I was getting ready for another road trip when the phone rang. It was Martin Mangiello who, with his wife Stormy, owns The Patriot’s Inn B&B in Grover, N.C. To say that Marti is an interesting fellow would be an understatement. He is a U.S. Navy veteran who worked his way up the military culinary food chain to serve as the Executive Chef at Camp David during the Clinton administration. He also worked at the White House for official state dinners.
Marti loves history, and he has told me many interesting historical facts about various aspects of the American Revolutionary War and the Battle of Kings Mountain, which took place within five miles of his inn.
Marti asked if I would be available the following day. He said that Dr. David Priess was visiting, and he thought that I would enjoy meeting him. Priess is the author of a new book, The President’s Book of Secrets.
While I already had plans the following evening, I asked Marti to tell me more. I was intrigued, and I told him I would try to change my schedule. I made the necessary calls, and my new plans were set. I called Marti back to confirm, and he asked that I arrive just before 5 p.m. the following day, as he would have dinner at the chef's table set. At 7 p.m., there was to be an intimate gathering of 12 in the parlor to listen to David talk about his book.
In preparation for meeting Priess, I watched a video of him at the Roosevelt Library. In doing so my interest level increased. It was clear that his service with the CIA during the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, combined with the fact that he had become a highly respected and honored intelligence officer and a daily intelligence briefer, qualified him to speak with authority.
Priess and I sat at the chef's table with Marti at the end, serving handmade Fettuccini with Ricotta and Goat Cheese tossed in southern Italian lemon juice and Extra Virgin Olive Oil We had six Italian cheese garlic bread, Persian Lime Olive Oil with a splash of Blood Orange Balsamic over greens, roasted garlic, capers, Jerusalem artichokes and Ciliegine Mozzarella.
As we enjoyed the perfectly prepared meal, I asked Priess about his background and what had inspired him to pursue a career with the CIA. He said it just happened, in that it was not the family business or anything like that. He loved learning, he was no stranger to the library, and he was an avid reader on just about everything. He spent five years in North Carolina; he earned his PhD in political science at Duke University.
It was at Duke that Priess caught the eye of the Central Intelligence Agency, and not long afterwards he found himself working for the CIA in Washington D.C. It was there that he began his journey that would eventually put him in the position of working on the top-secret document known as the PDB, the “President's Daily Brief,” or simply referred to as “the Book” by those in national security.
Priess said this report shows the President what he needs to know. The President chooses who else should have this information. During the George W. Bush administration Priess was a briefer for the Attorney General and the Director of the FBI.
Priess said the most rewarding part of working on his book was that he had access to all the living US Presidents and Vice-presidents. The contribution from these men brought life to this project. Their real stories and feelings about the PDB made all the difference.
Priess’s stories are fascinating and entertaining. President George H. W. Bush contributed the Forward to his book. President Bush wrote, "Some of those who dedicated so much energy and time to this unique daily publication will finally, with this book, get a touch of the recognition they justly deserve. Many more must remain nameless. All of them have my respect and appreciation."
I enjoyed my dinner visit with Priess. After dinner I had the opportunity to see more of who he is. As guests were arriving I noticed that he was taking time with everyone who approached him.
And then Marti's 5-year-old daughter came in to say hello. His smile became brighter. You know, the way a father smiles when he comes home and sees his daughter running toward him. I then knew that he loved his family.
After the highly informative and entertaining talk I noticed that in the midst of everyone, he kneeled down to talk with a lady who was sitting. I then realized that he respects and cares for people, even those he has just met and knows very little about.
This part is no secret: By accepting a gracious invitation I learned a lot about a part of American history that continues to evolve every day. I enjoyed a skillfully prepared meal that would please world leaders, and the garlic bread reminded me of the kind that my mother made.
It was a good night for story tellers and a few secrets.