If you’ve seen the title of this blog, you already know what time it is… it’s time that little ‘ole me – XiXi Yang – has finally arrived at the White House!
Oh, you thought we were just going to pose up in front of the door like we did back in ’99?
I don’t know whose decision it was to let me in but look mama, we made it!
On April 28th, 2019, I was invited by Progress Humanity and members of the National Security Council to for a private tour of the White House. As the new ambassador for Progress Humanity, a non-profit organization based in Washington D.C. that aims to prevent conflict and encourage inclusive economic development across the globe, I experienced the milestone of a lifetime by getting an exclusive tour of the White House during the same weekend as the White House Correspondences Dinner.
I got to tour the West Wing, which contains the Cabinet Room, the Situation, the Roosevelt Room, and of course, the Oval Office. I was guided by a member of National Security Council, who met me right outside of the compound. After passing through three gates of security, we arrived at the west side entrance.
Since the West Wing is an active office with standard business hours, my private tour took place at night. Upon walking into the Wet Wing lobby, I saw a receptionist desk to my right where all visitors and guests of the President, the Chief of Staff, the VP and other senior staff were greeted. (Since no guests are allowed to take any photos or videos inside the West Wing, for the sake of visuals, I’ve included photos of each of the rooms I saw below from the internet!)
Cabinet Room: This room is named the cabinet room because this is where the President holds official meetings with his most senior appointed staff known collectively as his “cabinet”. The president’s chair, slightly taller than the rest, is right in the middle. Fun fact: did you know after the politician’s term is over if they wanted to keep their chair or any other furniture (framed photos, desks, etc) they would have to purchase it? (Everything is paid for by tax money.)
The Roosevelt Room: Formerly known as the “Fish Room”, the Roosevelt Room serves as a daily meeting room for White House staff and multimedia presentations. It’s located directly across from the Oval Office, which makes it the perfect staging area for delegations preparing to meet the president. As soon as you walk into the room, your eyes will land on multiple flags. The flags include the American Flag, the President’s Flag, the Vice President’s Flag, and one flag for each branch of the U.S. military – Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and the Navy. For the military flags, the streamers on them represent the battles that particular branch has fought in. Can you guess which military branch has been in the most number of combats? Comment below and I’ll let you know if you guessed right!
Alas, we are now moving on to the Oval Office! Since 1909, the “Oval Office” has been the working office of the President. The room features three large windows behind the president’s desk and a fireplace. It has four doors: one leads to the Rose Garden, another to a private study and dining room, another to the main corridor, and one to the office of the president’s secretary. Fun fact about the Oval Office? Each president can decorate the office to suit their own personal taste! I got to flip through an album of how the oval offices looked for each president! The current area rug that the First Lady Melania Trump chose was from the Regan administration. President Trump furnished the place with 2 gold lamps from the Trump Tower.
And perhaps the most exciting part of the tour for me – the Press Briefing Room. In case you’re wondering why the room has a rectangular shape… this was the former site of a swimming pool built for President Franklin Roosevelt. It was part of his daily physical therapy to swim laps!
Special thanks to the incredible team at Progress Humanity, the White House Diplomat and the National Security Council for the invitation! As the product of a Chinese-immigrant family, the White House has always been a symbol of the American Dream. When my mom and dad first took me to see it in 1999, none of us had any idea that two decades later, I would make it inside.