Photo: White House photo/Pete Souza
It’s been a wild four years during President Barack Obama’s first term — filled with sweeping attempts at boosting an economic recovery and reforming the nation’s health care system, with memorable detours along the way.Along the way, White House official photographer Pete Souza has been there to document Obama’s every move. Souza was the White House’s official photographer from 1983-89 during Ronald Reagan’s second term in office. It was during his subsequent time as a Chicago Tribune photographer that he documented the rise of then-Sen. Obama and detailed his accounts in a book published in 2008.
Souza has published a selection of his photos on the White House’s official Flickr account since midway through Obama’s first year in office. Combining these and a few other memorable moments documented by other photographers, we’ve compiled the 100 most iconic photos from Obama’s first term as he prepares for his second inauguration Monday.
(Note: For some of the photos, Souza has added his thoughts or provided some additional background, which we’ve put below the photos.)
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama share a private moment in a freight elevator at an Inaugural Ball in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 2009.
'We were on a freight elevator headed to one of the Inaugural Balls. It was quite chilly, so the President removed his tuxedo jacket and put it over the shoulders of his wife. Then they had a semi-private moment as staff member and Secret Service agents tried not to look.'
President Barack Obama is given the Oath of Office for a second time by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. in the Map Room of the White House, Jan. 21, 2009.
President Barack Obama walks into the Oval Office for his first full day in office, Jan. 21, 2009. His Personal Aide Reggie Love stands nearby.
Obama reads the letter left in the Oval Office Resolute Desk for him the previous day, by former President George W. Bush, Jan. 21, 2009. The letter from the previous President to the incoming President has become a White House tradition.
On his first day in office, Obama signs an executive order to close the Guantanamo Bay prison facility within a year. It remains open.
President Barack Obama holds 3-D glasses while watching the 2009 Super Bowl in the White House family theatre.
President Barack Obama departs from Andrews Air Force Base for Newport News, Va. on his first trip on Air Force One, Feb. 5, 2009.
Souza details the background on this photo:
'White House valets had moved the sofas in the Oval Office to accommodate the large number of press photographers that were covering the President's meeting with Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas. When the photo-op ended, the President said to Gov. Douglas, 'Let's move the sofas back in place.' Gov. Douglas didn't quite know what to do as the President did the heavy lifting. The valets now good-naturedly cringe when they look at this picture because it was their responsibility to move the sofas back in place.'
Basketball at the White House has become synonymous with Obama's first term. Here he is playing with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in February 2009.
Golf is another sport of choice for Obama, who frequently hits the links. Here in 2009, he practices his swing.
'The Obama family was introduced to a prospective family dog at a secret greet on a Sunday. After spending about an hour with him, the family decided he was the one. Here, the dog ran alongside the President in an East Wing hallway. The dog returned to his trainer while the Obama's embarked on their first international trip. I had to keep these photos secret until a few weeks later, when the dog was brought 'home' to the White House and introduced to the world as Bo.'
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are welcomed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to Buckingham Palace in London, England, April 1, 2009.
President Barack Obama cheers on a young child as she rolls her egg toward the finish line April 13, 2009, during the White House Easter Egg Roll.
In May 2009, Obama gave the commencement address at Notre Dame, something that at the time was marred by controversy.
Sonia Sotomayor was Obama's first Supreme Court nomination — the Court's first Hispanic and third female justice.
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden escort Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the East Room of the White House where the President will introduce her as his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court to replace retiring Justice David, May 26, 2009.
Obama is joined by former First Lady Nancy Reagan on his way to signing the Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission Act in June 2009.
Obama orders lunch at Five Guys in Washington, D.C. during an unannounced lunch outing May 29, 2009.
President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speak together sitting at a picnic table April 9, 2009, on the South Lawn of the White House.
President Obama escorts Sen. Edward Kennedy to the motorcade from the Oval Office en route to a national service event at the Seed School, where the President also signed the Kennedy Service Act. This came four months before Kennedy's death.
President Barack Obama jokingly shows off the hat he was given during his tour of the Pyramids and Sphinx in Egypt on June 4, 2009.
President Barack Obama tours the Pyramids and Sphinx with Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass (left), Senior Advisor David Axelrod and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel (right), June 4, 2009.
President Barack Obama, Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Sergeant James Crowley toast at the start of their meeting in the Rose Garden of the White House, July 30, 2009.
President Barack Obama reacts to a picture presented to him of a younger Robert Gibbs, who played soccer at North Carolina State, following a town hall meeting at Broughton High School in Raleigh, N.C. on July 29, 2009.
In August 2009, Souza captured this photo of Obama's daughter, Sasha, sneaking up on him in the Oval Office.
President Barack Obama escorts Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India along the White House Colonnade to their meeting in the Oval Office, Nov. 24, 2009.
Obama shakes hands with troops after a speech at West Point announcing a troop surge and an exit map in Afghanistan on Dec. 1, 2009.
President Barack Obama looks at the Nobel Peace Prize medal for the first time at the Norwegian Nobel Institute in Oslo, Norway, Dec. 10, 2009.
'Having seen more than 25 Bruce Springsteen concerts since 1978 and having seen just about every movie Robert DeNiro has ever made, it was a great thrill to be in their presence as the President greeted them before the Kennedy centre honours at the White House.'
'President Obama had called on the two former Presidents to help with the situation in Haiti. During their public remarks in the Rose Garden, President Clinton had said about President Bush, 'I've already figured out how I can get him to do some things that he didn't sign on for.' Later, back in the Oval, President Bush is jokingly asking President Clinton what were those things he had in mind.'
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a Republican member of the Cabinet, feigns being a blocking back for President Barack Obama as he arrives backstage to meet with GOP House leaders before speaking to their issues conference at the Renaissance Baltimore Harbor Place Hotel in Baltimore, Md., Jan. 29, 2010
'Another snowstorm blanketed Washington for the second time in a few days. Because it was a Saturday, I hung around the White House thinking that the President might venture out in the snow with his daughters. Here they are playing in the Rose Garden in the midst of the storm.'
President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and senior staff, react in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, as the House passes the health care reform bill, March 21, 2010.
President Barack Obama's signature on the health insurance reform bill at the White House, March 23, 2010. The President signed the bill with 22 different pens.
President Barack Obama waves to U.S. troops at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, March 28, 2010. It came a few months after he announced a troop surge in the country.
President Barack Obama, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, left, and Czech Republic President Vaclav Klaus, share a toast during a luncheon at Prague Castle in Prague Prague, Czech Republic, April 8, 2010.
'The skies opened up on Memorial Day outside of Chicago. When the lightning began, the Secret Service told the President that it was too dangerous to proceed. He took the stage by himself and informed the audience that his speech was canceled and that for everyone's safety, they should return to their buses. Later, he boarded a few of the busses to thank them for attending and apologized for not being able to speak.'
'We were walking through a locker room at the University of Texas when White House Trip Director Marvin Nicholson stopped to weigh himself on a scale. Unbeknownst to him, the President was stepping on the back of the scale, as Marvin continued to slide the scale lever. Everyone but Marvin was in on the joke.'
President Barack Obama visits with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and newly confirmed Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan in the Blue Room of the White House, prior to Kagan's confirmation reception in the East Room, Aug. 6, 2010.
On the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Obama held hands with a little girl who was a family member of one of the victims.
'We were at the Pentagon to mark the ninth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. After the formal ceremony, the President stopped to shake hands with family members of victims attending the event. Here he is holding hands with a little girl.'
On Nov. 15, 2010, Obama presented the Medal of honour to a living recipient for the first time in 40 years.
'It had been more than 40 years since a President had presented a Medal of honour to a living recipient. Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta was that man, and he walked along the White House Colonnade with the President en route from the Oval Office to the public ceremony honouring him in the East Room.'
Obama comforts a widow whose husband died in the Tucson, Ariz., shooting that critically wounded Rep. Gabby Giffords.
'A terrible tragedy occurred on a Saturday in January when a gunman shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others in Tucson, Ariz. A few days later, the President spoke at a memorial service for the six victims who died and those wounded. Here he greets Mavy Stoddard, whose husband Dorwan died while protecting her during the shooting.'
Obama meets with tech executives — including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and the late Steve Jobs — in February 2011.
One of the most memorable images marking Obama's first term — his birth certificate, which the White House released in April 2011 amid conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory.
This is the famous photo from inside the Situation Room on the night of the mission to kill Osama bin Laden.
President Barack Obama delivers a statement in the East Room of the White House on the mission against Osama bin Laden, May 1, 2011.
'A few days after the mission against bin Laden, the President traveled to New York City to meet with families of the 9/11 victims. He also visited at Engine 54, Ladder 4, Battalion 9 Firehouse. The firehouse, known as the 'Pride of Midtown,' lost 15 firefighters on 9/11 -- an entire shift and more than any other New York firehouse. Here, the firefighters offer an impromptu toast to the President in honour of their fallen comrades during a lunch at the station house.'
'The President had attended the fourth grade closing ceremony for his daughter Sasha at her school in Bethesda, Md. As he was departing, he noticed some pre-school children peering out of a window at a child care facility adjacent to Sasha's school so he walked over to say hello to them.'
President Barack Obama meets with Speaker of the House John Boehner on the patio near the Oval Office, Sunday, July 3, 2011, during the debt-ceiling negotiations.
'A former President once said, 'Presidents don't get vacations, they just get a change of scenery.' We were on 'vacation' in Martha's Vineyard and the President was monitoring Hurricane Irene with John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, at right in light blue shirt. They were waiting for a conference call on the hurricane with affected governors and mayors.'
'The President and First Lady, along with former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush, paused at the North Memorial Pool of the National September 11 Memorial in New York City. The North Memorial pool sits in the footprint of the north tower, formerly 1 World Trade centre.'
'The President offers a toast to Medal of honour recipient Dakota Meyer on the patio outside of the Oval Office. Before receiving the Medal, Meyer said he wished he could have a beer with the President; the President granted his wish and the next day awarded him the Medal during a ceremony at the White House.'
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama aboard the USS Carl Vinson on Nov. 11, 2001 — before a basketball game between North Carolina and Michigan State.
President Barack Obama performs the coin toss before the annual Army vs. Navy football game at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., Saturday, December 10, 2011.
'The President and Bo, the Obama family dog, ride in the presidential motorcade en route to PetSmart in Alexandria, Va. The President bought Bo some Christmas gifts at the pet store then walked nearby to Best Buy to purchase gifts for his daughters.'
A little more than a year after she was shot in the head, Rep. Gabby Giffords appears at Obama's State of the Union address last January.
'One of the most memorable moments of the year was when the President hugged Rep. Gabrielle Giffords as he walked onto the floor of the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol to deliver his annual State of the Union address.'
'We were doing an event at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich. Before speaking, the President was looking at some of the automobiles and exhibits adjacent to the event, and before I knew what was happening he walked onto the famed Rosa Parks bus. He sat in one of the seats, looking out the window for only a few seconds.'
'The President wipes off his trousers after being splattered by frozen yogurt while shaking hands along a rope line in Boulder, Colo. University of Colorado student Kolbi Zerbest had placed her cup of yogurt on the ground while trying to shake hands with the President, and someone else inadvertently kicked the cup.'
Obama makes a historic announcement and says gay marriage should be legal in an interview with ABC's Robin Roberts on May 9, 2012.
Souza describes this moment:
'For the President, this was one of the most poignant moments of the his first term. He was visiting wounded warriors in the intensive care unit at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan. He had just presented a Purple Heart to Sgt. Chase Haag, who had been injured by an IED just hours before. Sgt. Haag was covered with a blanket and it was difficult to see how badly he was injured. He was also seemingly unconscious, or perhaps just asleep. The President whispered in his ear so not to wake him. Just then, there was a rustling under the blanket and Sgt. Haag, eyes still closed, reached his hand out to shake hands with the President. 'I'll never forget that moment,' someone else in the room later told me.'
'At Camp David for the G8 Summit, European leaders took a break to watch the overtime shootout of the Chelsea vs. Bayern Munich Champions League final. Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom, the President, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, French President François Hollande react during the winning goal.'
''How cool is this,' the President said after he threw a football at Soldier Field following the NATO working dinner in Chicago. I think he was especially excited to be on the home turf of his beloved Chicago Bears.'
Obama and George W. Bush walk in the White House at the official unveiling of Bush's portrait on May 31.
'This was the day that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the Affordable Health Care Act. Before the President came downstairs from the residence that morning, the split-screen television in the Outer Oval Office was flashing bulletins that the Court had overturned the act. Kathy Ruemmler, the White House counsel, came rushing in and told me and the President's secretary just the opposite. Kathy then departed and a few minutes later the President arrived at the Oval and saw the same inaccurate information on the television. Kathy soon reappeared to tell the President that the Court had indeed upheld the Act, and that the TV reports had it wrong. He then gave her a big hug, as Chief of Staff Jack Lew watched at left.'
''Anyone want to try a piece of my strawberry pie,' the President asked those at adjacent tables during a stop for lunch at Kozy Corners restaurant in Oak Harbor, Ohio. A young boy said yes and came over for a big bite of pie.'
'The President hugs Stephanie Davies, who helped her friend, Allie Young, left, stay alive after she was shot during the movie theatre shootings in Aurora, Colo. The President visited patients and family members affected by the shootings at the University of Colorado Hospital. The President later told their story in a news conference.'
This iconic photo, taken at a campaign rally in August, later became the most retweeted photo in history after the Obama campaign tweeted it as its victory photo.
'The President hugs the First Lady after she had introduced him at a campaign event in Davenport, Iowa. The campaign tweeted a similar photo from the campaign photographer on election night and a lot of people thought it was taken on election day.'
Another iconic hug: Obama with Bill Clinton after Clinton's speech at the Democratic National Convention in early September.
...And yet another. Obama gets hugged in the air by a Scott Van Duzer, owner of Big Apple Pizza in Florida, who described himself as a Republican.
'The President pretends to be caught in Spider-Man's web as he greets Nicholas Tamarin, 3, just outside the Oval Office. Spider-Man had been trick-or-treating for an early Halloween with his father, White House aide Nate Tamarin in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. I can never commit to calling any picture my favourite, but the President told me that this was HIS favourite picture of the year when he saw it hanging in the West Wing a couple of weeks later.'
During the last week of the campaign, Obama travels to New Jersey to tour damage from Hurricane Sandy. He was embraced by Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who received backlash from members of his own party.
President Barack Obama hugs Donna Vanzant, the owner of North Point Marina, as he tours damage from Hurricane Sandy in Brigantine, N.J., Oct. 31, 2012.
Obama walks on stage to deliver his re-election victory speech with First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden.
'The President had just met with the U.S. Olympics gymnastics team, who because of a previous commitment had missed the ceremony earlier in the year with the entire U.S. Olympic team. The President suggested to McKayla Maroney that they recreate her 'not impressed' photograph before they departed.'
'The President tries to comfort Damien and Glenda Moore at a FEMA Disaster Recovery centre tent in Staten Island, N.Y. The Moore's two small children, Brandon and Connor, died after being swept away during Hurricane Sandy.'
President Barack Obama and Personal Secretary Anita Decker watch a video of former advisor David Axelrod shaving off his mustache, in the Outer Oval Office, Dec. 7, 2012.
'To some, this is just a snapshot and doesn't belong in this gallery of candid photographs from the year. But to me, it evokes what the trip to Burma was all about. Here is the President, shoes and socks off in respect, posing like an American tourist in front of the oldest pagoda in the world in a country that no U.S. President had ever been able to visit.'
'The President reacts as John Brennan briefs him on the details of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The President later said during a TV interview that this was the worst day of his Presidency.'
'Two days after the shootings at Newtown, the President traveled to Connecticut to meet with the victims' families and give remarks at a prayer vigil. The President spent hours greeting family members. Difficult as that was for everyone, the one moment that helped sooth the pain was when he posed for a photo with the siblings and cousins of Emilie Parker, one of the 20 children who died that day in Newtown. I see both sadness and hope in this photograph, and I know after a lot of tears that day, it meant so much to the President that everyone was able to smile for a moment in this family photo. Thanks to the Parker family for allowing us to show this photograph publicly.'
The last major announcement of Obama's first term in office — an aggressive push to combat gun violence.
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