WASHINGTON (AP) — When President Obama addresses the nation on Iraq Tuesday night, his Oval Office setting will be sporting a new look — and one that pays homage to Martin Luther King Jr. and four previous presidents.
While the president and his family were away on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, workers installed new wallpaper, a new rug, new sofas, lamps and a coffee table. Officials gave photographers a look hours before the speech was to be delivered at 8 p.m. EST.
The rug — an oval-shaped wheat, cream and blue carpet woven by the Scott Group of Grand Rapids, Mich. — was made with 25 percent recycled wool, the White House said. Officials said it was donated by the manufacturer, which also made Bill Clinton’s Oval Office rug.
The excerpts on the rug include some of the most famous words ever spoken by Americans:
— “GOVERNMENT OF THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE AND FOR THE PEOPLE” - From Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, among the most famous words ever spoken by a president.
— “NO PROBLEM OF HUMAN DESTINY IS BEYOND HUMAN BEINGS” - From JFK’s American University speech June 10, 1963.
— “THE WELFARE OF EACH OF US IS DEPENDENT FUNDAMENTALLY ON THE WELFARE OF ALL OF US” - From a speech Teddy Roosevelt gave at the New York State Fair in Syracuse, N.Y., on Sept. 7, 1903.
— “THE ONLY THING WE HAVE TO FEAR IS FEAR ITSELF” - From FDR’s inaugural speech March 4, 1933.
— “THE ARC OF THE MORAL UNIVERSE IS LONG, BUT IT BENDS TOWARD JUSTICE” - These words from King’s address to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Aug. 16, 1967, are easily Mr. Obama’s favorite King quotation.
The White House declined to reveal the overall cost of the new look, but a statement said it was “in line with the amount spent by Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush on the redesigns of their Oval Office. The statement said funds would come from Mr. Obama’s inaugural committee and the nonprofit White House Historical Association.
Presidents typically put their own touches on the Oval Office early in their terms. Mr. Bush brought in a rug designed by his wife, Laura. It included radiating stripes, which he often said suggested to him the optimism of a sunrise.
In Mr. Obama’s makeover, the embroidered wingback chairs that Mr. Bush and visiting leaders sat on in front of the fireplace have been reupholstered, and covered in caramel-colored leather.
The sofas flanking the fireplace are new: and covered with a light-brown cotton fabric.
There’s also a new coffee table. Again, it’s got an up-to-date look— rectangular, and covered with marble-look tiles made of walnut and mica.
And finally, Mr. Obama has new brown-leather chair behind his desk.
Many items, though, have not changed. They range from the painting of George Washington over the fireplace to the Resolute Desk, built from the timbers of a British warship. A gift to President Rutherford B. Hayes, the desk was installed in the Oval Office by John F. Kennedy, and since has been used by presidents Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.
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