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Protocol: The Power of Diplomacy and How to Make it Work for You.

History often appears to consist of big gestures and dramatic shifts. But for every peace treaty signed, someone set the stage, using hidden influence to affect the outcome. In her roles as chief of protocol for President Barack Obama and social secretary to President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton, Capricia Penavic Marshall not only bore witness to history, she facilitated it. From arranging a room to have an intended impact on the participants to knowing which cultural gestures earned trust, her behind-the-scenes preparations laid the groundwork for successful diplomacy between heads of state around the world and tilted the playing field in her team’s favor.


If there’s one thing that working at the highest levels of government for over two decades has taught Marshall, it’s that there is power in detail and nuance—the micro-moves that affect the macro-shifts. When seemingly minor aspects of an engagement go missing or awry—a botched greeting or even a poorly chosen menu—it alters the emotions and tenor of an exchange, setting up obstacles rather than paving a way forward. In some cases, an oversight may put the entire endeavor in jeopardy. Sharing unvarnished anecdotes from her time in office—harrowing near misses, exhilarating triumphs, heartwarming personal stories—Marshall brings us a master class in soft power, unveiling the complexity of human interactions and making the case that etiquette, cultural IQ, and a flexible mindset matter now more than ever. When the notion of basic civility seems to be endangered, Protocol reminds us how critical these principles are while providing an accessible guide for anyone who wants to be empowered by the tools of diplomacy in work and everyday life.




Capricia Penavic Marshall serves as Ambassador-in-Residence at the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC. She is President of Global Engagement Strategies, which advises international public and private clients on issues relating to the nexus of business and cultural diplomacy. She travels across the country speaking to organizations and corporations about her experiences, lessons she has learned throughout her career in public service, and how best to integrate cultural diplomacy into business.

From 2009 to 2013, she was Chief of Protocol of the United States, bearing the rank of Ambassador and setting the stage for diplomacy at the highest levels. In this capacity, she worked to leverage U.S. relationships with foreign governments developing strategies to transform global engagement. Ms. Marshall oversaw six State and Official Visits, countless Working Visits, the G20, Nuclear Security, APEC, G8, NATO and Sunnylands Summits, and the protocol arrangements during travel with the President and Secretaries of State to forty-two countries. Moving beyond traditional methods of engagement, Ms. Marshall fostered international goodwill through a new division in the protocol office, Diplomatic Partnerships. With creative programming under this division she created sustained, mutually beneficial partnerships between the foreign Diplomatic Corps and business, government and community leaders across America.

From 1997 to 2001, Ms. Marshall served as Deputy Assistant to the President and White House Social Secretary. From 1993 to 1997, she was Special Assistant to the First Lady of the United States, Hillary Rodham Clinton. In addition to her Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Purdue University, Ms. Marshall holds a Juris Doctor from Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

Ms. Marshall is a first-generation American of Croatian and Mexican descent. She has been named to ELLE magazine’s annual “Washington Power List”, as one of DC’s most influential women.

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Dynamics of the Xi-Obama Relationship

Capricia Marshall speaks to CCTV about the importance of both formal and informal diplomacy in US-China relations. read more

Marion Star|7/18/2015

Marshall speaks at 2015 Warren G. Harding Symposium

Capricia Marshall delivers the keynote address about the evolving role of the First Lady of the United States. read more

New York Times|1/25/2015

What to Wear? First Ladies Are Steeped in Protocol

Capricia Marshall discusses the importance that every First Lady pays to diplomatic protocol during her time in the White House. read more


The Job That Keeps America Hospitable

Capricia Marshall discusses the role of the Chief of Protocol in U.S. diplomacy at home and abroad. read more



To contact Capricia Marshall, please use one of the methods below.