Mr. Obama came to Washington today, and to a new address in sight of -- but not at -- the White House, a symbolic nod to Obama's oft-repeated adage that there is only one president at a time.
Michelle Obama arrived with the two first daughters late Saturday, whisking 10-year-old Malia and 7-year-old Sasha into Washington's Hay-Adams hotel, out of sight of waiting photographers. The president-elect flew into town this evening and joined his family at the hotel.
The storied inn, as the barriers and police cars blocking the main thoroughfare of H Street made clear, will serve as the first family's temporary home until they move across Lafayette Park to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on Jan. 20.
The Obamas had sought to move into Blair House, the official guest house near the White House, but were denied access, apparently due to a scheduling conflict. It is a move the family has hoped for and anticipated for months, as Michelle Obama told ABC's "Good Morning America" in May.
"What a gift to grow up in the White House, to, to see world leaders, to understand how the country is shaped," she said. "What a symbol that it will show to so many young boys and girls out there, particularly kids of color who have never seen themselves in a major way. What a statement that'll be."
The Obama girls are the youngest White House residents since Amy Carter and John Kennedy Jr. before her.
The main reason for the timing of the move was the Obama girls' first day in their new school on Monday, a sometimes daunting experience for White House children, as Amy Carter discovered when she was mobbed as she arrived at Thaddeus Stevens Elementary School.
As Mary Finch Hoyt, former spokeswoman for first lady Rosalynn Carter, writes in her book, "East Wing," Amy was shocked to be met by a throng of reporters, photographers and onlookers on the bitterly cold morning she arrived at the public school nine blocks from the White House.
"'Uh-h,' Amy rolls her eyes," Finch writes. "Mother and daughter climb out of the limousine into blinding flashbulbs. The child, bundled up in warm clothing, pulls her knit cap down close to her eyes. … The photographers go wild."
The Obamas apparently chose Sidwell Friends school in the hopes that their daughters would stand out less. There is no celebrity culture at Sidwell. As a school that caters to the children of Washington's elite, it prides itself on treating celebrity kids like other kids, and has plenty of experience doing it.
There, the girls will walk in the footsteps of Chelsea Clinton, Albert Gore III and three granddaughters of Vice President-elect Joe Biden, an apparent selling point for the Obama girls.
"These kids are used to turning on the TV set and seeing not only their parents but all their parents' closest friends on television every night, either in positions of power or as journalists or newscasters, so that they are going to be so used to this kind of thing that they're not going to be as glamorized by the Obama girls as they might find a situation in another school," author and journalist Sally Quinn said. "They could make it as normal as possible."
Normal as possible, perhaps, but when you live at the world's most famous address, nothing is ever truly normal.