arrogance, please!

Leave a comment

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Founded: 1928
Annual Budget: $8.6 million
Employees: 64
Official Website: http://www.state.gov/s/cpr/
Office of the Chief of Protocol
Selfridge, Peter
Chief

Peter A. (Pete) Selfridge was nominated by President Barack Obama on December 13, 2013 to be the U.S. Department of State’s Chief of Protocol with the rank of Ambassador during his tenure in the job. The duties of the chief of protocol include greeting heads of state and government leaders, assisting presidential delegations in their overseas travel and planning summits and other multilateral events.

 

Selfridge is a native of Minnetonka, Minnesota. He began his career in Washington in 1993, shortly after earning his B.A. from the University of Iowa. His first job in the capital was as a staff assistant to Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), remaining in that job two years. One of his tasks while working for Harkin was once dressing in surgical gauze to illustrate Medicare payment practices. Selfridge moved to the White House in July 1995 to become director of correspondence in the office of scheduling and advance.

 

In 1997, Selfridge left for New York City, where he was a senior policy adviser in the city’s Department of Citywide Administrative Services. He left in 2000 to work for the Gore-Lieberman presidential campaign. While on the campaign trail, Selfridge met Parita Shah, who would later become his wife.

 

Upon Gore’s loss of the election, Selfridge joined public relations firm Citigate Communications. He remained there until the start of the next presidential campaign, joining John Kerry’s campaign in August 2003 as the associate director of advance. During that campaign, he was reunited with Shah and the two began dating. They were married in 2007.

 

After Kerry also lost, Selfridge returned to the private sector, joining Rendezvous Consulting as communications director. In November 2007, he went to work for the William J. Clinton Foundation as its city director in Los Angeles.

 

Selfridge’s next stop was the Obama for America campaign in August 2008 as deputy director of advance. After President Obama’s inauguration, Selfridge was named Vice President Joe Biden’s director of advance.  In 2011, Selfridge was named special assistant to the President and deputy director of advance and later that year was named deputy assistant to the president and director of advance and operations at the White House.

 

While at the White House, Selfridge has become one of President Obama’s regular golf partners. In addition to his bachelor’s degree, Selfridge has a Master’s in International Public Policy from Johns Hopkins University. His wife was formerly a deputy director of public affairs in the Commerce Department, but now works for a public relations/lobbying firm.

-Steve Straehley

 

To Learn More:

Written Statement of Peter A. Selfridge Confirmation Hearing for Chief of Protocol of the United States (pdf)

Officially In: Peter A. Selfridge—From WH to State Dept’s Chief of Protocol (by Domani Spero, DiploPundit)

A Dream Realized (by Laurie Moore, University of Southern California)

more
Marshall, Capricia
Previous Chief

President Obama nominated a longtime protégée of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Capricia Penavic Marshall, to be Chief of Protocol, a State Department position holding ambassadorial rank. Although the chief of protocol customarily travels with either the Secretary of State or the President, that will not be the case in this administration. Probably in recognition of her close relationship with Secretary Clinton, Marshall will travel with her but not with the President; instead the White House will create a new position for someone to travel with him and direct protocol matters.

 
 Like several other Obama appointees, Marshall ran into tax problems. She and her husband did not file returns for the years 2005 and 2006. However, Marshall’s case differed from those of such notables as Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and almost Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Daschle because when she did send in her returns she claimed she was entitled to a refund of more than $37,000.
 
Marshall’s father was born in Croatia and her mother in Mexico. Marshall herself was born circa 1964 in Cleveland, Ohio, and lived with her Mexican grandmother in a racially mixed neighborhood nicknamed “United Nations.”. She earned a B.A. in Political Science and International Studies from Purdue University in 1986 and a law degree from Case Western Reserve University School of Law in 1990. 
 
In 1992, Marshall joined Governor Bill Clinton’s Presidential campaign as special assistant to Hillary Rodham Clinton.  When Clinton won the election, Marshall served as Special Assistant to the First Lady, traveling extensively and coordinating her agenda, meetings and public appearances. She was also quite close to Chelsea Clinton, becoming a sort of confidante for the teenager. In October 1997, at the age of 32, Marshall was chosen to be Deputy Assistant to the President and Social Secretary to the White House, becoming the youngest Social Secretary in recent history.  Marshall’s official responsibilities included the planning and execution of all White House international and domestic events.  
 
In 2000, as the Clinton Administration wound down, Marshall worked on Hillary Rodham Clinton’s successful New York Senate campaign, although in its aftermath her name figured in charges of campaign finance violations brought before the Federal Election Commission. In 2005, those charges resulted in a criminal trial for Clinton supporter David Rosen, at which Marshall testified. Rosen was acquitted
 
In 2001, Marshall began working as a consultant to a number of nonprofit and private sector organizations, including two left-leaning media projects.  In 2004, Marshall organized a Washington, DC, screening of director Michael Moore’s documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, and in 2005 she consulted on the short-lived ABC drama series “Commander in Chief,” which starred Geena Davis as the first female President. In 2006, Marshall signed on to be finance director for Clinton’s re-election committee, Friends of Hillary (FOH), and raised money for Clinton’s HiLLPAC.  In 2007, Marshall joined Clinton’s presidential campaign as a senior advisor, leading the Surrogate Speakers Program and helping to coordinate women’s outreach. In 2008, in the wake of Clinton’s loss of the primary race to Barack Obama, Marshall became Executive Director of HiLLPAC and Friends of Hillary and oversaw the closure of both committees.
 
Marshall is married to Dr. Robert Marshall, a cardiologist. The couple has one son.
 
A Marshall Plan for Protocol Chief (by Roxanne Roberts and Amy Argetsinger, Washington Post)
Marshall Plan (by Rose Billings, Human Events)
more
Bookmark and Share
Overview:

The Office of the Chief of Protocol, a division of the Department of State, primarily advises and assists the president, vice president and secretary of state on matters of diplomatic protocol, or etiquette. The office arranges detailed itineraries for foreign dignitaries visiting the United States, and accompanies the president on official travels abroad. It also plans and executes diplomatic ceremonies and dinners, oversees the accreditation of foreign ambassadors and manages the Blair House, which is the president’s guest residence for visiting foreign leaders.

 
more
History:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The concept of diplomatic protocol is steeped in history, dating back to the first recorded exchange of foreign envoys initiated by the Babylonians. Today, almost every country has a counterpart to the U.S. chief of protocol.

 
Like everyday manners, many aspects of diplomatic protocol are unwritten. Guidelines are rooted in the concept of civility, which helps states to agreeably interact with each other. Hierarchy is also an important factor. For example, protocol dictates that officials gathered for a dinner be seated according to their rank.
 
Diplomatic etiquette has changed with time—especially in the 20th century, when it was injected with a degree of informality. It should also be noted that each U.S. presidential administration brings with it a different take on certain aspects of protocol. For example, President George H. W. Bush followed credentialing ceremonies with a meeting among the newly invested ambassadors, his national security advisers and himself. Meanwhile, first lady Barbara Bush offered cookies to spouses and their children while an orchestra played. The Clintons, on the other hand, simplified the ceremonies, cutting out the first lady entirely and dropping the orchestra.
 
In this country, the U.S. State Department initially appointed a protocol official in 1916, with the protocol office established 12 years later. The chief of protocol assumed the title of ambassador in 1961, requiring Senate confirmation of any presidential nominee to fill the position from then on.
 
The following are some recent examples of diplomatic protocol in action:
 
 
A Few Recent Notable Breaches of Protocol
 
For more information, see:
Developments in Protocol ( by Erik Goldstein, University of Birmingham)

Diplomatic Protocol

(eDiplomat)

 

more
What it Does:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A chief of protocol must pay careful attention to detail and be well-versed in cultural differences to ensure diplomatic events proceed smoothly. For example, he or she must, when planning a state dinner, be aware of officials’ ranks when making seating assignments, must choose entertainment that doesn’t offend foreign sensibilities and must even choose a culturally appropriate color for flowers, among other responsibilities. Pamela Ahearn, who served as chief of protocol during the Reagan administration, was also scrupulous about checking the dietary requirements of visiting heads of state and government.

 
The slightest mistake in protocol can be embarrassing at best and headline-making at worst. Former protocol chief Joseph Verner Reed told the Washington Post about how he once went to greet the ambassador of Gabon, a former French colony, at the White House. He was surprised when the man he had been talking to in French told him in British English that he was in fact the ambassador from Tanzania.
 
The Office of the Chief of Protocol contains five divisions designed to aid the chief with his or her duties:
  • The Blair House division maintains 1651 Pennsylvania Ave., or the president’s guesthouse for visiting heads of state and government. The federal government purchased the house during World War II, and it underwent substantial renovations in the 1980s. Blair House has hosted guests an average of 24 times each annually and served as the venue for 30 events over the past few years.
  • According to the OCP Web site, the Ceremonials division “organizes ceremonial and official functions hosted by the vice president, secretary of state and other high-ranking United States government officials” and also maintains the U.S. order of precedence, answers questions on diplomatic etiquette and helps send out presidential holiday greeting cards. The gifts officer, who is responsible for suggesting, purchasing and delivering official gifts for the president, vice president and secretary of state, is a part of this division.
  • Generally speaking, the Diplomatic Affairs division handles all issues having to do with foreign diplomatic missions in the United States. This includes the accreditation of foreign ambassadors and other diplomatic officers who have been assigned to this country and the registration of non-diplomats who are working in the United States as employees of their government. The division, which publishes the Diplomatic List, is led by the assistant chief of protocol for diplomatic affairs.
  • The Management division is the administrative unit of the Office of the Chief of Protocol. It oversees human resources, finances, information technology, security and the Blair House division. It also helps coordinate the other divisions when planning for ceremonies.
  • The Visits division is responsible for devising and executing detailed itineraries when high-ranking foreign officials visit the United States. The division also facilitates foreign press and handles the logistics when U.S. presidential delegations travel abroad.
 
For more information, see:
Visits and Ceremonials (during the George W. Bush administration)

Fact Sheet: The State Visit in Honor of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness The Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh

(a press release from the White House Web site)

 

more
Former Directors:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Child star Shirley Temple Black served as chief of protocol from July 1, 1976, to Jan. 21, 1977.

 
Bush’s chief of protocol [Donald Ensenat] bows out (by Bill Walshes, New Orleans Times-Picayune)

 

more

Comments

TL Bartel 2 years ago
in writing the president what is the proper greeting? dear mr. president? dear president obama? something else?
Bryan kobylik 3 years ago
what was the answer to the comment below? rae williams - 1/13/2011 9:37:39 am when the president bestows a medal of honor on a deserving person, in the presence of congress members, the honoree and family what is the protocol for seating of all of the above?
Rae Williams 3 years ago
When the President bestows a medal of honor on a deserving person, in the presence of congress members, the honoree and family what is the protocol for seating of all of the above?
Harry Costello 3 years ago
Did someone from the Office of Protocol tell the President that it is his Honor and duty to be the first one to render a hand salute to a recipient of the Medal of Honor. The look on sargent Giuntas face was one of surprise and then embarrassment when expecting a salute the President hugged him. I see this as a show of disrespect to the recipient and the military as a whole. Nice Job.
Michael James 4 years ago
Love the way the RepubliCons and the Christian Right [which is neither] for bowing to the Saudi King and continue to whine about Obama's protocol. Perhaps he should hold the King's hand and give him a big kiss on the lips like George W. Bush did on his visits? What a bunch of pathetic hypocrites.
Mark Pasewark 5 years ago
Where may I find the official lists of dos and don'ts for greetings between president and foreign heads of government?
Dennis Osha 5 years ago
Hi, I'm trying to determine (as are a lot of other people apparently!) if there is any written protocol regarding the President greeting other heads of state. Could you provide/guide me to that information? Regards, Dennis Osha
mayo 5 years ago
What exactly IS the protocol for a President visiting foreigns leaders. Do they typically bow to them?
B A Ramsey 5 years ago
For heaven's sake. Teach Obama some protocol while we still have some friends left. His cheap gift to the PM of Britain is unforgiveable. He needs to learn how to behave like a president and his calling the press corps "guys" all the time is just plain ignorant. Deference to not arrogance, please!

Leave a comment

captcha

Founded: 1928
Annual Budget: $8.6 million
Employees: 64
Official Website: http://www.state.gov/s/cpr/
Office of the Chief of Protocol
Selfridge, Peter
Chief

Peter A. (Pete) Selfridge was nominated by President Barack Obama on December 13, 2013 to be the U.S. Department of State’s Chief of Protocol with the rank of Ambassador during his tenure in the job. The duties of the chief of protocol include greeting heads of state and government leaders, assisting presidential delegations in their overseas travel and planning summits and other multilateral events.

 

Selfridge is a native of Minnetonka, Minnesota. He began his career in Washington in 1993, shortly after earning his B.A. from the University of Iowa. His first job in the capital was as a staff assistant to Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), remaining in that job two years. One of his tasks while working for Harkin was once dressing in surgical gauze to illustrate Medicare payment practices. Selfridge moved to the White House in July 1995 to become director of correspondence in the office of scheduling and advance.

 

In 1997, Selfridge left for New York City, where he was a senior policy adviser in the city’s Department of Citywide Administrative Services. He left in 2000 to work for the Gore-Lieberman presidential campaign. While on the campaign trail, Selfridge met Parita Shah, who would later become his wife.

 

Upon Gore’s loss of the election, Selfridge joined public relations firm Citigate Communications. He remained there until the start of the next presidential campaign, joining John Kerry’s campaign in August 2003 as the associate director of advance. During that campaign, he was reunited with Shah and the two began dating. They were married in 2007.

 

After Kerry also lost, Selfridge returned to the private sector, joining Rendezvous Consulting as communications director. In November 2007, he went to work for the William J. Clinton Foundation as its city director in Los Angeles.

 

Selfridge’s next stop was the Obama for America campaign in August 2008 as deputy director of advance. After President Obama’s inauguration, Selfridge was named Vice President Joe Biden’s director of advance.  In 2011, Selfridge was named special assistant to the President and deputy director of advance and later that year was named deputy assistant to the president and director of advance and operations at the White House.

 

While at the White House, Selfridge has become one of President Obama’s regular golf partners. In addition to his bachelor’s degree, Selfridge has a Master’s in International Public Policy from Johns Hopkins University. His wife was formerly a deputy director of public affairs in the Commerce Department, but now works for a public relations/lobbying firm.

-Steve Straehley

 

To Learn More:

Written Statement of Peter A. Selfridge Confirmation Hearing for Chief of Protocol of the United States (pdf)

Officially In: Peter A. Selfridge—From WH to State Dept’s Chief of Protocol (by Domani Spero, DiploPundit)

A Dream Realized (by Laurie Moore, University of Southern California)

more
Marshall, Capricia
Previous Chief

President Obama nominated a longtime protégée of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Capricia Penavic Marshall, to be Chief of Protocol, a State Department position holding ambassadorial rank. Although the chief of protocol customarily travels with either the Secretary of State or the President, that will not be the case in this administration. Probably in recognition of her close relationship with Secretary Clinton, Marshall will travel with her but not with the President; instead the White House will create a new position for someone to travel with him and direct protocol matters.

 
 Like several other Obama appointees, Marshall ran into tax problems. She and her husband did not file returns for the years 2005 and 2006. However, Marshall’s case differed from those of such notables as Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and almost Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Daschle because when she did send in her returns she claimed she was entitled to a refund of more than $37,000.
 
Marshall’s father was born in Croatia and her mother in Mexico. Marshall herself was born circa 1964 in Cleveland, Ohio, and lived with her Mexican grandmother in a racially mixed neighborhood nicknamed “United Nations.”. She earned a B.A. in Political Science and International Studies from Purdue University in 1986 and a law degree from Case Western Reserve University School of Law in 1990. 
 
In 1992, Marshall joined Governor Bill Clinton’s Presidential campaign as special assistant to Hillary Rodham Clinton.  When Clinton won the election, Marshall served as Special Assistant to the First Lady, traveling extensively and coordinating her agenda, meetings and public appearances. She was also quite close to Chelsea Clinton, becoming a sort of confidante for the teenager. In October 1997, at the age of 32, Marshall was chosen to be Deputy Assistant to the President and Social Secretary to the White House, becoming the youngest Social Secretary in recent history.  Marshall’s official responsibilities included the planning and execution of all White House international and domestic events.  
 
In 2000, as the Clinton Administration wound down, Marshall worked on Hillary Rodham Clinton’s successful New York Senate campaign, although in its aftermath her name figured in charges of campaign finance violations brought before the Federal Election Commission. In 2005, those charges resulted in a criminal trial for Clinton supporter David Rosen, at which Marshall testified. Rosen was acquitted
 
In 2001, Marshall began working as a consultant to a number of nonprofit and private sector organizations, including two left-leaning media projects.  In 2004, Marshall organized a Washington, DC, screening of director Michael Moore’s documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, and in 2005 she consulted on the short-lived ABC drama series “Commander in Chief,” which starred Geena Davis as the first female President. In 2006, Marshall signed on to be finance director for Clinton’s re-election committee, Friends of Hillary (FOH), and raised money for Clinton’s HiLLPAC.  In 2007, Marshall joined Clinton’s presidential campaign as a senior advisor, leading the Surrogate Speakers Program and helping to coordinate women’s outreach. In 2008, in the wake of Clinton’s loss of the primary race to Barack Obama, Marshall became Executive Director of HiLLPAC and Friends of Hillary and oversaw the closure of both committees.
 
Marshall is married to Dr. Robert Marshall, a cardiologist. The couple has one son.
 
A Marshall Plan for Protocol Chief (by Roxanne Roberts and Amy Argetsinger, Washington Post)
Marshall Plan (by Rose Billings, Human Events)
more