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Biden revamps the Oval Office: President adds bust of Cesar Chavez and removes controversial portrait

Josh Marcus
·5-min read
<p>The Oval Office of the White House is newly redecorated for the first day of President Joe Biden's administration.</p> ((AP Photo/Alex Brandon))

The Oval Office of the White House is newly redecorated for the first day of President Joe Biden's administration.

((AP Photo/Alex Brandon))

The incoming Biden administration isn’t just changing policy: it’s redecorating the White House too. It’s part pageantry, part politics, part personal – like everything about being president.

During Wednesday’s inauguration ceremonies, the 90-person White House facilities staff began moving the Bidens in a process that reportedly took just five hours.

While the Bidens planned to move in on 20 January, they reportedly won’t dive all the way into personalising the White House or bringing in an interior decorator.

Still, that hasn’t stopped the new first family from adding a few new touches, and they’ll eventually get more than $1 million to rework one of the most famous buildings on Earth. Here’s what they’ve done so far:

A statue of a civil rights icon

One notable addition is a bust of legendary farmworkers’ rights organiser Cesar Chavez installed behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office.

"Placing a bust of my father in the Oval Office symbolises the hopeful new day that is dawning for our nation," Chavez's son Paul Chavez, president of the Cesar Chavez Foundation, told NBC.

“That isn't just because it honours my dad, but more importantly because it represents faith and empowerment for an entire people on whose behalf he fought and sacrificed.”

Read more: Follow live updates and news on Inauguration Day 2021

Previously, the statue, by sculptor Paul Saurez, was in La Paz, California, at Cesar Chavez National Monument, and was sent to DC at the request of the White House. Chavez died in 1993.

There are also now busts of Rosa Parks and Eleanor Roosevelt in the Oval Office.

Removing a highly controversial populist – and a portrait of one

If the White House is the symbol of the presidency, the Oval Office is the heart of the White House, which is why Donald Trump’s decision to install a portrait of former US president Andrew Jackson was so controversial.

Mr Trump was probably trying to borrow some populist shine from Mr Jackson, who was president between 1829 and 1837 and famously held a raucous inauguration party at the White House, but for many the picture was a reminder of the native American genocide Mr Jackson helped carry out.

Mr Jackson, who owned enslaved people, signed the Indian Removal Act, which led to the deaths of thousands of native people when they were forcibly marched off their lands to allow for white settlement.

Joe Biden chose a different course, replacing him with the Founding Father Benjamin Franklin, famous for his witticisms and various roles in the creation of the United States.

Desk

The iconic Resolute Desk will remain in the Oval Office, with Mr Biden choosing to keep the same desk that Mr Trump and several previous presidents have used.

Masked campaign photos

Mr Biden’s campaign was markedly different from Mr Trump’s for its regular mask-wearing during the pandemic, and that’s shown up in the decor, too, with new photos from the campaign trail of the Bidens wearing their protective gear.

Family photos

Portraits of Mr Biden’s family can now be seen carefully placed on the table behind the Resolute Desk.

Nine frames are displayed on the drawers featuring family members who accompanied him in Washington on Inauguration Day, as well as of his late son Beau Biden, who died following a brain cancer diagnosis.

A table with family photos behind Joe Biden’s desk in the Oval Office of the White HouseAP
A table with family photos behind Joe Biden’s desk in the Oval Office of the White HouseAP

Flags

Mr Biden has removed flags of the US military branches that were added to the office by Mr Trump. Mr Biden has instead just installed an American flag and another with a presidential seal.

Carpets and furnishings

Mr Biden has switched the padded maroon chair that was often pictured during Mr Trump’s presidency behind the Resolute Desk for an upholstered, dark brown leather chair.

The new president has also elected to replace two of Mr Trump's interior selections with furnishings that featured in Bill Clinton’s presidency, including darker gold curtains and a dark blue rug.

The furnishings, including the couches and tables, all came from the White House collection, according to The Washington Post.

Darker curtains and deeper blue rug were put in the Oval Office of the White House for Joe Biden’s administrationAP
Darker curtains and deeper blue rug were put in the Oval Office of the White House for Joe Biden’s administrationAP

Moon rock

A rock from the Moon has been placed on a middle shelf in the oval office upon Mr Biden’s take over.

It’s not exactly clear where the rock came from or how Mr Biden acquired it, but the feature is a powerful emblem of accomplishments of earlier generations.

A rock from the moon on the center shelf in the Oval Office after it was newly redecorated for the first day of President Joe Biden’s administrationAP
A rock from the moon on the center shelf in the Oval Office after it was newly redecorated for the first day of President Joe Biden’s administrationAP

Dogs

While not exactly decor, the addition of the Bidens’ dogs, adopted German shepherds Champ and Major, will change the look of the place after the Trumps became the first family in years not to have a White House pet.

The Bidens will also mark a new change because Champ and Major are reportedly the first adopted White House hounds.

A return to roses?

While there’s no word yet on whether this will happen, some online are urging the Bidens to restore the White House Rose Garden after controversial renovations from former first lady Melania Trump that included ripping out plants and adding new paved walkways.

Golf and gold: Trump’s renovations to the White House

There are few things Mr Trump loved more than golf and gold, and his White House changes reflected that.

When Mr Trump took over the executive mansion in 2017 he installed a $50,000, room-size golf simulator, upgraded the White House bowling alley, added new wallpaper, extra TVs, gold drapes, and brought in rugs used in pasts Republican administrations.

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