February 15, 2018
President Trump and his Desk
The desk used by President Trump in the Oval Office is called the Resolute Desk and has been used by many of our presidents. It was first used by Rutherford B. Hayes after it was received as a gift from Queen Victoria in 1880. The desk is oversized, made of oak from the ship used during Britain’s arctic mission – the HMS Resolute. Most of the presidents since the desk was received have used it with notable exceptions including Nixon, Johnson, Ford, and George H. W. Bush. President Johnson allowed the desk to leave the White House so it could go on a traveling exhibition by the Smithsonian. It was not returned to the White House until President Jimmy Carter was in office.
At this point, it should be noted that our US Presidents have several desks available to them for use. The Oval Office is the one where most Presidents enjoy photo ops, but they also have one in their private quarters. George H. W. Bush used the private one for his work and most photos too. There is a desk area on Airforce One too.
From looking at several pictures of President Trump at the Resolute Desk over the last year, it is obvious that he prefers his desk to be very tidy and almost completely free of clutter … for photo ops. Candid photos are another matter. That is true of his working space pictures even before he became President. People sometimes make a big deal about how clean the desk is in pictures, but they forget, those are almost always staged pics.
They have even made a big deal about there being no family photos in site. Think about this … we live in the cellular age. How many actual photos do most people have of people in their life these days? Instead, we carry them in our phones. One can presume that with the large extended Trump family … growing grandchildren and the like, it is probably much easier for him to carry personal photos in his phone.
When President Trump is working, it seems that clutter abounds … Though it undoubtedly is organized for maximum efficiency … a plan known well to him. All you have to do is run a search engine check of images of President Trump’s desk, and you’ll see a wide array of how his desk might look at different times, including his desk before taking office.
In January 2018 critics were commenting on the cleared workspace, but a year before they were commenting on the negatives of his cluttered desk. In Trump Tower, his office included a lot of memorabilia from his life and accomplishments. In the Oval Office, there’s almost none of that. That may say as much about the man and the nation as we need to know. He has critics, he has had them all along, and they are willing to find fault at every turn. Past Presidents have faced similar situations. He’s a fighter, so he’ll get through it.
But the desk? From this perspective, maybe the lack of personal stuff speaks of his respect for the mantle of President. His enterprises before taking office were about promotion and building his empire. His time as President has been focused on keeping promises he made to those who voted him into office.
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.