It is the President’s prerogative to redecorate ‘his’ office, and it’s pretty common occurrence. Each president is entitled to put his stamp on the room where he will be working, where he will be hosting heads of state, holding meetings, entertaining interns, practicing his putting… ok, I’m digressing.
So the new Oval Office was unveiled recently. New striped wallpaper, new tan suede couches, a modern-feeling coffee table, re-upholstered ‘easy’ chairs, and, of course, a new rug bearing the Seal of the President. It’s a more subdued look, I suppose, than ones that have gone before. A quick overview from Good Morning America: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/oval-office-makeover-before-after-11531902 (sorry for the link… I couldn’t figure out how to embed the video).
And now we get to the Great Rug Brouhaha. Around the Great Seal are four quotes from famous men in U.S. History:
“A government of the people, by the people and for the people”- Abraham Lincoln
“No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings” – John F. Kennedy
“The welfare of each of us is dependent fundamentally on the welfare of all of us” – Teddy Roosevelt
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” – Martin Luther King
The last quote, if you’ve been under a rug these last few weeks, was not originally said by Martin Luther King. King did use it in his “I have a dream” speech, but it was attributed then, and now, to Theodore Parker, an abolitionist, Unitarian Minister, and ‘transcendental thinker’ who lived in the 1850’s. Obama has taken some heat for the misquote, and rightly so, since a two-minute Google Search would have avoided a very costly mistake.
Although, in Mr. Obama’s defense (mark this down, it won’t happen often), this particular detail is something that should be delegated. Frankly, the President of the United States has bigger things to worry about than the rug on his floor – yes, it’s HIS office, and yes, he should have SOME say in the decorating, and should even sign off on the basic design and details. But it is the responsibility of the design team to deal with details, and make sure that everything is correct – including seeing to it that there are 13 arrows in the Eagle’s talon (there are) and that any quotes are spelled correctly (they are) and attributed correctly (oops).
A further statement of defense for Obama (wow, that’s two in one shot!): in his personal experience, the quote has always been from the “Dream” speech – this is, presumably, where Mr. Obama heard the quote, and the way it was woven into his life. It is somewhat understandable then, that he would attribute it to King. Although I’m also inclined to think that, if a quote makes that kind of lasting impression upon a person, that person would research it, and know the actual history of it.
So now we are faced with a new National Issue: what to do with the Oval Office Rug. Should it be left there? Should it be taken out and burned? Quietly replaced with something new and the old one stashed in Nancy Pelosi’s office?
No word has come down yet, but I heard one idea on the radio recently. The rug should be removed from the office and auctioned off, with the proceeds going to a charity. On the surface, it seems like the perfect solution, but I see two major problems with this idea. First, this President is extremely controversial. What charity should benefit from the proceeds? Can’t be Breast Cancer, thanks to the hoopla during the healthcare debacle over putting off self-exams and mammograms. Can’t be a charity that is associated with any religion or race. Perhaps a Military Charity, but even that might be controversial.
The second problem with auctioning off the rug? It could very well fall into the hands of one of Obama’s Archenemies: Rush Limbaugh. How big a coup would that be for Limbaugh, to own the rug that permanently holds a symbol of one of Obama’s most public blunders? So maybe the charitable auction isn’t such a great idea.
What do you think? First, what do you think of the makeover? Is it too bland, as some have said? Or is it appropriate for an official and business setting? And second, what do you think should be done about the misquote on the rug?