Friday, May 15, 2009

Rediscovering The White House in the Obama Era

School kids visit 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
As a kid the obligatory school visit to Washington DC was to tour everything big: US Capitol, Lincoln Memorial, and the big white house on Pennsylvania Avenue with not one plaid lawn chair out front. To enter the White House first through the East Lobby entrance - white - and into a wood paneled foyer. Lots of velvet ropes, informed tour guides with great anecdotes and then exit out the front door. Gift shop somewhere else. Nobody expects younger students to remember much, except certain rooms were named after colors as the tour guide explains historical bits about torcheres, presidential candelabras and first lady portraits.

In January 2009, it all changed as everyone is eager to know what is inside the House we mostly see from the facade and what or who do you need to know to get an invite into the hippest joint in America. The White House is the same color but taking on a 21st century luster as people want to get to know the house and the priceless artifacts placed throughout the building. Michelle Obama is exercising great control over one of the world's best living museums filled with ornate art and documents central to this nation's promise. Before abandoning the White House as it was about to be seized during supper, it was Dolley Madison in 1814 that took the famed Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington down to save it before the British ate her planned meal for 40 guests, then fricasseed it to the walls. Right: the Obamas things being delivered from a secured storage facility January 21, 2009
Sasha waves as she goes to the White House in the Inaugural Parade. 1/21/09
All five Obamas are in demand for social events with a waiting list. Mrs. Obama lady flipped her sleek wig early in the administration when she had her senior East Wing staff make it crystal clear in the frostiest tones that commercializing Sasha and Malia was absolutely guaranteed to put the company and by extension, its customers, in the deepest Antarctica freeze. The dolls went the way of the DoDo bird. Nobody who wanted to make a good impression on Mama or Papa Obama would be caught in open daylight with that particular stuffed contraband. Now, same company, Ty Inc., has taken the newest Obama's likeness and made it the hottest selling Beanie Baby "Bo" in two sizes, exactly one month after Bo came to live at 1600. Here are some renamed dolls that look suspiciously like the First Daughters. Bo books were fired up and ready to go as soon as the news leaked. (Photo courtesy USA Today)

President & a certain dog play on the South Lawn May 12, 2009 courtesy P. Souza
The flipside of the Obama phenomenon is the amount of vast sincere high interest there is in everything that happens at the White House starring the Obamas as the latest residents in the over 200 year old house. The White House itself is now an object of admiration and interest that knows no geographical or any other boundaries. Something wonderful happens to the house when it is full of young children. Malia and Sasha sleep in the East & West Bedrooms on the second floor of the residence that overlook the North Lawn and Lafayette Park, the very same as Caroline & John Kennedy Jr., which will be part of the future history books. The Obama girls have found the secret staircases, touched the desk where Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, done cartwheels down the Center Hall and bowled with a president and first lady in a grand house where there swing set/castle sits outside the most powerful office in the land. (Photo above left - Commerce Secretary Gary Locke's family in White House Dining Room 2009)

The White House at Christmas is a magical place that will mark their first holiday as the First family as a special one. It is also when a tremendous amount of invites, parties and events take place as the White House is set to its best advantage. The Obamas will find too few days with too many guests vying to land the world's most coveted invitations.
The Obama Family & Mrs. Robinson enjoy the spoken word Poetry event May 12, 2009.
Everyone wants to see the Obamas enjoying the house and to reassure themselves there is an abundance of happiness inside. The first outdoor pool party should be coming shortly before they join their dad in the flying White House - Air Force One as its wheels up for the summer. Luci Johnson collected dolls from around the world and the Obama girls have a chance for some international collections as well.
White House sign No Tours Beyond This Point, Just as well its the West Colonnade into Palm Room.
For compelling in-depth historical narratives of the White House, EWR compiled a list of great books & DVDs.


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