One last wave and it's goodbye to the White House

Mr Obama leaving Washington, DC in the Executive One helicopter after the inauguration ceremony on Friday. Seeing the Obamas off at the US Capitol are (top, from left) First Lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump, Vice-President Mike Pence and hi
Mr Obama leaving Washington, DC in the Executive One helicopter after the inauguration ceremony on Friday. PHOTOS: BLOOMBERG, REUTERS
Mr Obama leaving Washington, DC in the Executive One helicopter after the inauguration ceremony on Friday. Seeing the Obamas off at the US Capitol are (top, from left) First Lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump, Vice-President Mike Pence and hi
Seeing the Obamas off at the US Capitol are (Above, from left) First Lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump, Vice-President Mike Pence and his wife Karen Pence.PHOTOS: BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

WASHINGTON • It will be up to history to render final judgment on Mr Barack Obama's presidency, but the 44th president got at least one positive assessment as he prepared to leave the White House.

Chief Usher Angella Reid jokingly advised Mr Obama that he could have his "security deposit back".

Ms Reid and the White House curator then presented him and Mrs Michelle Obama with two American flags: one that had flown over the White House on the first day of his presidency and another from his last.

Ms Reid also handed over a tall stack of paper towels from the washroom, complete with the gold presidential seal. Mr Obama always joked with guests that they could have as many paper towels as they wanted.

For a couple who embodied change when they entered the White House, the Obamas' last day there was one full of age-old conventions.

In a ceremony filled with private references, the Obamas thanked the residence staff for their service over the past eight years. Then they sat down for coffee and tea with the new president and first lady on the State Floor before escorting the Trumps to the US Capitol.

For the rest of the day, the Obamas quietly navigated the rituals that marked their exit.

Judging from the social media reaction, some Americans were more unwilling to see the Obamas relinquish the White House than they were themselves.

Hours before his departure, Mr Obama posted on Twitter to thank followers and hint that he would not fade away. "I won't stop," he said. "I'll be right there with you as a citizen, inspired by your voices of truth and justice, good humour and love."

After the inauguration ceremony, the family headed to Palm Springs, California for a short vacation.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 22, 2017, with the headline 'One last wave and it's goodbye to the White House'. Print Edition | Subscribe