As with past U.S. leaders, President Joe Biden’s new Oval Office decor hints at the landscape of attitudes that are likely to reflect the tone and priorities of his administration.
“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,” Ashley Williams, the deputy director of Oval Office operations, told The Washington Post during an exclusive tour.
In a decor shakeup of the Oval Office, which is filled with portraits and busts of iconic leaders in American history, Biden has made a number of changes from when former President Donald Trump sat at the Resolute Desk, including replacing the portrait of Andrew Jackson, the 7th president and a populist with whom Trump often identified.
“He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart, and he was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War,” Trump told the Washington Examiner in 2017, noting that many people said that, “my campaign and win was most like Andrew Jackson with his campaign.”
In place of Jackson’s portrait hangs one of Benjamin Franklin, a founding father who was also a leading writer, philosopher, and scientist. According to The Washington Post, Franklin’s portrait is meant to signal Biden’s interest in following science in his efforts to tackle the pandemic.
Also gone are the flags of the various branches of the military, whose restoration was one of Trump’s chief policy priorities. During his farewell address after departing the White House on Jan. 20, Trump said, “perhaps most importantly of all, with nearly $3 trillion, we fully rebuilt the American military—all made in the USA.”
Biden has chosen to replace the military flags with the American flag and another with a presidential seal.
On the table behind the Resolute Desk now sits a bust of César Chávez, the Mexican-American labor leader, who fought for the rights of farm workers, photos show. The bust of Chávez sits alongside framed photos of Biden’s family.
According to the Washington Post, Biden has added several additional busts to the office, namely those of Robert F. Kennedy, former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and Rosa Parks, a key figure in the civil rights movement.
Biden has removed the bust of wartime British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, which Trump notably reinstated when he became president after former President Barack Obama had it removed.
Britain’s shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy, of the left-leaning Labor party, commented on the move in an interview published in British newspaper The Guardian on Jan. 20, calling Biden a “woke guy” whose victory is “a source of hope for a lot of progressive parties around the world.”
The portrait of another former president Thomas Jefferson, has been paired with a man he often clashed with, his former Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton as “hallmarks of how differences of opinion, expressed within the guardrails of the Republic, are essential to democracy,” Biden’s office said, according to The Post.
Directly across from the Resolute Desk sits a portrait of Franklin Roosevelt, the president who led the country through the Great Depression and World War Two, major crises that deeply shook America.