Protocol and Friendship

by José Lucena*

I would like to share with our readers an episode that I witnessed as a protocol official during an official ceremony.

My team and I were responsible for the protocol of a Military Band Official Concert in a local village. This concert took place in a local theatre facility. We sent the invitations to the guest list that had been previously approved, and the invitations were valid for two people. The guests, when confirming their attendance, should indicate if he or she will attend the concert alone or accompanied. Since it was an Official Concert in a local village we decide to seat military personnel mixed with the local authorities, respecting the Portuguese State Precedence List.

In the Theatre we decide to implement the following organisation to receive the guests and to seat them. One team stood in the main entrance to welcome the guests and guide them to the accreditation balcony; another team was in the accreditation balcony; and finally we had a mixed team with the Theatre ushers, since they knew the place better, to seat the guests. As I was responsible for these teams, I stood in the main entrance with a more flexible role to monitor all the teams, as we say, with the helicopter view of the mission.

Everything was going very smoothly, guests receiving their welcome greetings in the main entrance, guided to the accreditation balcony, where they were seated and received the programme, and finally the ushers completed the circuit making sure the guests sat in their proper place. Then I noticed my assistant in the Accreditation Balcony was talking to a lady who was speaking quite loud for the occasion. I approached and can testify to the following conversation.

– I am with my friend and I will enter with her together – said the Lady, who was the President of a Local Parish Board, in a very authoritative way.

– Madam, unfortunately your administrative services confirmed only your attendance at the concert – said my assistant.

– I will sit with my friend – said the Lady.

– Madam, your seat respects the protocol since you are the President of a Parish Board, so if you would like to stay together with your friend I have to seat you both in the general public seat zone – replied my assistant.

The Lady thought a little bit and then turned to her friend and said:

– You understand, my seat respects the Protocol.

So, the Lady President remained in her protocoled seat and her friend sat in a general seating zone for the public.

In this situation, Protocol spoke louder than friendship.

*About the author

José Lucena is a Portuguese Navy Officer, with the rank of Commander. His present post is Protocol Adviser to the Chief of General Staff of Portuguese Armed Forces. Since 2010 his tasks have been related to protocol, diplomacy (Defence Attachés) and Military Ceremonies.