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Moving Day at the White House


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Moving day for most people can be pretty stressful. Some take on the entire chore themselves by doing the packing, renting a truck, bribing friends to help, and eventually moving into the new place. Others do the packing and hire movers to do the heavy lifting. Either way you choose, the result is a long stressful day while you ensure everything is packed safely and putaway correctly. Time is always a factor; you're usually dealing with real estate change overs and closings which don't always go as planned.

This scenario doesn't apply to everyone. Imagine a moving day with virtually no stress. Where designated items magically get packed, transported and put safely away. This is a move where the next time you see your new home, everything is in its place, right down to your favorite sweaters, folded neatly in the drawers.

This dream is a reality if you happen to be the new president. Inauguration Day involves more than a transfer of power. On this day, a team of 93 White House elves seamlessly move one family out and a new family in, during a span of about five hours. When President Obama and his family returns to the White House after a long day of celebrating, the move will be complete. All boxes will be unpacked, pictures hung, ornaments strategically placed, and even stuffed teddies waiting to be hugged by the children.

Gary Walters, a retired chief usher in the White House has overseen the moves of seven presidents.

He recalls, “In the morning, the president and first lady are saying their goodbyes to the White House and to the residence staff; there's a very emotional meeting and a goodbye, " he said. “Then the staff has to turn right around and become the staff of the Obamas by the afternoon. It's not an easy task. "

Mr. and Mrs. Bush have already been doing some packing of their own. Most of their seasonal clothes, personal items and books have already been sent on to their new residence. They will host an Inauguration Day coffee for the Obamas, leave for the swearing-in at the Capitol, and then the big move begins. When the van arrives with the new first family's possessions, the staff goes to work. Everyone has a part to play in this choreographed production; each person with a rehearsed, pre-assigned task to complete.

Most of the move includes personal possessions and clothing; except for a few pieces, there is little furniture to move. Just as with any performance, sometimes things don't go as planned. Walters remembers some past moving day hiccups.

During the inauguration of George H. W. Bush, his daughters, Jenna and Barbara were tired and decided to return to the White House early. With the move still in full swing, the chief usher quickly diverted the girls to the White House floral shop where they spent time learning about flower arranging, and then off to the in house bowling alley.

In a perfect example of “too many hands in the pot", Hillary Clinton experienced fifteen minutes of panic on her moving day. After her personal assistant hand delivered her inaugural ball gown to the Executive Mansion, her mother, Dorothy Rodham, decided to put it away, but never mentioned it to any of the staff. When Mrs. Clinton went to get dressed - there was no gown to be found.

Of course, it was eventually located, providing a tale to be recalled at every Inauguration event.

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