Cesar Chavez bust, FDR painting are among changes
WASHINGTON – When President Joe Biden first sat behind the Resolute Desk as President, some physical differences – from the symbolic choice of decor to simply wearing a mask – were stark compared to those of his predecessor.
Biden put on a black face mask and signed some executive orders Wednesday night. Placing an order requires masks and social distancing on federal property.
Former President Donald Trump rarely wore face covering, especially in the White House, the Oval Office, and behind the Resolute Desk.
He even infamously and – deliberately – took off his mask as soon as he returned from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after receiving treatment for COVID-19 in October.
A bronze bust of the Mexican-American civil rights activist and labor leader César Chavez protruded from behind the Resolute Desk as Biden signed the Executive Orders.
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Chavez founded what would later become the United Farmworkers Union in the 1960s and conducted several strikes and demonstrations over the next few decades to improve conditions for farm workers in the country, emphasizing nonviolent protests.
He is known for his organization in the fields, his hunger strikes, the grape boycott and the eventual victory in getting producers to negotiate better wages and working conditions with farm workers.
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“Si se puede,” a chant that became popular during his movement, was used for many other progressive purposes. In particular, former President Barack Obama, for whom Biden served as Vice-President, borrowed the phrase and used the English equivalent “Yes, we can” as the slogan for his 2008 presidential campaign.
Biden selected Julie Chavez Rodriguez, Chavez’s granddaughter, who worked in the Obama administration and in Biden’s campaign, to be his White House Director of Interstate Affairs.
The Chavez bust is just one of several American leaders and icons who now fill the Oval Office. There are also busts of civil rights activists Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, former Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
A massive portrait of President Franklin D. Roosevelt also hangs across from the Resolute Desk.
Gone is the controversial painting of President Andrew Jackson that Trump hung in the Oval Office. Biden replaced it with a portrait of Benjamin Franklin “to represent Biden’s interest in pursuing science,” according to the Washington Post.
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In addition, paintings of President Thomas Jefferson and Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton hang side by side. Jefferson and Hamilton are known to have disagreed. Biden’s main campaign and inauguration message was unity at a time of deep partisanship and tension.
According to The Post, the images were compiled to show “how disagreements within the republic’s guard rails are essential to democracy”.
Contributor: Rafael Carranza, Republic of Arizona