When French President Emmanuel Macron visited Washington on April 23-25, an Elliott School alumnus played an important role in ensuring a successful and smooth State Visit, the first of the Trump Administration. David Solomon, BA ’08, is a Senior Visits Officer in the Office of the Chief of Protocol at the U.S. Department of State. For this visit, David was the Lead Protocol Officer and served as the main point of contact between The White House and Élysée Palace for all logistical details concerning the trip. We recently caught up with David to learn more about where his career has taken him in the ten years since he graduated from the Elliott School.
Briefly describe your career since graduating from the Elliott School.
I began working as an intern in the Office of the Chief of Protocol during my junior year at the Elliott School. After my internship concluded, I maintained contact with former colleagues and applied for a position after graduation when it became available. I initially served as a Protocol Gift Officer from 2009-12, handling all diplomatic gifts for the President, First Lady, Vice President and Secretary of State before transitioning to the Visits Division where I have been in a civil service position for the past seven years. I’ve had the pleasure to serve in the State Department under three Presidential Administrations and five Secretaries of State.
You just led the State Visit of His Excellency Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic, and Mrs. Macron to the United States. What was your specific role? What was the most interesting aspect for you?
A State Visit is the highest honor that our nation can bestow on a foreign leader and often only a handful of individuals will receive this invitation during the course of a U.S. Presidential Administration. For the recent France State Visit, I was the Lead Protocol Officer and served as the main point of contact between the White House and Élysée Palace for all logistical details of the three-day visit. In addition to dozens of offices within the White House, there are several other government offices and agencies involved with such a high-level event, and it takes careful coordination to bring everyone together. As the primary liaison for the visiting delegation, I played a behind-the-scenes role of maintaining the master schedule, negotiating all logistical concerns between the White House and Élysée Palace and remained with the French delegation during their visit to Washington, D.C. to facilitate the State Visit from start to finish.
For me, this was especially significant as this was the second State Visit of the French Republic to the U.S. for which I have had the opportunity to serve in this capacity. I had established relationships with Élysée Palace from the previous State Visit of President Francois Hollande in 2014 and it was a pleasure to work with the French Republic again for such an important visit. In diplomacy, the development of relationships is especially important and I know that the success of the recent France State Visit to Washington will have a direct impact on the next visit of a U.S. delegation to Paris.
You have traveled to over 60 countries for your job. Which trips have been the most memorable and why?
As a native South Floridian, being a part of the planning team for the President and Mrs. Obama’s historic 2016 State Visit to Cuba was by far a highlight. I coordinated the delegation of 40 Members of Congress invited by the President to join him in Havana. This particular trip was quite challenging due to a lack of resources available in-country and working with a new foreign government for the first time under such a high-profile occasion. However, with excellent coordination by the new U.S. Embassy in Havana and the White House, the outcome was a great success.
Another first was the 2014 Presidential trip to Burma (Republic of the Union of Myanmar). I served as the White House site officer for the President’s meeting with now-State Councilor Aung San Suu Kyi at her private home in Rangoon. It was the first direct dialogue between the two leaders and the first-ever visit of any sitting U.S. President to this Southeast Asian nation.
In February of this year, I also coordinated the Presidential Delegation led by the Vice President and Mrs. Pence to the Opening Ceremonies of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeong Chang, Korea. It was powerful to be part of an event of such global significance where you are not only representing the U.S. government, but also the spirit of the American people on the world stage.
What drew you to the Elliott School?
I knew early on in high school that I wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy. I also understood that the best way to do this would be through first-hand experience in my intended field, so given its reputation, prestige, and location, the Elliott School was a perfect fit for me. The George Washington University is the reason I am where I am today.
What would you say to current Elliott School students who want to make a positive difference in the world?
Take action. You have to find ways to put your good ideas and resources to use. The Elliott School will provide you with an excellent education to prepare you for whatever field you choose but it is up to you to combine your educational foundation with your personal drive to achieve your goals. When you find something you are passionate about, maintain a strong alumni network, take advantage of all available items in your toolbox and combine that with your experience as a student in D.C., you can put yourself in a position to be the most effective agent of change in whatever field you choose.