Former US president Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will finally be honoured Wednesday with the official unveiling of their portraits in the White House, resuming a tradition that fell by the wayside under Donald Trump.
Biden, who served as vice president throughout Obama’s two terms, is “looking forward to welcoming back President Obama and Michelle Obama,” Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.
“Over the course of their eight years together in the office, a close partnership between the two men grew through the highs and lows of the job and life — and of life.”
Past presidents and first ladies have typically had their portraits hung in the halls and corridors of the White House after ceremonies hosted by successors. Democrat Obama, for example, hosted George W. Bush, a Republican, and his wife Laura Bush at portrait unveilings in 2012.
However, Trump declined to invite the Obamas — amid undisguised contempt between both leaders in the wake of the Republican’s shock 2016 election win — and the tradition ground to a halt.
The norm-shredding Republican even reportedly ordered portraits of Bush and his predecessor Bill Clinton to be taken down from the walls of the White House’s Grand Foyer and put in storage. However, a portrait of Hillary Clinton, the former first lady whom Trump had defeated in the presidential campaign, remained visible in a lower corridor through his tempestuous one term.
Obama’s latest return to the White House comes five months after a high-profile homecoming for a public event on health care spending.
The Obamas’ paintings remained strictly under wraps until the last moment, but there were expectations that the trend-setting ex-first couple would choose a style somewhat different to the often straightforward portraits of the past.
As for Trump, the Biden administration says it has no direct say on whether or when his own portrait could be hung up. It is not clear whether the ex-president, now in deep legal peril after the discovery of top secret documents taken from the White House to his Florida golf club, has even commissioned an official painting.