John Howard Sanden portraits  

The White House Unveiling
May 31, 2012

Remarks by Frederick J. Ryan, Jr.
Chairman of the Board, The White House Historical Association

ood afternoon. I'm Fred Ryan, Chairman of the Board of the White House Historical Association. The Association is honored to be part of today's historic ceremony, and to have played a role in arranging for the magnificent portraits that are about to be unveiled.

The White House Historical Association was founded fifty years ago by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy with two specific missions. The first is to educate and inform the public about the history of the White House and the distinguished group of Americans that have inhabited it. In this regard it is an exciting time for us as we mark our Fiftieth Anniversary Campaign for White House History. To the north of the White House at the historic Decatur House, we have just launched a new David Rubenstein National Center for White House History. Next year, to the south of the White House, we will open a newly redesigned White House Visitors Center. It will give the millions of visitors to Washington each year a chance to gain a broader understanding of life in the White House. If we can just acquire something on the east and west, we will have the place surrounded! (Laughter.) The other mission of the Association is to provide funds to preserve the White House public rooms and enhance its incomparable collection of decorative and fine arts. Over the five decades and ten presidents since our founding, the Association is proud to have provided nearly forty million dollars of financial support for refurbishing and making important acquisitions for the White House.

Through the portraits of our presidents and first ladies, it is a wonderful tradition that here in America's House, our country honors those who have honored us. The tradition began with the acquisition of George Washington's portrait in 1800. It was purchased by the United States government. It was viewed as such an important national treasure it was the object of Dolley Madison's greatest concerns when the British burned the White House in 1814.

The White House Historical Association has been privileged to commission the official portrait of every president and first lady over the last fifty years, and to acquire historical portraits of those who were previously missing from the White House collection.

In our digital world, where so many images are mere flashes on the screen, these enduring portraits of great Americans by acclaimed artists are lasting tributes to our presidents and first ladies, and will forever be part of the White House collection. Today, the portraits of President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush will be added to this unique collection of those who have occupied this house and served our nation with distinction. To those great presidential portrait artists whose work here includes Gilbert Stuart, John Singer Sargent and Aaron Shikler, we now add John Howard Sanden.

And so today's event may once again call forth one of those great debates that have taken place often within the White House. Strong arguments have been made on both sides. Not a debate over issues or between parties—it's a debate as to whether the portraits actually look like the President and the First Lady. (Laughter.) We will soon find that out!

It is now my distinct pleasure to introduce the President of the United States.

Remarks by President Barack Obama