So I saw this article about the most diverse president in US history hosting an Iftar dinner. Now the article wrongly asserts that the Clinton administration was the first to host the dinner. This is pretty much untrue and the result of the usual sloppy journalism. What Hillary (not Bill) hosted was an Eid dinner - something completly different. Nope, GW Bush was the first to host a Iftar dinner, just three months after the attack on 9/11. Technically, Jefferson may have hosted the first when he moved a dinner meeting with a Muslim envoy to after dark to accommodate the visitor during Ramadan.
But that is not what I wanted to write about. No, this picture got my attention:
Particularly, the lectern that he is using grabbed my attention. Here's a close up of it from another article and a different angle:
I was like wow! That doesn't look like a traditional representation of the American eagle. It looks a little strange. I tried using google image search on it and got this:
this article where Obama used exactly the same lectern for the Iftar dinner last year - here's a screen capture of the opening video clip:
It does seem to dominate his dinners. Earlier that year he used it for a $35000 a plate fund raiser:
In 2010, he brought it our for the Governor's Ball:
And before that, he used it for the 2009 National Governor's Association Dinner, a first black tie event for his administration:
One begins to wonder if he brought that lectern in when he wanted to appear especially presidential? I did a little more digging to see if I could find other presidents that had used that lectern and hit some paydirt. Here is a picture of Bush with it:
Even Reagan appears with it:
Digging a little deeper, it appears it goes with the state dining room - here is a picture of it all by itself from 2006:
There is a motif of eagles in the state dining room, so maybe it came in with them. The earliest pictures I could find of them was back from the Roosevelt administration (1906):
A final clue is this picture from the Reagan library:
My conclusion? I believe that rather than being a 'demonic' eagle, the Bamster's use of the eagle lectern in an attempt for him to adopt a 'presidential pose'. That he drags out this artifact frequently is just another indication of both his insecurity and his need to try to link himself to the greatness of the office as opposed to any substantial contribution he has made to the country. I have yet to get an answer back from the Reagan library as to the provenance of the lectern or if any other administrations has borrowed it. What would be particularly funny (and pointedly 'culturally insensitive') would be if this lectern, so prominently featured in honorary Muslim state dinners, came from some Anglican church (which traditionally use an eagle motif).
I got a timely response to my query from a Reagan Library exhibit specialist. To summarize, VP Rockefeller and his aide, Joseph Canzeri wanted a nicer lectern for the VP's press room. They had an 1840s era eagle motif lectern restored for use in the press room. Later President Reagan used it (as seen above). It was used in the White House for special events through President GW Bush's first term. Since the lectern was the property of the Canzeri family, the family felt that it's association with Ronald Reagan was so strong that it donated it to the Reagan Library for display. I will probably dig a little more and see if I can find out where the 1840's era eagle came from. Oh - the one Obama uses? It's a 'reproduction' of the one in the Reagan Library. If you look closely at the Bush picture above, you will see that the lectern is the same reproduction one that Obama is using. Draw what conclusions you will from that symbolism and juxtaposition.