The White House receives a new, official Christmas ornament each year, and most of them chronologically commemorate presidential administrations of years past. When the tradition began in 1981, the first ornament was made in honor of George Washington. This year, the ornament on the Obama family tree honors William Howard Taft, and is made in the shape of the first presidential automobile Taft brought to the White House.
According to ChemArt, the company that makes the ornaments for the White House Historical Association, sitting presidents aren't involved in the process of designing the ornaments.
"The presidents aren't involved, not at all; it's nonpolitical," says Joseph Beck, vice president of sales and marketing for ChemArt. "By the time we get to [honoring Obama], it will be 20 years from now."
But Beck says one former president, Bill Clinton, has "expressed interest in helping design" his own official ornament. With more than a dozen presidents still to commemorate between Taft and Clinton, it's unlikely the ornament honoring the 42nd president would be hung on the White House Christmas tree before 2025, or when Clinton is about 80 years old.
ChemArt already has a relationship with Clinton, having done work for the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Presidential Library. But Beck doesn't know what accomplishment of the Clinton administration the Christmas ornament would fete. "He was just coming up with ideas," Beck says of Clinton's involvement.
The 2012 official White House ornament honors William Howard Taft and his introduction of the automobile to White House transportation in 1909.
The Clinton Foundation did not respond to a request for comment.
But if next year's ornament design is any indication, the ornament could be highly laudatory. The 2013 White House ornament commemorating Woodrow Wilson will be in the shape of a tree with doves on it, to signify the tree Wilson planted outside the White House, and the Nobel Peace Prize he received in 1920.
While the new ornament is hung annually in the White House Blue Room, this year all White House ornaments from the last three decades were also hung in one place for the public to see: on an enormous tree in the historic Willard InterContinental Washington hotel lobby.
"The White House and the Willard Hotel have shared a storied past," Neil W. Horstman, president of the White House Historical Association, told a crowd assembled Tuesday to see the adorned tree. "Many former presidents have been their guests... Several have lived here."
Ulysses S. Grant, he noted, used to drink whiskey and smoke a cigar while relaxing in the Willard lobby, where the Christmas tree is now placed. The official ornament that honored Grant shows a young boy surrounded by toys sold at fancy goods stores in Washington during the Grant administration.