The People Behind The Portraits

by: JRC Reporter Rachel Wang


On October 9, the CAPA JRC ventured to the ever-busy scene of D.C. After stopping to admire the bustle of the city, the JRC arrived at their ultimate destination: the White House. As a result of the tour, I realized that there was more to the Presidents than their political role. The history that they left behind with their term not only included their political policies, but also each of their distinct characters.

The first thing that popped into my mind when I walked in the doors of the East Wing was the pure amazement of the sheer collection of history in one structure. Iconic images of political leaders over the years were framed officially on the walls, whether it was the hallway leading to the East Wing or the array of photographs displaying the past First Ladies. I noticed how human the Presidents were portrayed. Ronald and Nancy Reagan slow dancing at a ball, George W. Bush and his kids sliding down the staircase railings in glee, Barack Obama chasing after his dog across the lawn of the White House, ball in hand and wide grin on face… these displays highlighted the best moments of the First Families and allowed for the general public to learn more about the person behind the US podium. Through personalization, I found it easier to relate to the Presidents by accepting the fact that they were, in fact, only human.


MICHAEL EVANS/THE WHITE HOUSE/GETTY IMAGES


As I exited the East House Garden Room, a hallway lined with rooms on either side emerged. There was the China Room – a space with grand cabinets lining the walls, each respectively holding vast collections of precious china. The Vermeil Room, adorned with various gold-plated ornaments and exquisitely painted First Lady portraits that lit up the golden room. 

What stood out to me most was the library. Books tall and short were tightly squeezed on shelves. A grandiose fireplace stood in the back. It was picture perfect. However, it was a little  too tidy, too stiff, too perfect – not lived in at all. I recognized the room from various presidential addresses and interviews in the past. It didn’t appear to represent a home, but rather more of a business portrait. I suspected that the lower levels that were open to the people were more of a formality to satisfy the curious eye of the public. The real living quarters in which the President and his family dwelled on a day-to-day basis must be the restricted upstairs area. Nonetheless, this was to be expected. I understood that a president must have his/her privacy in order to recharge themselves for the task of ruling a country.


Pete Souza /White House


The JRC proceeded into the “color rooms” – the Green, Blue and Red Room. At the surface level, these rooms were simply elegant chambers, but they were comprised of myriad layers of profound traditions. I asked one of the tour guides: “What makes these living rooms so unique?” The response was simple. “Culture.” It was enlightening for me to learn about the origin of each and every piece of the room. Each detail had a story to it. In the Green Room, classic art was hung on the walls due to former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy’s love for American paintings. The Blue Room was where members of the First Family would gather together every December for the annual Christmas tree lighting. The Red Room was where the First Ladies shared laughs and tea, talking late into the night. 

Overall, the JRC trip to the White House was an enlightening experience. I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel behind the scenes of the nation leader’s residence. In doing so, I gained unique insights of who the Presidents were behind their famed title – their personalities, their lifestyles, and their passions. Thank you CAPA for this truly incredible opportunity.


“The White House – North Lawn and Entrance – Washington, DC” / Stephen Melkisethian

This article was provided by Chinese American Parents Association Junior Reporter Club (CAPA JRC) with members who interviewed, audio recorded, wrote, translated, and video recorded. CAPA JRC has 19 Montgomery County middle to high school students. They have created a bilingual platform delivering news and serving the community.

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