Former president Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama were back at the White House on Wednesday for the unveiling of their official portraits. And while Barack is well known for his compelling presidential speeches, it was Michelle who brought the crowd to tears.
Standing in front of her portrait — which shows her seated, wearing a blue dress with an arm resting on a red settee — the former first lady said it was “still a bit odd for me to stand in this historic space, see this big beautiful painting staring back at me.”
“Growing up on Euclid Avenue…I never could have imagined that any of this would be part of my story,” Michelle Obama told the East Wing crowd at the unveiling event hosted by President Joe Biden. “Even if it’s all still a bit awkward for me, I do recognize why moments like these are important, why all of this is absolutely necessary. Traditions like this matter, not just for those of us who hold these positions, but for everyone participating in and watching our democracy.”
She added: “You see the people, they make their voices heard with their vote. We hold an inauguration to ensure a peaceful transition of power. Those of us lucky enough to serve, work, as Barack said, as hard as we can for as long as we can – as long as the people choose 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.”
The former first lady noted that the White House portraits continue to connect the country’s history to the present day “as history continues to be made.”
“So for me, this day is not just about what has happened,” she said. “It’s also about what could happen because a girl like me, she was never supposed to be up there next to Jacqueline Kennedy and Dolley Madison. She was never supposed to live in this house, and she definitely wasn’t supposed to serve as first lady.”
Barack Obama’s image was painted by Robert McCurdy and Michelle Obama’s portrait was painted by Sharon Sprung.