1600 Penn

For the second time this semester, I got on the metro before 8 am. That means one of two things: Either I’m getting to work super-early, or else headed somewhere very important.

On Thursday, it was the latter. I had an 8:30 AM date with the White House. I didn’t know exactly what to expect, and I always get a bit jittery going through security. I mean, what if jacket zipper sets off the alarm? Maybe I’d find myself in a dark room, lit by a single lightbulb, answering questions about [arbitrary topic]? It’s easy to let the imagination run wild.

So at 8:15 we got in line with everyone else. Touring the White House isn’t like going up to the counter and buying a ticket. Everyone who goes has to specifically request tickets. So when we approached the gate, I felt like the Secret Service agent was a bouncer. I showed my ID and she checked my name off the list. Very official.

As we made our way into the foyer on the east side, several large photos of the First Family lined the hall, including these classics:

A Secret Service agent took us through several of the state rooms, including the Presidential Library, where Obama does press interviews, and the “crayon rooms” (Blue Room, Green Room, Red Room, Yellow Room). We didn’t get to see the Oval Office, or the private residences (of course) but it was neat to see staffers pass by our group, with a stack of coffee and sly smile.

Notable items included candlesticks and a portrait of George Washington that Dolly Madison saved when the White House burned down. I loved the State Dining Room, which includes a quote from Abigail Adams carved into the mantlepiece that reads:

I pray Heaven to bestow the best of Blessings on this House and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise Men ever rule under this roof.

On this particular day, I peered through a door and noted a large pink ribbon banner hanging outside. It was probably from when Michelle spoke at a breast cancer event last Friday. That was a great way to put my visit into context – a mark on the timeline. I’m sure those rooms in the White House don’t change too much over time, but to see evidence of event – that was cool. Just the day before our tour, Obama signed the Hate Crimes Bill (And that room he’s signing it in? Yup we were there, too!)

I won’t deny it: I tweeted while I was on the tour. And in related news, I will say The White House has increased its efforts of late to be more transparent. One way to do this is through social media efforts – which help engage the public. The White House can be found on Twitter (@WhiteHouse, what else?), on Facebook and through their blog. In (very) recent news, the White House just revealed their log of guests from the first eight months of President Obama’s term. The LA Times warns, though, that sometimes transparency can be complicated, such as if the public misinterprets the names of those who visited.


About Meg Biallas

Thoughts From A DC Intern Turned DCist. A twenty-something goes beyond traditional tourism to achieve Washingtonian authenticity.
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