11 hidden meanings behind the personal touches in President Biden's Oval Office you may have missed

Sophie-Claire Hoeller
·6-min read
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President Joe Biden has made some significant style changes in the Oval Office. Evan Vucci/AP
  • Every incoming president gets to redecorate the Oval Office, and Biden has added his own touches.

  • Portraits of rivals Jefferson and Hamilton hung in close proximity signal Biden's hope for bipartisanship.

  • A photo of his late son Beau is watching over him.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Every incoming president gets to redecorate the Oval Office to their taste, but few have packed in as many personal touches and as much symbolism as President Joe Biden.

"It was important for President Biden to walk into an Oval that looked like America and started to show the landscape of who he is going to be as president," Ashley Williams, deputy director of Oval Office Operations, told The Washington Post.

Keep scrolling for the hidden meanings behind some of President Biden's décor choices.

A moon rock sitting on a bookshelf and a portrait of Benjamin Franklin put his love of science on prominent display.

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A lunar sample from the Apollo 17 moon mission sits on a bookshelf. Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Between a lunar sample from the Apollo 17 moon mission sitting on a bookshelf and a portrait of Benjamin Franklin, President Joe Biden is not only making clear that he will follow science, but reminding people of America's ambition and perseverance, according to the Post.

Read more: Apollo 17 astronauts returned to earth 47 years ago today. These photos tell the story of the last manned lunar landing.

A table covered in family photos shows just how much family means to him.

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A sculpted bust of Cesar Chavez oversees a collection of personal framed photos. Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

A table behind Biden's desk features a huge array of family photos, most notably at least one of his late son, Beau, who died of brain cancer in 2015.

Before Beau's death, then-Vice President Biden said he had plans of running for the presidency in 2016. He chose not to run because he felt that he didn't have the emotional capacity after his son's passing.

Read more: Joe Biden said his late son Beau 'should be the one running for president' in an emotional tribute on 'Morning Joe'

A framed photograph of himself with the pope reminds us of his faith.

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A photo of President Biden and the pope. Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

A picture of Biden and the pope is prominently displayed behind his desk, reminding us of his Catholic faith. He's only the second Catholic US president, as most have been other Christian denominations.

The dark blue rug may be a nod to his 47 years of serving as a democrat.

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The dark blue rug was last seen in the Oval Office during the Clinton administration. AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Biden replaced former President Donald Trump's cream-colored rug with a deep royal blue one, possibly reminding us of the color most associated with the democratic party, according to House Beautiful.

The gold-colored drapes could signal his reliability.

President Joe Biden signs his first executive orders in the Oval Office of the White House on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021
The gold curtains were used by both the Clinton and the Trump administration. Evan Vucci/AP

Biden kept Trump's gold drapes, which had previously hung in former President Bill Clinton's Oval Office, according to the Post.

While the color gold is usually associated with wealth and success, it can also symbolize following rules and respecting authority, and being loyal, dependable, stable, and caring, according to Color Psychology.

Portraits of political rivals Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton demonstrate his hope for bipartisan collaboration.

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Portraits of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, who enjoyed a well-documented rivalry, were purposely hung next to each other. Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Biden spoke a lot about bipartisanship and unity at his inauguration, and two paintings in his office exemplify this.

The portraits of political rivals Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton that hang in close proximity to one another in the Oval Office is no coincidence. Biden's office told the Post that they were "hallmarks of how differences of opinion, expressed within the guardrails of the Republic, are essential to democracy."

Read more: Kamala Harris, Hillary Clinton, and Elizabeth Warren all wore purple for Inauguration Day, likely as a sign of bipartisanship

His removal of military flags may signal a new era for those serving.

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President Biden sits in front of an American flag and a presidential seal flag. JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

Trump put a lot of focus on the military during his term, despite an ultimately strained relationship, and Biden's removal of said flags, and replacement with an American flag and a presidential seal flag, could signal a new beginning.

"I will be a commander in chief who always lives up to our most sacred obligation to protect our men and women in uniform and honors the sacrifice they and their families make," Biden wrote in an official campaign statement.

One of the first executive orders he signed upon taking office was one repealing the ban on transgender people serving openly in the military, which Trump had previously installed.

Busts and portraits of innovators and activists might show he's looking to adopt more progressive policies.

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A sculpted bust of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. flanks the fireplace, alongside one of Robert F. Kennedy. Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Busts and portraits of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Robert F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez dot the office, setting the tone for a progressive presidency.

"Placing a bust of my father in the Oval Office symbolizes the hopeful new day that is dawning for our nation," said Paul F. Chavez, Chavez's son and president of the Cesar Chavez Foundation, in a press release.

A horse-and-rider sculpture by an Apache sculptor could demonstrate his commitment to diversity.

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A horse-and-rider sculpture created by Santa Fe sculptor Allan Houser sits on a bookcase. Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

A horse-and-rider sculpture created by Santa Fe sculptor Allan Houser of the Chiricahua Apache tribe also sits on a bookcase.

It belonged to the late Senator Daniel K. Inouye, who was the first Japanese American elected to both houses of Congress. This could signify Biden's commitment to diversity: he's put together one of the most diverse Cabinets in American history, having aimed to "build an administration that looks like America."

A box of pens could indicate a return to more traditional politics.

Box of U.S. President Biden pens is seen at the White House in Washington A box of pens with the presidential seal and the signature of U.S. President Joe Biden is seen on display at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 21, 2021.
A box of pens featuring President Biden's signature sits on his desk. Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Trump loved signing executive orders with thick black markers, celebrity autograph style, but Biden's collection of traditional pens, featuring his signature in gold, could signal a return to more traditional policy-making.

Forget Trump's Diet Coke button - ever-present cups and saucers show that Biden is a coffee drinker.

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Former President Trump's Diet Coke button has been removed. Tom Brenner/Reuters

Trump's Diet Coke button, which would summon a glass of the sugary soft drink when pushed, was infamous. However, it was swiftly replaced with a cup and saucer, demonstrating Biden's affinity for coffee over soda.

Read more: Biden appears to have removed the button Trump used to order Diet Cokes from the Oval Office desk

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