Before President Obama leaves for office, I wanted to make sure I had the opportunity to explore the White House, West Wing, and the Executive Office Building.
My first exploration was of the Truman Bowling Alley. Here, located in EEOB is a two lane bowling alley that is free to the public, so long as you have someone help you get in through security. I went with my office, and we brought food and drinks and made a party of our two hour, two game appointment. While I wasn’t the best bowler, I had a bunch of fun. Here are some pictures from my bowling adventure!
On my second adventure in the West Wing, I was lucky to have a friend give me the standard West Wing tour. After waiting nearly an hour in the snow, we finally passed through the two stages of security and began our journey! I was shaking from excitement (and the cold) and ready to see some history.
Our group entered the West Wing through the main entrance, directly across from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building- the entrance that the VP traditionally uses! This is also the entrance that most of the staff uses, as it’s directly across from the EEOB. It’s a simple modest entrance, but does the trick.
Once we crossed the double doors, we looked to our right and saw a dark wooden door with a plaque entitled “Situation Room.” Our guide informed us that the door actually led to a hallway that led down additional stairs and hallways to the real Situation Room. However, it was still incredibly exciting to know that it was just beyond those doors. Later on our tour, we saw another door that had both a card key and eye scanner! Turns out those gadgets aren’t just in the movies.
I was in shock about how small the West Wing was, and how it gave such a strong workplace vibe, when in reality, it was the center of the free world. Yet, everyone giving the tours (they must be employees of the Administration) was so humble and gracious.
The corridors were adorned with legacy photos of Obama’s time in the office. We, with great luck, ran into the White House Speechwriter on the our tour. He was talking with Obama’s photographer as well. They showed us a photo that had Obama’s markup of a speech on the Joint Session on Health with Congress. Needless to say, POTUS was infamous for making lots of corrections to his speech. Some of these pictures are below (all are copyright of Pete Souza, White House Photographer).
As we continued, we ran into the Navy Mess and made our way out to the Rose Garden. It was freezing (literally) when we stepped into the garden, but absolutely gorgeous. The bushes were sprinkled with a dusting of snow, and it was all quite peaceful. The Rose Garden is where the President gives press conferences, pardons the turkeys on Thanksgiving, and hosts events. A straight shot down from the garden you could see the African American Museum of History and Culture.
It should also be noted that that path that we walked, and that Obama is walking above, is known as the 30 second commute. That’s because its the quickest path from the White House residence, where the family and President live in the actual White House, to the West Wing and the Oval Office, which has a direct door to the Rose Garden.
We continued through a few corridors to find the Cabinet Room, where the President meets with his Cabinet and other important figures, including State leaders and Members of Congress.
And just like that, there it was- the Oval Office!
Simply tucked in the back corners of the West Wing was the Oval Office, the creme de la crem, where the magic happened. The room was smaller than imagined, but more oval if that makes sense. As we peered in, we could see through to the Rose Garden, and the doors that were masked to fit right into the curved walls.
On the right, just behind the door was the bust of MLK. This, along with the bowl of apples on the main table of the room, were just some of the personal touches Obama added to his office. Just then, our guide then informed us to look up at the stars on the ceiling. Instead of having the traditional American five points, these stars had 6 points, in the Italian tradition. Apparently, the designer for the Oval Office was Italian, but it was too late to change the stars.
Below the six pointed stars was the round carpet on the floor had six of Obama’s favorite quotes in capital letters around the edges. Some other decorations included variety of paintings of the American countryside. The President, actually, has the ability to display any piece of artwork they’d like in the West Wing and the White House.
And then, there it was, the Resolute Desk. For all of you National Treasure fans out there, this famous desk was gifted by Queen Victoria. The famous desk has been the workplace of Presidents for nearly a hundred years, with the only change being the addition of the front panel. Behind the desk was an entire table full of pictures of the Obamas, from when Sasha and Malia were young to the present. It gave it a “this is Dad’s office” type vibe, and definitely gave the office a personal touch.
We then continued our way out of the office, and our guide informed us that Obama actually has a real study behind the Oval Office, behind one of the hidden doors. On our way out, we say Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize in the Roosevelt Room. Finally, in our last stop in the Wing, we saw the reception area, where guests are greeted by ROTUS. On the walls were some beautiful paintings of American landscape- California waterfalls and mountains that is!
The last and final stop on the whole tour was the White House Press Briefing Room. This tiny room houses over 30 reporters during the daily White House Press Briefings. Traditionally the Press Secretary is the one who gives the briefings, but every once and a while, both POTUS and the VP will stand and speak directly to the press as well.
So here’s a secret I haven’t mentioned yet. When we originally waited in the line outside, we saw White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, who was giving a tour himself! So at this point, we waited patiently until Josh came into the briefing room. We said a quick hello and asked for a photo. One other guy in the room joked, “Hey, it almost looks like you belong here!”
On our way out, my friend and guide offered to let us show us around the EEOB, her building. We made our way to the library, where we saw a group of individuals gathering around the window.
And that’s when we saw it, Marine Force One! Ever since I’ve landed in DC, I’ve wanted to see Marine One take off from the South Lawn. And although I wasn’t able to see POTUS walk to the helicopter, I was able to see it take off to the South, clearing the light dusting of snow that had gathered on the lawn. It was truly an instance of being in the right place at the right time.
My trip to the West Wing was a beautiful adventure. It’s amazing to think that I’ve been fortunate to bowl where the President has bowled, and seen the workplace of Presidents past and present.
For more photos and history on the West Wing tour, you can check out the White House’s page here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/about/inside-white-house/west-wing-tour. You can also check out some additional photos of Obama’s time in the White House, as well as different locations of the White House in use on their official Flickr page. Enjoy!