In Review: The President’s Filmmakers Pick Their Favorite White House Videos
The White House is known as the People’s House, but not everyone gets an opportunity to come by and see what happens around here. Since the very beginning, the White House video team has worked to bust open the walls of the White House and invite people in to get a behind-the-scenes look at President Obama, the First Lady, and the notable people, places, and moments that have occurred over the entire Administration.
So after much consideration and time spent pouring over the thousands of videos that produced over the past eight years, these are the top picks for videos, as chosen by our resident White House filmmakers.
Some seen by millions, and others by just a handful, these videos provide a window into the rare, historic, fun, and candid moments of this Presidency that people might not normally get to see. And now, in chronological order, check out the top ten picks of White House videos.
May 12, 2009: Lin-Manuel Miranda Performs at the WH Poetry Jam
In 2009, President Obama and the First Lady hosted the first-ever White House Poetry Jam, an evening celebrating poetry, music, and the spoken word. This event was designed around the theme of dialogue, showing how dialogue is important in every aspect of who we are as Americans and as human beings, and demonstrating how communication is a constant throughout the ages.
The event featured a lot of notable artists, including a young Lin Manuel Miranda. As the President noted seven years later, it was here that Miranda decided to perform a song from a mixtape was, he said, “about the life of somebody who embodies hip-hop — Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton.”
Presaging what would later become the somewhat popular Hamilton, the Musical, this video shows a visionary and determined Lin-Manuel Miranda workshopping, in the East Room, the only track he had fully realized in his soon-to-be masterpiece.
January 1, 2010: An Exclusive Look at the White House Advance Team, Parts 1 & 2
One day, there may also be a Broadway musical based on the painstaking work of the White House advance team. But for now, Advance, the crew that coordinates the President’s trips and movements throughout the country and the world, will have to settle for this two part documentary portrait. Filmed and edited on location in Elyria, OH, it is the most comprehensive, and authentic, look at White House advance that we know of.
March 20, 2010: President Obama Visits Yellowstone National Park
The First Family packed up and headed out west in the summer of ’09, and we traveled along. During the trip, the President often reflected on a road trip he had made as a kid with his mother and sister. So, we dug up some old family photos from the vacation the not-yet-President went on as a child and released it the following year. Take a look.
September 22, 2010: A Surprise Call from the President
Gail O’Brien sat down with us at her home in Keene, NH to let the country know how the President’s landmark health care law saved her life. She had no idea that President Obama was about to call her. He wanted to hear for himself how Gail was doing after receiving treatment for her cancer diagnosis — a diagnosis she could now fight, thanks to protections and coverage provided by the Affordable Care Act.
February 7, 2012: Marshmallow Launch at the White House (Raw Video)
The White House Science Fair quickly became one of the most interesting places to film the President. The annual event brought together some of the best minds under 18 years of age (in some cases, even under 10,) to present potentially ground-breaking work to the leader of the free world. Scattered across the White House were rockets, robots, energy solutions, revolutionary medical devices, and one year — a marshmallow cannon. The look on President Obama’s face when the cannon fires is one of our favorites captured in the past eight years.
September 1, 2012: Inside the White House: Beer Brewing
While here, we learned a few surprising facts, including the fact that that the President had previously bought a home brew kit and, for the first time in history, the White House was brewing its own beer. And when it came out that the honey used for brewing was collected from the newly-installed hives on the South Lawn, that really upped the buzz about it. So we decided to descend the staircases of the White House and go to the brewers themselves to get the scoop on how they create these fine White House porters and ales.
February 27, 2013: Catching Up With The Curator — The Watch Meeting
Getting to make videos that highlight and support the work of our incredible colleagues here at the White House is truly an honor. And one of the great joys of this endeavor is getting reticent staffers like White House Curator Bill Allman to come forward and let us shine a light on their expertise. You can’t tell from his bearing on camera, but he regularly expressed a humble disbelief that we might want to continue to add to the series that was becoming known as “Catching Up With the Curator.”
Each episode is special for the corner of history that he explores, but this one might just be closest to our hearts. It tells the story of the painting the President chose to move from its traditional home in the Lincoln Bedroom to hang right outside the Oval Office, depicting a watch party of African Americans who were waiting for the hour that the the Emancipation Proclamation would officially take effect, setting them free.
September 5, 2014: President Obama Visits Stonehenge
There were very few times during his Presidency that President Obama really had the opportunity to just revel in a quiet moment in a monumental place. It was a combination of the power of where he was, plus the logistics required to make it possible for him to visit, that added up to a powerful few minutes where we he could take in the wind, the lichen, and the momentous history of those powerful stones. It’s a rare occasion to experience something quiet and internal alongside someone who is normally — by nature of the position he is holding — at the epicenter of the noise and thrum of history.
April 2, 2015: Fifth Anniversary of West Wing Week (Narrated by the President from the Beast)
Every week, we produce “West Wing Week” — a roundup of what’s happened in each week of the Presidency.
We’d had a lot of fun with two previous, special editions — the 100th and 200th episodes — of our weekly spin, but for this third and final big marker, we wanted to go for broke.
It’s special for a number of reasons: The first time we filmed in the President’s official vehicle “the Beast;” the first time the President himself both narrated the episode, and hosted each day with direct-to-camera, spontaneous explanations of what was happening; and one particular first that is better watched than described. So dive in and check it out our favorite West Wing Week. (Spoiler alert: The week covers a certain holiday for fools and pranksters that happens every spring.)
February 22, 2016: “What’s the secret to still dancing at 106?”
We could sense her glee from the next room over before we could even see her. And at 106, Virginia McLaurin was small enough that you just might miss her in a crowd, but not this crowd. She’d written the President to say that one day she wanted to meet him. And so, there she was, attending a reception in honor of Black History Month, and video history was made. This turned out to be, by many measures, the piece of content with the greatest reach during our time here at the White House.
What’s your favorite video from the White House? Share it with us here.
Then check out some more of our best videos from the Obama administration — featured footage that captures everything from history-making speeches to behind-the-scenes moments: www.whitehouse.gov/videos
By Kori Schulman, Deputy Chief Digital Officer, serving since 2009medium.com
The words a president chooses can shape how we see ourselves, how we understand our past, and how we face the future.medium.com