Former President Barack Obama announced a family reunion at the White House on Wednesday, September 7, during a ceremony in the East Room where official portraits of him and former First Lady Michelle Obama were unveiled.
“It’s great to be back,” Obama said at the ceremony, which was attended by several officials and staff members of his administration.
Official White House portraits of former presidents and first ladies are usually unveiled by their successors. However, former President Donald Trump spent much of his presidency trying to erase Obama’s legacy and never held the traditional ceremony.
“Welcome home,” President Joe Biden told Obama.
Biden, of course, served as Obama’s vice president for two terms starting in 2008.
“Believe it or not, it’s still a little strange for me to stand in this historic space and see this big, beautiful painting looking back at me,” Michelle Obama said of the portraits.
Sharon Sprung painted the portrait of the former first lady and Robert McCurdy painted the former president.
“Growing up on Euclid Avenue, I never would have thought that any of this would become a part of my story, but even if it’s all a little embarrassing for me, I understand why moments like this are important, why it’s all absolutely necessary.” , Obama insisted.
“Such traditions are important not only to those of us who hold these positions, but to everyone who participates in and observes our democracy.”
“You see people; they make their voice heard with their voice. We are holding an inauguration to ensure a peaceful transition of power. Those of us who are lucky enough to serve work, as Barack said, as hard as we can, as long as we can, as long as people want 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 with today. Portraits that hang here as history continues to be made. Therefore, for me, this day is not only what happened. It’s also about what could happen because a girl like me should never have been around Jacqueline Kennedy and Dolly Madison.
“She should never have lived in this house, and she certainly shouldn’t have been the first lady.”
Barack Obama talked about the people he and Biden worked with and fondly recalled his time in the White House.
“When people ask me what I miss most about my years in the White House, I don’t say Air Force One, although I do miss Air Force One,” Obama reflected.
“It’s a chance I’ve had to stand shoulder to shoulder with all of you, to be able to watch so many talented, dedicated, idealistic, kind people working tirelessly every day to make the world a better place.”
The former president continued:
“And for eight years, and for some of you even longer, I have tapped into your energy, your dedication, and your kindness. You inspired me and I never wanted to disappoint you.
“And I tried to reflect that same heart and character that you displayed every day. Even in the hardest times, you all supported me. So it’s nice to be back, to be able to see you all and to say thank you again.”