33 Moments That Defined the Obamas’ DC

A timeline of the moments we'll remember most.

January 10, 2009: “What is a half-smoke?”

President-elect Obama and DC mayor Adrian Fenty visit Ben’s Chili Bowl, the venerable U Street hot-dog joint. “What is a half-smoke?” the incoming chief executive asks. Fenty hints Obama will return.

Photograph of Ben’s Chili Bowl by Getty Images
Photograph of Ben’s Chili Bowl by Getty Images

January 15, 2009: Obamas dine at Equinox

At the opposite end of the culinary spectrum, the Obamas dine at Equinox for FLOTUS’s birthday, the first sign they’ll be frequenting local restaurants.

January 28, 2009: DC needs some “flinty Chicago toughness”

Washington loses its collective mind over a snowstorm, prompting Obama to joke that we need some “flinty Chicago toughness.”

March 20, 2009: The White House garden is planted

Michelle Obama plants the White House garden, providing the GOP proof of a nanny state and Washingtonians a reason to take the garden tour again.

Photograph of Garden and State Dinner by Samantha Appleton/White House
Photograph of Garden by Samantha Appleton/White House

November 24, 2009: State dinner crashers

Tareq and Michaele Salahi crash the Obamas’ first state dinner and give the city a deliciously tasteless scandal to chew over for months.

Photograph of Garden and State Dinner by Samantha Appleton/White House
Photograph of State Dinner by Samantha Appleton/White House

January 21, 2010: Citizens United v. FEC Decision

The Supreme Court paves the way for unlimited political spending by corporations with its Citizens United v. FEC decision, and the Washington consultants who will soon launch super-PACs rejoice.

June 24, 2010:  Obama dines at Ray’s Hell Burger.

Obama and Russian president Dmitry Medvedev have lunch at Ray’s Hell Burger. Those were the days.

Photograph of Ray’s by Alamy
Photograph of Ray’s by Alamy

September 12, 2010: FreedomWorks’ Remember

FreedomWorks holds the Remember in November rally, one of several that draw thousands of Tea Partyers. Mike Pence is among the keynoters.

October 30, 2010: Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s Rally

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert hold the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, and 200,000 people swarm the Mall for the Tea Party takedown.

Photograph of Rally by AP Images
Photograph of Rally by AP Images

April 7, 2011: “John, I will give you DC abortion.”

“John, I will give you DC abortion.” With a government shutdown looming, Obama gives in to House speaker John Boehner’s request for DC abortion restrictions, and many Washingtonians feel had.

April 17, 2011: Game of Thrones premieres

Game of Thrones premieres, creating a cottage industry of bad comparisons of DC power players to make-believe knights and dragons. If you use “Obama” and “Jon Snow” in the same sentence, stop.

August 23, 2011: A 5.8-magnitude earthquake

A 5.8-magnitude earthquake damages the Washington Monument and National Cathedral.

Photographs of Earthquake, Michelle Obama, and Occupy by AP Images
Photographs of Earthquake, Michelle Obama, and Occupy by AP Images

September 29, 2011: Michelle Obama’s Target appearance

Michelle Obama shops at the Alexandria Target in sunglasses and a ball cap and is recognized. FLOTUS—she’s just like us!

obamatarget

January 30, 2012: Occupy Wall Street

Occupy Wall Street defies a federal deadline and keeps occupying McPherson Square, months after the Occupy fever in other cities has broken.

wallstreetoccupy

April 22, 2012: Veep premieres

Veep premieres.Washington sycophants covet cameos.

Photographs of Veep by Lawrence Jackson/White House
Photographs of Veep by Lawrence Jackson/White House

June 20, 2012: “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All”

Former State Department official Anne-Marie Slaughter publishes “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” in the Atlantic. Four years later, women still can’t have it all.

June 28, 2012: A new low in cable news

SCOTUS upholds Obamacare’s individual mandate, and CNN and Fox News initially misreport the decision, a new low in cable news.

January 15, 2013: “Taxation Without Representation” license plates

Safely reelected, Obama announces he’ll use the District’s “taxation without representation” license plates. Better late than never?

Photographs of License Plate by Getty Images
Photographs of License Plate by Getty Images

September 16, 2013: Navy Yard shooting

A gunman kills 12 people during the Navy Yard shooting. At the time, it’s the fifth mass shooting Obama has addressed in his presidency.

Photographs of License Plate and Obama With Mourners by Getty Images
Photographs of Obama With Mourners by Getty Images

October 4, 2013: Obama and Biden go outside

The government is shut down, so Obama and Biden walk to Taylor Gourmet for lunch. Cable news loses it, obvi.

October 17, 2013: Panda cam

Panda Cam views almost break the internet when Washington can’t get enough of two-month-old cub Bao Bao.

Photograph of Panda by AP Images
Photograph of Panda by AP Images

February 14, 2014: Frank Underwood, POTUS

Frank Underwood becomes President. #HouseofCards

Photograph of House of Cards By Patrick Harbron/Netflix
Photograph of House of Cards By Patrick Harbron/Netflix

March 11, 2014: Between Two Ferns

POTUS wins the day in Washington—and wins over the country’s hipsters—by going on Between Two Ferns With Zach Galifianakis to promote Obamacare.

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Photograph of Obama and Galifianakis by Pete Souza/White House

August 7, 2014: SoulCycle’s first DC studio

SoulCycle opens its first studio in Washington, and Michelle Obama is soon spotted shredding it, cementing the spinning studio’s local presence.

September 19, 2014: White House fence debacle

An armed man jumps the White House fence and makes it all the way to the East Room before being tackled by Secret Service. The security breach prompts plans to raise the fence from 7 to 14 feet.

April 16, 2015: The new White House Social Secretary

Deesha Dyer, an African-American who attended community college, becomes White House social secretary—a shift from the old model of giving the job to socially connected types.

June 26, 2015: Same-sex marriage legalization

SCOTUS legalizes same-sex marriage. Crowds mass outside the White House as spotlights project a rainbow onto it.

Photographs of White House by AP Images
Photographs of White House by AP Images

August 22, 2015: Panda Bei Bei’s birth

Bao Bao’s brother, Bei Bei, is born, and Michelle Obama reveals that cub’s name.

September 22, 2015: The Pope’s visit

The pope comes to town, and Washington can’t decide which is more adorable—the popemobile or John Boehner crying during the pontiff’s address to Congress.

Photographs of Pope on Mall by Getty Images. Photographs of Obamas With Pope by Pete Souza/White House.
Photographs of Pope on Mall by Getty Images. Photographs of Obamas With Pope by Pete Souza/White House.

May 23, 2016: The Obamas’ new home

News breaks that the Obamas will rent a home in Kalorama after leaving the White House. Neighbors include Tony Podesta, Chris and Lorraine Wallace, and Lois Romano.

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Photographs of Kalorama Home by AP Images

July 20, 2016: “Carpool Karaoke” with James Gorden

FLOTUS does “carpool karaoke” with Late Late Show host James Corden, and the internet squeals with delight while Washingtonians count the number of times the car circles the White House driveway.

Photographs of Carpool Karaoke by Getty Images
Photographs of Carpool Karaoke by Getty Images

September 24, 2016: The opening of National Museum of African American

A 100-year-old plan comes to life when the National Museum of African American History & Culture opens. The heartwarming mood is bipartisan: George W. Bush and Michelle Obama happily embrace.

November 23, 2016: The Last Turkey

POTUS is slated to pardon his last turkey, undoubtedly reminiscing about all the turkeys DC served up these past eight years.

Photographs of Obama with Turkey by Pete Souza/White House
Photographs of Obama with Turkey by Pete Souza/White House

This article appears in the December 2016 issue of Washingtonian.

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Staff Writer

Elaina Plott joined Washingtonian in June 2016 as a staff writer. She has written about her past life as an Ann Coulter fangirl, how the Obamas changed Washington, and the rise and fall of Roll Call. She previously covered Congress for National Review. Her writing has appeared in the New York Observer, GQ, and Harper’s Bazaar.