Politics & Policy

The Day Obama Moved Into the White House


The sun rises over the Capitol ahead of the presidential inauguration on Jan. 21 in Washington

Photograph by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The sun rises over the Capitol ahead of the presidential inauguration on Jan. 21 in Washington

After seven years as President Obama’s personal aide, or “body man,” Reggie Love resigned in late 2011 to attend the Wharton School. He recalls how he helped get the president-elect ready for the inauguration four years ago.

What time did you get up?

Oh, early! I think 5:30 or 6.

Where was he?

He was staying at the Blair House across the street from the White House. I spent the night at my apartment.

And Michelle and the girls?

They were there, but off somewhere prepping.

What’s the first thing you did—make sure his clothes and shoes were in order?

I had that stuff taken out already. One of the questions was whether he was going to wear a scarf. [He did for the parade, but not the swearing-in.] The biggest portion of the day was prepping for the speech. He worked on that speech months in advance and spent a lot of late nights on it. When he gave it, he was comfortable with it.

Did he seem nervous?

If he was, he didn’t show it.

What was his mood?

It was pretty straightforward. He’s not a moody person. He’s not reactive to stuff. He doesn’t have highs and lows.

He went to church. What happened after that?

He went to the White House to meet the Bushes. And then they drove together in the same vehicle from the White House to the Mall. I wasn’t in the car. In that car was just the president and the first lady, the president-elect and the first lady-elect. When they get to the Capitol, they have a whole arrival ceremony. You walk through the Capitol and everyone greets you. They meet the sergeant-at-arms. It didn’t feel like a big day for me, until you’re in the tunnel and you’re going out into the Mall. And you see all those people.

Was he cold?

Was he cold? He was freezing! There wasn’t anyone there that wasn’t.

Including you?

I haven’t told anyone this, but I wasn’t technically outside that day. I was inside the Capitol, behind him, so I wasn’t as cold as everyone else. Oddly enough, on that day I spent most of it at the White House meeting the staff, planning my office, figuring out where stuff goes. Because that was the first night he spent in the White House. There was this whole process of moving everything from the Blair House to the White House. It’s like moving, except it’s not your stuff and you need to be able to find it quickly.

What did he need to have quickly?

A tuxedo, a couple of options for those, a tie, a backup pair of shoes, some workout clothes, a computer.

And after the parade?

The parade ends at the White House. They went inside, got warm, and got changed. They had dinner, just the family.

What’s the difference between now and four years ago?

I know that if something goes wrong today, I’m not responsible. And if I oversleep, I can always just watch on TV.

Dwoskin is a staff writer for Bloomberg Businessweek in Washington. Follow her on Twitter: @lizzadwoskin.

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