EIt was Michelle Obama who finally at least hinted at what was already hovering over the White House event. By then, the portraits of the former First Lady and 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, had already been unveiled in the East Room. “Traditions like this are important,” said Michelle Obama. Not only for those in politics, but also for all those who are part of democracy. They made their voice heard through elections. “We are holding an inauguration to ensure a peaceful transfer of power,” she continued. Those who were elected worked as hard as they could and as long as they could. “As long as people want to keep us here.”
For the former first lady, Wednesday was the first visit to the White House since moving out in January 2017. During his tenure, Donald Trump broke with the tradition of inviting his predecessor and his wife to the ceremony for the unveiling of the portraits as incumbent president . It was ten years ago that Barack Obama received George W. Bush and his wife Laura in the White House for this purpose, regardless of all political differences.
Biden expresses solidarity
“It’s great to be back,” Obama said Wednesday as he took the podium to loud applause, speaking a lighter tone than his wife. When you’re looking for a friend in Washington, he joked, people tell you to get a dog. “We have two great dogs.” But in Joe Biden he found someone who had become a “real partner and friend”. Obama and Biden combine eight years as President and Vice President.
The incumbent President had previously rolled out the red carpet for his predecessor: He knows few people with more integrity, decency and civil courage than Obama. Nothing could have better prepared him to be president – “and I say that from the bottom of my heart”. Over the years we have grown together as a family, with all the ups and downs, “of different origins, but with the same values”. He and the entire staff trusted Obama, believed in him, counted on him “and I still do to this day,” Biden said.
The eagerly awaited portrait of Barack Obama is kept relatively simple, in the classic style of the American artist Robert McCurdy, who was born in 1952. He is known for his photorealistic oil paintings of contemporary figures such as Nelson Mandela, Neil Armstrong and the Dalai Lama. Obama stands in the center of the picture in a black suit with a gray tie against a white background. The portrait of Michelle Obama was created by Brooklyn artist Sharon Sprung, who was born in 1953. It shows the former First Lady in a light blue dress sitting on a red sofa. After the reveal, Barack Obama said, “Jump hit everything he loves about his wife, her grace, her intelligence.”
McCrudy casually thanked Obama for taking on “a much bigger challenge” with him. He paints every wrinkle on the face or shirt. “You’ll find that he refused to hide my gray hair or make my ears smaller.” While previous presidents are often mystified, he hopes future generations will look at the portraits of him and Michelle and “get a better, honest one.” get a sense of who they were. Obama previously said, “Even though it takes a certain confidence to be president, there are nights when you lie awake wondering if that one decision was the right one.”
Michelle Obama said in her speech that she “never imagined” that she would one day be First Lady. Too often in America there is the impression that you have to have a certain look, a certain demeanor, in order to fit in. “But what we see today is the portrait of a child born to two parents with an unusual name, and that of a daughter of a water pump operator and a housewife. What we are seeing is a reminder that there is a place for everyone in this country.” Biden said at the beginning of the emotional and relaxed event that hope is the gift that the Obamas have given the country with their term in office had.
The White House Historical Society has organized the paintings since 1965. Usually, the presidents and their wives choose an artist before the transfer of office and approve the pictures before publication. Biden’s spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre also referred to the question from a journalist the day before the unveiling. Would Biden also hold such a ceremony for Trump, should his portrait be completed before the end of his term in office? According to Jean-Pierre, this decision rests with the Historical Society.