Michelle Obama recalls White House Rain!

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When Sasha Obama woke her parents one Sunday during her father’s first term to say it was raining in the dining room, the former president and first lady initially dismissed her remarks, thinking their young daughter was simply trying to get them out of bed. But life in the iconic centuries-old structure can make for some interesting situations. 

As Michelle Obama recounts in an AD-exclusive clip from the latest episode of Michelle Obama: The Light Podcast on Audible, Sasha’s observation was less the invention of a then-little kid and more of a cry for help from the famous estate, which was in desperate need of some repairs.

“Barack and I are like, ‘What?’ [Sasha] said, ‘It’s raining in the dining room,’” Michelle told interviewer Elizabeth Alexander. “We said, ‘Okay, go to bed, get out of here, get out of here.’ ’Cause we thought, she’s just trying to get us up. And then it got quiet, and I heard rain. So I get up, put on my robe, cross the hall and it is raining, literally: A pipe that was so old had burst and it was pouring down rain.

Staff acted fast to ensure that the priceless art adorning the walls was safe from damage, but the ceiling was destroyed in the downpour. The anecdote came in response to a question regarding the reality of day-to-day living in the White House. Michelle acknowledged the many perks, including the butlers and florists that made it “definitely fancy, by all standards.” But she didn’t want listeners to think it was all rainbows and sunshine. 

The former first lady called attention to the fact that something as innocuous as renovations to the historical house could easily become a political football, one reason previous residents of the storied abode may have forgone needed repair work.

“Politically, it is hard for a sitting president to make the decision to spend the money to do repairs,” she said. “Because the other party will criticize the president and say, ‘Oh look, he’s taking taxpayer money!’ So I will just say this to the people in here: The White House needs to be cared for.”

The four major occasions of construction and renovation to the landmark residence are memorialized in a marker in its entrance hall: 1792, the year of its initial construction; 1817, the rebuild after it was set aflame by the British; 1902, when President Theodore Roosevelt ordered a major overhaul; and 1952, the year of President Harry S. Truman’s gut renovation of the interior. Though, as the White House Historical Association notes, there have been plenty of other smaller-scale instances of home improvement, like work done to the Blue Room by Jacqueline Kennedy, Thelma “Pat” Nixon, and Hillary Clinton. 

Michelle concluded by urging listeners not to rush to scrutiny should a sitting president choose to renovate the home.  

“So, if a president—regardless of party—decides to renovate, don’t get mad,” she said. “Don’t get mad! It needs it.”

Episode 7 of Michelle Obama: The Light Podcast was released exclusively on Audible last April 18.


Source: Architectural Digest