Besides signing 17 executive orders on his first day in office (which includes rejoining the Paris Agreement), it looks like one of Joe Biden’s immediate prerogatives as U.S. President has been redesigning the Oval Office to his liking. It’s worth noting that nearly every president has changed up the symbolic room’s decor to reflect his personality and what type of presidency he hopes to have. “It was important for President Biden to walk into an Oval that looked like America and started to show the landscape of who he’s going to be as president,” Ashley Williams, deputy director of Oval Office Operations, told The Washington Post during a recent tour.
Biden’s Oval Office stands out for the sheer quantity of portraits of American leaders and icons. Most notably, he focused the room around a massive portrait of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, which hangs directly across from the Resolute Desk. Like Roosevelt, Biden is also faced with helping the country surmount a multitude of crises such as getting the ongoing coronavirus pandemic under control. That’ll require a commitment to science, which is precisely why Biden placed a portrait of Benjamin Franklin immediately to the left of the Resolute Desk.
He also paired paintings of former president Thomas Jefferson and treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton—two founding fathers who frequently and notoriously disagreed—next to one another. It illustrates, in the Biden office’s words, “how differences of opinion, expressed within the guardrails of the Republic, are essential to democracy.” He also removed a portrait of former president Andrew Jackson, a populist whom Trump deeply admired. It’s a powerful anti-racist gesture—Jackson kept enslaved people and signed the Indian Removal Act, resulting in thousands of deaths among Native Americans as they were forced to relocate to make room for white settlers.