Life at the White House
Throughout President Obama’s eight years in office, the White House was both a place of business and a home — a home filled with celebrations, dinners, visitors from near and far, and the family dogs.
Letters to President Obama
When President Obama took office, he asked his staff to send him 10 letters from constituents to read every night. These letters—hand-picked from the thousands of emails and handwritten notes that the White House receives every day—represented the stories and concerns of Americans across the country. The President read a new batch of letters every night, and he often visited letter writers in their hometowns and spoke about how these messages have inspired him and his policies.
At Home in the White House
President Obama’s daughters, Malia and Sasha, called the White House Residence their home for eight years during his administration.
Shortly after taking office, President Obama adapted the White House tennis court to allow enough room for a full court game of basketball. The court has played host to a number of distinguished visitors, from college basketball championship teams to Wounded Warrior players.
There’s Always Time for Family Dinner
“When we’re in town here in Washington, in the evenings, 6:30 we want to be at the dinner table with our kids and I want to be helping with the homework.”
When they spent time in the dining room, the Obama family surrounded themselves with artwork and decor that reflected their modern sense of style. By selecting Alma Thomas’ 1966 painting “Resurrection,” the Obamas ensured that she became the first African-American woman artist to be a part of the White House permanent collection.
The Kitchen Garden
The Kitchen Garden was planted in the spring of 2009 by Mrs. Michelle Obama with the help of students from a local elementary school. The first kitchen garden on White House grounds since Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt’s Victory Garden during World War II inspired Mrs. Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative to raise a healthier generation of kids.
White House chefs use produce from the garden for preparing meals for the First Family, as well as for official functions like state dinners. Some produce is donated to Miriam’s Kitchen, a local homeless shelter providing services and homemade meals, a soup kitchen near the White House.
“I take great pride in knowing that this little garden will live on as a symbol of the hopes and dreams we all hold of growing a healthier nation for our children.”
February 9th, 2010
Helped Kids Get Fit with “Let’s Move!”
In 2009, Mrs. Obama planted the White House Kitchen Garden on the South Lawn to initiate a national conversation around the health and wellbeing of the country. In time, that conversation led to Let’s Move!. Through policy, programs, public awareness, and partnerships, Let’s Move! is about putting children on the path to a healthy future during their earliest months and years; giving parents helpful information and fostering environments that support healthy choices; providing healthier foods in our schools; ensuring that every family has access to healthy, affordable food; and helping children become more physically active.
White House Champions of Change: One Voice Can Change the World
President Obama challenged us all to help win the future by out-educating, out-innovating, and out-building our competitors in the 21st century. Over the course of his presidency he encouraged citizens to nominate people doing extraordinary things to make a difference in their communities to become Champions of Change.
The White House Student Film Festival
Nearly 50 years ago, the American Film Institute (AFI) was born in the White House Rose Garden. Standing just outside the Oval Office, President Lyndon Johnson spoke to the need to bring together “leading artists of the film industry, outstanding educators, and young men and women who wish to pursue the 20th century art form as their life’s work.”
Since that day, new tools and platforms have allowed remarkable voices of a new generation to speak with this art form, and the AFI partnered with the White House in encouraging the young people of America to tell their inspiring tales.
“In this country, if we give all of our kids the best opportunities and technology and resources, there’s no telling what they’ll create — now and the years ahead.”
Bo and Sunny: First Dogs
Celebrations at the Obama White House
State Dinners Throughout the Years
In the nineteenth century, the term “State Dinner” was used to denote any affair that honored the President’s Cabinet, Congress, or other dignitaries. However, President Ulysses S. Grant changed the meaning of the term when he welcomed King David Kalakua of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1874. Now, State Dinners are grand affairs hosted by the President to welcome a visiting head of state.
A State Dinner requires at minimum, six months of preparation. From the guest list and invitations, to the menus and seating arrangements, all require the careful attention of the First Lady, State Department, and White House Social Secretary.
Musical and Arts Performances at the White House
Musical performances at the White House ranged in form, genre, and style. Artists such as Beyoncé, Mick Jagger, Aretha Franklin, B.B. King, and the Mount Ennon Baptist Church Children’s Chorus performed during President Obama’s time in office.
January 10, 2017
President Obama Delivered His Farewell Address
January 12, 2017