The Obamas unveil their White House portraits

Former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama returned to the White House on Wednesday to unveil their official portraits.

Video Transcript


- Here we go.


BARACK OBAMA: His work is so precise that at first glance, it looks like a photograph. And Robert also paints his subjects looking straight ahead, so it feels like you're face-to-face, forming a connection. And that appealed to me, in part because presidents so often get airbrushed. They even take on a mythical status, especially after you've gone, and people forget all the stuff they didn't like about you.


But what you realize when you're sitting behind that desk-- and what I want people to remember about Michelle and me-- is that presidents and first ladies are human beings, like everyone else. We have our gifts. We have our flaws. You've all experienced mine. We have good days and bad days.

We feel the same joy and sadness, frustration and hope. And while it takes a certain amount of self-confidence to be President, there are nights where we lie awake, wondering if this or that decision was the right one. I've 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, each of us tasked with trying to bring the country we love closer to its highest aspirations. And when future generations walk these halls and look up at these portraits, I hope they get a better, honest sense of who Michelle and I were. And I hope they leave with a deeper understanding that if we could make it here, maybe they can too. They can do remarkable things too.