Obama replaces Bush Oval Office rug with new quote-emblazoned carpet

Jon Ward Contributor
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Iraq policy was not the only Bush-era relic that President Obama moved on from Tuesday, as he announced the next phase of operations in the country the U.S. invaded in 2003.

The White House also announced Tuesday that Obama has finally, after more than a year and a half in office, gotten rid of former President George W. Bush’s Oval Office rug and put in place his own.

Bush famously loved his Oval Office rug — designed by then-First Lady Laura Bush — which he said expressed optimism by a design that resembled a radiant sun. Obama took to the rug as well, so much so that Bush confidantes gave hints over the past year that the former president was eager for the current Oval Office occupant to get on with obtaining his own carpet so he could get his back.

Obama’s Oval floor piece is unique in that he chose quotes by past presidents, as well as civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.,* to be part of the design. The five quotes are as follows, according to the White House:

  • “The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Fear Itself” – President Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • “The Arc of the Moral Universe is Long, But it Bends Towards Justice” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • “Government of the People, By the People, For the People” – President Abraham Lincoln
  • “No Problem of Human Destiny is Beyond Human Beings” – President John F. Kennedy
  • “The Welfare of Each of Us is Dependent Fundamentally Upon the Welfare of All of Us” – President Theodore Roosevelt

Obama’s wheat, cream and blue colored rug was made and donated by the Scott Group, an American carpet manufacturer headquartered in Grand Rapids, Mich, which also produced the Oval Office carpet for former President Bill Clinton.

The new rug was installed as part of an Oval Office makeover while the president was on vacation with his family in Martha’s Vineyard during the second half of August. Obama replaced much of the furniture and the wallpaper, installing new couches, a new desk chair, two new lamps and a new coffee table. The two arm chairs in front of the fireplace were reupholstered with caramel-colored leather.

Obama will continue to use the desk that Bush used, which has been used by many presidents, called the Resolute. The desk was given by British Queen Victoria in 1880 as a gift to Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th president of the United States.

The redecoration was paid for by the White House Historical Association through donations from the Presidential Inaugural Committee, which is funded entirely through private donations.

C-SPAN interviewed Obama on Aug. 12 about the Oval Office, before the redecoration took place, and released the 10-minute interview on Tuesday evening. Oddly, Obama notes that he has not yet put his personal stamp on the place, but makes no mention of the changes that would be coming a little more than a week later.

“The truth of the matter is, we have not yet redecorated this room. The tradition is that every president comes in and they rework it. Given that we are in the midst of some very difficult economic times, we decided to hold off last year in terms of making some changes,” Obama told C-SPAN’s Brian Lamb.

Obama then notes that he made a few small changes, like adding a bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. But the implication is that there are no major redecoration changes coming.


*The article originally stated incorrectly that all quotes were from past presidents.

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