My First Hour as President

Date: Wednesday, January 21, 2009 6:20 AM
Category: Allgov Blogs
After the Swearing-In Ceremony, I went straight to the Oval Office so that I could sign numerous Executive Orders that my staff had been preparing for weeks. But before I picked up my pen, I asked everyone to leave the room and to shut all the doors so that I could be alone for just five minutes.
 
As I looked around the room, I thought of my father. In September 1963, he too sat in this chair and surveyed the room. He was a writer researching a novel about the first Black president of the United States. With President John F. Kennedy’s permission, my father visited the Oval Office. He called the president’s chair “Everyman’s chair and no one’s throne.” He felt that it was “the seat of freedom to which all Americans elevate one of their own to represent them in their continuing yearning for peace, security, absolute individual liberty.”
 
The first Oval Office was created for President Taft exactly 100 years ago. It was damaged in a fire in 1929 and rebuilt by President Hoover. But it was President Franklin D. Roosevelt who worked with an architect, Eric Gugler, to redesign the Oval Office pretty much as it exists today.
 
The president’s desk has been around longer than the Oval Office itself. It was a gift from Queen Victoria to President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880 and it is known as the Resolute desk because it was built and carved from the timbers of the HMS Resolute, a British frigate that had been trapped in Arctic ice and abandoned in 1854. The following year, an American whaling ship found the Resolute and brought it back to Connecticut. The U.S. government bought the ship, refitted it and had it sailed back to England, where it was presented as a gift to Queen Victoria as a gesture of peace between the two nations which had been at war only 42 years earlier. When the Resolute was finally retired and broken up in 1879, Queen Victoria ordered that some of the ship’s timbers be made into a desk and presented to the president of the United States.
 
Not all presidents have used the Resolute desk, but as I touched it, I knew that the same spot had been touched by 22 presidents before me.
 
Each president refurnishes the Oval Office, changing paintings, changing colors, changing chairs. Actually, the First Lady and her office do most of the work, and I will be leaving it to my wife to make most of the choices. However, I am sure that I will be keeping the portraits of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, and President Truman’s sign that says, “The Buck Stops Here.”
 
There was a knock at the door: my five minutes of solitude were over. I closed my eyes. In a matter of seconds, my whole life flashed before me, and I was moved by the unexpected route that had taken me to this place and this moment. I knew that as soon as that door was open, I would be more than myself; I would be the representative of the more than 300 million living Americans and that I would carry with me the legacy of all who had lived and died since the United States was founded more than 230 years ago.
 
I took a deep, deep breath, exhaled, and called out, “Come in.”

Latest News

Director of the Office of Legacy Management: Who Is Carmelo Melendez?

Melendez has served as a civilian in the departments of Defense and State in civil engineering and property management roles. In the late 2000s, he worked in the Dept of Energy’s Office of Engineering and Construction Management. He left to become an assistant chief of staff in the Marine Corps Combat Development Command and director of Installations and Environment in the National Capital Region. Melendez was in charge of the facilities at Quantico Marine Base during a period of rapid growth.   read more

U.S. Ambassador to India: Who Is Kenneth Juster?

Juster served as U.S. chair of the U.S.-India High Technology Cooperation Group, and was instrumental in an initiative between the U.S. and India that led to a civil nuclear agreement between the nations. This helped make Juster perhaps more qualified for his post than most non-State Department ambassadorial appointees. He joined Trump's economic team early in the administration but fell out of favor in the spring of 2017 in the internecine battles in the executive branch.   read more

U.S. Ambassador to Germany: Who Is Richard Grenell?

Grenell was named in 2001 to be spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the UN, becoming the longest-serving person at the job. He next joined industry, first as a VP for DaVita Healthcare, then forming his own firm, Capitol Media Partners. In 2012, Grenell served as Mitt Romney’s foreign affairs spokesman, but was chased off the campaign by anti-gay attacks from the right. Since then, he has contributed to Fox News and other conservative outlets, where he often sniped at the Obama administration.   read more

U.S. Ambassador to Timor-Leste: Who Is Kathleen Fitzpatrick?

Fitzpatrick served as political counselor at the embassy in Madrid in 2003 and returned to the U.S. in 2007 as director of the Office of Southern European Affairs. She was named deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor in 2010 and in 2012 became chief of staff in the Office of the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights. In 2014, she was appointed principal deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research.   read more

Alabama Candidate Claimed Endorsement of Dead Person

In Alabama’s runoff election for the GOP nomination for a U.S. Senate seat, Luther Strange may have the crowning endorsement of President Trump, but Roy Moore seemed to have support from beyond the grave. On Monday night, Moore’s campaign deleted an endorsement on its website from conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, after it became apparent that Schlafly died last year at the age of 92. The two candidates have sought endorsements outside of Alabama to win over GOP voters.   read more
see more...