Former President Barack Obama declared a family reunion at the White House on Wednesday, Sept. 7, as official portraits of him and former First Lady Michelle Obama were unveiled during a ceremony in the East Room.
“It’s great to be back,” Obama declared in a ceremony that included several officials and staffers from his administration.
Former presidents and first ladies usually have their official White House portraits unveiled by their successors. However, former President Donald Trump spent much of his presidency attempting to erase Obama’s legacy and never held the traditional ceremony.
“Welcome home,” President Joe Biden declared to the Obamas.
Biden, of course, served as Obama’s vice president for two terms beginning in 2008.
“Believe it or not, it is still a bit odd for me to stand in this historic space, see this big, beautiful painting staring back at me,” Michelle Obama remarked about the portraits.
The former first lady’s portrait was painted by Sharon Sprung, while Robert McCurdy painted the former president.
“Growing up on Euclid Avenue, I never could have imagined that any of this would be part of my story, but even if it’s all still a bit awkward for me, I do recognize why moments like these are important, why all of this is absolutely necessary,” Obama insisted.
“Traditions like this matter, not just for those of us who hold these positions but for everyone participating in and watching our democracy.”
“You see the people; they make their voices heard with their vote. We hold an inauguration to ensure a peaceful transition of power. Those of us lucky enough to serve work, as Barack said, as hard as we can for as long as we can, as long as the people choose to keep us here. And once our time is up, we move on, and all that remains in this hallowed place are our good efforts and these portraits.
“Portraits that connect our history to the present day. Portraits that hang here as history continues to be made. So, for me, this day is not just about what has happened. It’s also about what could happen because a girl like me, she was never supposed to be up there next to Jacqueline Kennedy and Dolley Madison.
“She was never supposed to live in this house, and she definitely wasn’t supposed to serve as first lady.”
Barack Obama spoke of the people he and Biden had worked with and fondly recalled his time in the White House.
“When people ask me what I miss most about the White House years, it is not Air Force One that I talk about, although I miss Air Force One,” Obama reflected.
“It’s the chance that I had to stand shoulder to shoulder with all of you, to have a chance to witness so many talented, selfless, idealistic, good people working tirelessly every day to make the world better.”
The former president continued:
“And for eight years and even longer for some of you, I drew on your energy and your dedication and your goodness. You inspired me, and I never wanted to disappoint you.
“And I tried to reflect the same heart and character that you displayed every day. Even during the toughest times, it was all of you that kept me going. So, it’s good to be back to have a chance to see all of you and to once again say thank you.”