Story at a glance

  • President Biden has given the Oval Office a makeover upon being sworn in.
  • His decorations honor civil rights activists and former presidents alike.

The first week of President Biden’s term was naturally met with inevitable comparisons to that of former President Trump’s. Though both show some similarities — mainly signing lots of executive orders implementing new policies on their first days — one distinction stands out between the 45th and 46th presidents: the Oval Office.

Just before President Biden was sworn into office, officials cleaned out then-President Trump’s choice of decor in the Oval Office, leaving Biden to redecorate the space to fit his administration’s vastly different policy plans and personalities.

The Washington Post was granted access to the Oval Office à la Biden and noted some of the major decorating choices. 

One key difference is the number of bust sculptures of significant historical figures, such as civil rights icons Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks and Cesar Chavez, as well as Robert F. Kennedy. 

Reflecting diversity is a sculpture of a Chiricahua Apache tribe rider atop a horse that belonged to the late Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii), who served as the first Japanese American to the U.S. House and Senate.

Some of the figures are paired with portraits and paintings, with former presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, plus founding father Benjamin Franklin, starring in a few. The latter is reportedly a symbol of Biden’s pledge to honor science as he works to halt the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, two portraits of historic adversaries Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton sit near each other to represent the importance of debating different views as a cornerstone of democracy.

These additions are a contrast to some of then-President Trump’s portraits of choice, which included one of former president Andrew Jackson, who is known for his persecution of Native Americans. A bust of former British prime minister Winston Churchill is also not featured. 

“This Oval is an Oval for Day One,” Ashley Williams, the deputy director of Oval Office operations told reporters. “It was important for President Biden to walk into an Oval that looked like America and started to show the landscape of who he is going to be as president."

Outside of artwork, Biden kept the gold drapes that hung during President Trump’s term, and he opted for a deep blue carpet emblazoned with the U.S. seal.

Biden also removed the military flags that stood behind the Resolute Desk and instead went for a traditional American flag and another adorned with the presidential seal.

Published on Jan 22, 2021