‘I miss Air Force One’: Barack Obama jokes as he and Michelle return to White House

US

Barack and Michelle Obama have returned to the White House for the unveiling of their official portraits.

More than five years after Mr Obama completed his second term in the Oval Office, he and his wife were hosted by the man who served as his vice president, Joe Biden.

The former commander-in-chief’s portrait has been painted in a photorealistic style by artist Robert McCurdy.

He is depicted on a white background, in an image that recalls previous portraits Mr McCurdy did of Toni Morrison and Nelson Mandela.

The former first lady is pictured in a blue dress in the White House’s Red Room, in a painting by Brooklyn artist Sharon Sprung.

The Obamas and their portraits
Barack Obama with the portraits
Michelle Obama

During some light-hearted remarks, Mr Obama said Mr McCurdy had “refused my request to make my ears smaller”.

He also said: “I want to thank Sharon Sprung for capturing everything I love about Michelle – her grace, her intelligence, and the fact that she’s fine! Her portrait is stunning.

“And I want to thank Robert McCurdy for taking on a much more difficult subject, and doing a fantastic job with mine.”

Prior to the ceremony in the East Room, President Biden greeted the couple, saying: “Welcome home.”

He added: “With Barack as our president we got up every day and went to work full of hope.

“Mr President, nothing could have prepared me better or more to become president of the United States than to be at your side for eight years, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart.”

President Biden, President Obama, Jill Biden and Michelle Obama at the White House
Image:
President Biden, ex-president Obama, Jill Biden and Michelle Obama at the White House

Mr Obama, whose second term in power ended in January 2017, said it was “great to be back” and said Mr Biden had “guided us through some perilous times”.

He went on: “When people ask me what I miss most about the White House years it is not Air Force One that I talk about.”

The former president added, bringing laughter, “although I miss Air Force One”.

Jill Biden, Joe Biden, and Barack Obama
Image:
Jill Biden, Joe Biden, and Barack Obama

Some of the people who served under him were there, and he said the thing he missed was the “chance that I had to stand shoulder to shoulder with all of you”.

Large, formal portraits of US presidents and first ladies adorn walls, hallways and rooms throughout the White House.

While it is customary for a former president to return for the unveiling, Donald Trump did not hold a ceremony for the Obamas while he held the top job.

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