I was honored to attend the unveiling of the portraits of President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama. The ceremonial event took place at the National Portrait Gallery, which is part of the Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, DC on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, February 12. The talented artists, Amy Sherald and Kehinde Wiley, were the first two African Americans to paint official portraits of the President and First Lady.
This made the day especially meaningful. The portraits themselves are fascinating pieces of artwork and will undoubtedly be the subject of considerable commentary for years to come. For me, they represent the seriousness of President Obama and the grace and intelligence of Michelle. I had the privilege of working with President Obama on a number of projects, and the primary impression I retain is of the enormous responsibility he carried during his White House years. His devotion to our country and passion for our fellow Americans was always present, and his portrait keenly captures that outlook for me. The National Portrait Gallery itself is a great treasure.
I have viewed numerous exhibits there which tell the rich history of America. Studying the depictions of men and women from our past inspires and helps me to imagine what America can be when it is at its best. These new portraits of the first African American President and the First Lady who served with him, painted by two intelligent and sensitive artists, will reflect brightly on our country. For years to come, our citizens, young and old, of all backgrounds and ethnicities, will know that in America, anyone can aspire to greatness and achieve it.
Alan Solow is a Partner at Resolute Consulting.