A new first family look for life in their new 135-room homeJanuary 18th, 2009 - 9:48 am ICT by IANS
Washington, Jan 18 (DPA) Sasha Obama was convinced even before her daddy’s electoral triumph. “Life in the White House would be cool,” said the seven-year-old daughter of president-elect Barack Obama.Now, the cute little girl can find out first hand.
Starting Tuesday, she will be at home at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, in a 135-room mansion with a swimming pool, cinema, tennis courts and a bowling alley that the new president wants to turn into a basketball court.
And the whole of the United States, and even the world, is set to follow with great interest the impression Obama makes in history through his policies.
As the first black presidential family ever, and apparently a harmonic and happy one at that, the Obamas are also a living example of social progress.
According to their friends, they are aware of the fact that everything they say or do, how they dress, what they eat and even what dog they get will have a symbolic, cultural value and will be followed with particular fascination.
“The Obamas will inspire a new view of black families, typically depicted as broken, dysfunctional or unloving,” wrote Gerrie E. Summer, beauty editor of the magazine Today’s Black Woman.
“Mr and Mrs Obama are inspiring couples to become better parents and spouses, just by watching the family interact.”
For the first time since Amy Carter in the 1970s, there will be small children running around the White House, bringing fresh air to the presidential residence. Sasha and her sister Malia, 10, have already started going to the highly-regarded Quaker private school, Sidwell Friends, in Washington in early January.
Their mother Michelle, who turned 45 Saturday, has insisted that her main job is to be a first mommy, and that she will do everything to help both girls keep their feet on the ground and grow up as normally as possible.
“The children are our universe,” she noted.
Part of such normality could mean the girls must make their own beds every morning as usual, despite the presence of a 100-strong household staff at the first lady’s fingertips: 25 cooks, drivers, and her own florist for the daily arrangement of flowers around the house.
Whether the girls will get a raise in their pocket money, so far $1 per week, remained a secret. However, the strict lights-out time of 8 p.m. on schooldays is set to remain unchanged.
On weekends in Chicago, where they have lived all their lives, Sasha and Malia often invited friends to stay overnight. This is certain to happen in the White House too, The New York Times quoted Michelle’s long-time friend Verna Williams as saying.
While the Obamas have shown an interest in getting to know Washington - the president-elect tried a hot dog at Ben’s Chili Bowl in early January - they are also bringing along one of their most vital family support systems. Michelle’s mother Marian Robinson is moving to the White House with the family, at least for now.
The new first lady will have her own budget for any renovations she might like to make in the residence’s decorations. She has access to an entire catalogue of things stored in the White House warehouse.
Michelle will further have to pick the official china for state dinners, while her husband will need a desk for the Oval Office. He is said to have picked the same one that John F. Kennedy once had, reportedly a gift from Queen Victoria in 1880.
Obama promised his daughters a dog during his acceptance speech in November, the night he won the election over Republican John McCain.
The president-elect Sunday said the choice had been narrowed down to a labradoodle or a Portuguese water hound. The choices are limited because one of the girls has an allergy.
“We’re now going to start looking at shelters to see when one of those dogs might come up,” Obama said. “We’re closing in on it. This has been tougher than finding a commerce secretary.”
Once her daughters are settled in, Michelle Obama plans to turn more concretely to her tasks as first lady, particularly with relation to the families of working parents.
Her personal family dream is also set to come true: the Obamas will at least be able to have dinner together over the next four years.
In the past, as Obama served in the Illinois state legislature in Springfield and then as US senator in Washington, this was rarely the case, since the rest of his family stayed behind in Chicago.