Sep 7, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Obamas return to White House for unveiling of official portraits

Former president Barack Obama and wife Michelle Obama stand by their official White House portraits after they were unveiled in the East Room
Former President Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama stand by their official White House portraits. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden on Wednesday praised former President Obama as one of the "most consequential presidents in our history" at a ceremony unveiling the former president's and former first lady's official White House portraits.

Why it matters: Wednesday's ceremony marks the Obamas' first visit as a couple to the White House since leaving office in 2017 — and brings back a bipartisan tradition that was last held in 2012.

Driving the news: "With Barack as our president, we got up every day and went to work full of hope, full of purpose and excited," Biden said, adding that "nothing could have prepared" him more than serving with Obama.

  • "We trusted him ... we believed in him, we counted on him, and I still do. I still do," Biden said.

What they're saying: Obama, speaking in the White House East Room, thanked Biden for being a "true partner and a true friend."

  • "You have guided us through some perilous times. You’ve built on and gone beyond the work we all did together," Obama said of Biden.
  • Reflecting on his time in office, Obama said that he's "always described the presidency as a relay race."
  • "You take the baton from someone, you run your leg as hard and as well as you can, and then you hand it off to someone else, knowing that your work will be incomplete."
  • "The portraits hanging in the White House chronicle the runners in that race," he continued. "Each of us tasked with trying to bring the country we love closer to its highest aspirations."
  • Obama thanked Sharon Sprung, who painted the portrait of Michelle Obama, "for capturing everything I love about Michelle: her grace, her intelligence and the fact that she’s fine."
  • He also thanked Robert McCurdy, who painted his portrait, for "taking on a much more difficult subject and doing a fantastic job with mine."

Michelle Obama thanked the staff who she said made the White House feel like home.

  • "As odd of a home as this can be, as wonderful as it can be, it is a special place because we raised our girls here and it means so much to come back to friends."
In photos:
 President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden along with former president Barack Obama and wife Michelle Obama
President Biden and first lady Jill Biden with former President Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images
Former U.S. President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama unveil their official White House portraits during a ceremony at the White House on September 7, 2022
The Obamas at the White House on Sept. 7. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images
President Barack Obama portrait.
Former President Obama participates in a ceremony to unveil his official White House portrait. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images
Former US First Lady Michelle Obama stands next to her newly unveiled official White House portrait.
Former first lady Michelle Obama stands next to her official White House portrait. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images
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