Barack and Michelle Obama returned to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on Wednesday for the unveiling of their official White House portraits.
“Barack and Michelle, welcome home,” President Joe Biden told the former first couple in the East Room where members of Congress, former Obama-era staffers, and other high-profile attendees gathered to celebrate the long-awaited unveiling. The crowd could be heard audibly gasping when the paintings were finally revealed.
“Nothing could’ve prepared me more for being president than being at your side for eight years,” Biden continued. “Being elected twice, you’ll be known as one of the most consequential presidents in history, with one of the most consequential first ladies.” The president also highlighted the creation of the Affordable Care Act and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals while speaking endearingly of their famous friendship.
“This is a gift to the Obama presidency and to their legacy. You were always there for me. I remember you were there with me when my son passed. I’ll always appreciate that eulogy.”
The paintings were created by Robert McCurdy and Sharon Sprung. Keeping with tradition, the Obamas handpicked the artists.
Today’s unveiling marks the first time the White House resumed the tradition since 2012. Started by Jimmy Carter in 1978, the unveiling typically sees presidents hosting the ceremony for their immediate predecessor, regardless of party. But Donald Trump, a man who’s never been shy about breaking political customs, refused to host it.
In their remarks, the Obamas thanked both artists and reflected on what they hoped these portraits would mean for future generations.
“Presidents so often get airbrushed. They even take on mythical status, especially after you’re gone and people forget all the stuff they didn’t like about you,” said Obama. “But what you realize as you’re sitting behind that desk, is that what I want people to remember about Michelle and me is that presidents are human beings just like everyone else.”