New York, NY
Thank you, John, for that warm introduction.
And Al – it’s so great to see you and Deborah!
On this day, 223 years ago, President John Adams wrote a letter to his wife Abigail. The day before, he had officially moved into a new building made of whitewashed stone in Washington, DC.
While the building was a grand structure, it was unfinished – with a leaky roof, missing closet doors, and wet paint.
Yet, President Adams still sensed the boundless possibility that lay ahead – how this house, like his new country, had so much room to grow, how it would be the stage for so many decisions that would ripple across history.
In his letter to Mrs. Adams, he wrote a line that’s now etched into the mantel in the State Dining Room: “I pray heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house and all that shall hereafter inhabit it.”
And with that hope in their hearts, President Adams and Mrs. Adams began the tradition of making the White House a home for the First Family, an office for the President, and a symbol of democracy for our nation.
My husband and I are honored to carry forward that legacy. And we’re so grateful to the White House Historical Association for its partnership.
Stewart, John, Teresa, and the entire board – thank you for your dedication to preserving the White House, and the exquisite and extraordinary history it traces.
I am so thrilled to join you here to unveil the next frontier of your work: a remarkable educational experience that will swing open the doors of the People’s House in a way that’s never been done before.
And tonight, this group is the first to learn its official name: “The People’s House: A White House Experience” at 1700 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Even though visitors from around the world walk the White House halls nearly every day, there are so many things that just can’t be experienced on a tour.
The gravity of being inside the Oval Office. The feeling of walking through the Rose Garden on a summer day with blazing flowers in full bloom. The enchantment of stepping into a State Dinner, each table shimmering with crystal and candlelight.
“The People’s House: A White House Experience” will be an innovative, immersive, and educational journey – one that transports visitors to different chapters in time.
As if they were there themselves, they’ll witness moments that shaped the course of our country, and the world.
And as the People’s House comes alive around them, visitors will feel the pull of the invisible threads of our democracy that connect us, stitching us into something greater than we are alone.
At its core, this project is about education – teaching our students about our country’s origins, bringing to life the countless people who shaped it and who made the White House into the beating heart of our democracy.
Most of you know that education is my life’s work. So, when the board first approached me about this concept, I was excited. I had already been exploring ways to expand the learning that happens at the White House.
In partnership with the White House Historical Association, we created a new White House Visitors’ Guide, an educational resource to enrich and enhance the public tour experience.
And though the tradition had been to have portraits of Presidents in the East Wing – which houses the Office of the First Lady – I lined the halls with portraits of the women who came before me. They all made their mark on our country, defining the undefined role of the First Lady in their own way.
And, I’m adding children’s books to the library, so kids who come on tours can see that this house is for them too.
As an educator, I believe that our present and our future are inextricably linked to our past. And when we learn from that past, we come away changed – not just better informed – but with a deeper understanding of the responsibility we hold as citizens of this country: a responsibility to each other, to our democracy, and to upholding our freedoms.
I think that’s needed now more than ever, at a time when our institutions are increasingly under attack, and some of our leaders seem intent on burying our history.
The White House is not just a monument to the past, it bears witness to the present as it becomes our history. And I see it as part of my responsibility to make sure it holds not only what our children learn today, but what their children and their grandchildren will learn about tomorrow.
Together, we can work to bestow the best of blessings on the People’s House.
Thank you for your support in fulfilling this responsibility. Thank you for giving your time, your talents, and your resources. Because of your work and dedication, we’ve created a project that will help us harness the lessons of history and use them to reach for a brighter future.
That same boundless future President Adams wrote of 223 years ago.
I can’t wait for you to walk through the doors of 1700 Pennsylvania Ave and see the power of your work.