Behind the Lens: Photographing the President in 50 Countries

Today, President Obama visits Kenya — the 50th country he has visited during his Administration. It’s also my 50th country traveling with the President.

To mark the occasion, as I did when the President visited his 50th state, I chose one photograph from each country that we’ve visited.

Traveling abroad with the President is very different.

Often times, I am at the mercy of the host country for access. Some countries are more accommodating to me than others. I am lucky to have counterpart official photographers in many countries who are extremely helpful to me in this regard. I of course try to return the help to them when they visit the White House with their head of state.

We’re also rarely in any one country for more than a couple of days, which gives us only a partial glimpse of each place. And because of security, the sites we are able to visit are often limited too.

All that said, we’ve had the incredible opportunity to visit the Pyramids in Egypt, Stonehenge in the United Kingdom, the Great Wall in China, Petra in Jordan, and the Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar (Burma). (So I really shouldn’t complain too much.)

I hope you enjoy this gallery. And stay tuned — we’ll be adding a photograph from Kenya and additionally, Ethiopia, following his visit next week.

Afghanistan, 2012

Boarding Air Force One at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, May 1, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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This Day in History: Construction Began on Hoover Dam

On July 7, 1930, construction began on the Hoover Dam. President Herbert Hoover was deeply devoted to protecting the environment, particularly focusing on pollution-free water, flood control, and fisheries. After a disastrous Mississippi River flood in 1927, Hoover recommitted to bettering American infrastructure to prevent another catastrophe.

Hoover Dam Workers

Before the Dam could be built the Colorado River had to be diverted through tunnels. This piece of equipment, named a Jumbo Rig, was designed to speed up the tunnel drilling process. Built on the back of a 10-ton truck, 24 to 30 drills could be operated at once. (Department of Interior Bureau of Reclamation)

“[Hoover] Dam will probably be the biggest dam, perhaps the biggest man-made thing in the whole wide world.”

— Fortune Magazine, September 1933

Hoover Dam Early Construction

Early construction in Black Canyon (Department of Interior Bureau of Reclamation)

Think of it as a giant Lego set, with over 200 blocks fitted together to stand 726 feet tall. The Hoover Dam has been called the Eighth Wonder of the World, comparable to the Great Pyramids of Egypt, and “a vision in the desert.”

In the 1940s, the Hoover Powerplant was the largest hydroelectric installation in the world. Today, over 1.3 million people benefit from the 4 billion kilowatt-hours of hydroelectric power the Dam generates each year.

Hoover Dam View from Crest

View from dam's crest during test of Jet Flow gates. (Department of Interior Bureau of Reclamation)

In addition to being an engineering masterpiece, controlling flooding and generating hydroelectric power, the Dam is a national gem, showcasing diverse artistry. Norwegian immigrant Oskar J.W. Hansen sculpted the Winged Figures of the Republic, a pair of 30-foot bronzed statues which guard the Nevada side of the Dam. Hansen stated that the sentinels symbolize "the immutable calm of intellectual resolution, and the enormous power of trained physical strength, equally enthroned in placid triumph of scientific accomplishment." The angels stand on a magnificent terrazzo floor patterned with a star chart from the 1935 date of dedication by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

"The waters of this great river, instead of being wasted in the sea, will now be brought into use by man. Civilization advances with the practical application of knowledge in such structures as the one being built here in the pathway of one on the great rivers of the continent. The spread of its values in human happiness is beyond computation."

—Herbert Hoover, November 1932

Hoover Dam Jet Flow Gate Testing

Jet Flow Gate Testing, June 1998 (Department of Interior Bureau of Reclamation)

Hoover Dam was completed two years ahead of schedule and millions of dollars under budget. Over the years, investment in our nation’s infrastructure has fallen on the backburner, despite its importance for American citizens and our economy. The President has a plan to fix that, by reforming our programs and increasing funding to support our growing population and millions of jobs. It’s time to rebuild America.

President Obama at Hoover Dam

President Barack Obama views the Hoover Dam during a stop at the 1,900-foot long structure which spans the Colorado River at the Arizona-Nevada border, Oct. 2, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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Dr. Jill Biden Sponsors and Christens the USS Gabrielle Giffords

On Saturday in Mobile, Alabama, Dr. Jill Biden took part in the christening ceremony for the USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10). The ship is named after former Congresswoman and Navy spouse Gabby Giffords. In the words of Dr. Jill Biden, Gabby is part of ... Read more »

Behind the Lens: Photographing an American Hero

Six years ago — on June 6, 2009 — I photographed Cory Remsburg for the first time.

It was amid a whirlwind day in France for President Obama — and for me. We’d had an event with U.S. embassy personnel in Paris; a flight on Air Force One from Paris to Caen; a state visit with then-President Sarkozy; a picturesque helicopter ride into Normandy; the 65th anniversary of D-Day; a helicopter, then a plane ride back to Paris; and finally a tour with the Obama family at the Cathedral de Notre Dame. The President and First Lady greeted hundreds of people that day, including a small group of Army Rangers in Normandy.

Eight months later, I accompanied the President as he made his regular quarterly trip to visit wounded warriors at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. The 10th patient he visited that day did not at all look familiar to me. The patient, an Army Ranger, had suffered a severe brain injury caused by a roadside explosion in Afghanistan.

His name was Cory Remsburg.

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My Day One: September 6, 2012

September 6, 2012 was my first day as a citizen of the United States of America. I raised my hand, took the oath of allegiance, and the United States officially became my country that day. At the naturalization ceremony, I received the following lette... Read more »

What Top Officials Charged with Keeping Our Nation Safe Are Saying About the TPP

It is certainly true that America’s trade policy plays a large role in the resurgence and strength of our economy – but that’s not the only role it fills. Our trade policy also sits at the core of our strategy to keep America and our allies safe in the 21st century. 

So here's the question: How can the President's progressive trade deal -- the Trans-Pacific Partnership -- help safeguard our future?

Tour of @Boeing factory was particularly special for me -- my Dad was a pilot/flying has been in my family for years pic.twitter.com/U7QmoGlnLz

— John Kerry (@JohnKerry) May 19, 2015

Speaking today at Boeing Headquarters in Seattle, WA, America's top diplomat -- Secretary of State John Kerry -- offered this answer

"It is no secret that the world in the future looks pretty complicated right now. The turbulence that we see comes from a combination of factors, including the fact that even as the world grows closer, there are powerful forces pulling people apart – terrorism, extreme nationalism, conflicts over resources, a huge number of people coming of age in parts of the world where there simply aren’t enough jobs. This creates a race between opportunity and frustration that we can’t afford to lose.

Expanded trade can help us win that race by spurring innovation and – and as we’ve seen in Asia and elsewhere – helping hundreds of millions of people to lift themselves out of poverty. And poverty, my friends, is where you see much of this violent extremism born.

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Behind the Lens: Photographing the President in 50 States

This week, the President will visit South Dakota, marking the 50th state he has visited during his administration (as such, it's also my 50th state with him). To mark the occasion, I chose one photograph from each state that we’ve visited. This was not as easy as I thought it would be. With help from photo editor Phaedra Singelis, I tried to depict a variety of situations. Some are more lighthearted; some are sad, and some are poignant. Some are with the Vice President; some are with the First Lady, and a couple are with the entire family. A selection of photos are centered on policy, and others on politics. Some focus on the President as Commander-in-Chief -- others on his role as consoler for the nation.

I hope you enjoy this gallery. And stay tuned -- we’ll be adding a photograph from South Dakota following his visit there on Friday.

Alabama, March 7, 2015. Marching at the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Alabama, March 7, 2015. Marching at the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Alaska. Nov 12, 2009. Air Force One refueling at Elmendorf Air Force Base. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

Alaska. Nov 12, 2009. Air Force One refueling at Elmendorf Air Force Base. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

Arizona, Aug. 16, 2009. Viewing the Grand Canyon. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

Arizona, Aug. 16, 2009. Viewing the Grand Canyon. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

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The Incredible Kid-Ingenuity on Display at the 5th White House Science Fair

Today, the halls of the White House were packed with science projects -- robots, 3D-printed objects, computer programs, apps, and extraordinary scientific discoveries -- all built, invented, designed, and brought to fruition by students.

President Barack Obama greets Emily Bergenroth, Alicia Cutter, Karissa Cheng, Addy O’Neal, and Emery Dodson, all six-year-old Girl Scouts, from Tulsa, Oklahoma as he viewed their science exhibit during the 2015 White House Science Fair celebrating student winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) competitions, in the Red Room, March 23, 2015. The girls used Lego pieces and designed a battery-powered page turner to help people who are paralyzed or have arthritis. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza).

At the 5th annual White House Science Fair, President Obama welcomed more than 100 students from more than 30 states for a celebration and showcase of their truly remarkable achievmenets in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

As part of the Science Fair, approximately 35 student teams exhibited innovative projects -- including discoveries and insights in key areas such as disease diagnostics, clean energy, and information security -- as well as inventions ranging from the “why didn’t I think of that?” (automatic page-turner for people with arthritis) to the “who’d have ever thought that possible?” (a hiccup-curing lollipop!).

The President personally viewed some of these projects, marveling at the incredible ingenuity on display from student innovators across the country including some as young as six years old.

President Barack Obama talks with Sergio Corral and Isela Martinez while viewing science exhibits during the 2015 White House Science Fair celebrating student winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) competitions, in the State Dining Room, March 23, 2015. The two 17-year-old students are current leaders of the robotics program from Carl Hayden High School in Phoenix, Ariz., which was chronicled in the recent documentary "Underwater Dreams" where their under-served high school beat out MIT and other colleges in an underwater robotics competition. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy).

In remarks to an audience of science-fair participants, mentors, educators, and leaders in government, philanthropy, and the private sector, President Obama praised these extroadinary students:

“These young scientists and engineers teach us … how to question assumptions; to wonder why something is the way it is, and how we can make it better," the President said. "And they remind us that there’s always something more to learn, and to try, and to discover, and to imagine -- and that it’s never too early, or too late to create or discover something new." 

President Obama went on to describe how science shapes our world-view:

"That’s why we love science. It’s more than a school subject, or the periodic table, or the properties of waves. It is an approach to the world, a critical way to understand and explore and engage with the world, and then have the capacity to change that world, and to share this accumulated knowledge. It’s a mindset that says we that can use reason and logic and honest inquiry to reach new conclusions and solve big problems.”

POTUS Delivers remarks at 5th annual White House Science Fair

President Obama also announced a number of ambitious steps to continue to inspire young people like those at the Science Fair and ensure they are connected to the tools, resources, training, and mentors they need to achieve their STEM goals. Here are just some of the announcements the President made today:

  • A $150-million philanthropic effort to empower a diverse cadre of promising early-career scientists to stay on track to become scientific leaders of tomorrow
  • The $90-million Let Everyone Dream campaign to expand STEM opportunities to under-represented youth
  • A $25-million Department of Education competition to create science- and literacy-themed media that inspires students to explore
  • 120 universities and colleges committing to train 20,000 engineers to tackle the “Grand Challenges” of the 21st century
  • A coaltion of CEOs called Change the Equation committing to expand effective STEM programs to an additional 1.5 million students this year

All told, the steps launched today bring the Administration’s grand total up to $1 billion in commitments and in-kind support to advance the President’s Educate to Innovate campaign, which aims to inspire more girls and boys to excel in STEM subjects.

To highlight the theme of this year’s science fair -- Diversity and Inclusion in STEM -- Administration leaders hosted two roundtable discussions in which students shared stories about opportunities and challenges they face in STEM studies.

Kaitlin Reed demonstrates to President Barack Obama the attachable lever she developed that can make wheelchair movements easier and less tiring, during the 2015 White House Science Fair in the Blue Room, March 23, 2015. With Kaitlin is Mohammed Sayed, who developed a 3D-printed modular arm for his wheelchair that can be used as a food tray, camera tripod, rain canopy, laptop holder, and cup holder. The two 16-year-old students are from Massachusetts. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza).
 

In the morning, Senior Advisor to the President and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls Valerie Jarret, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel, Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Associate Director for Science Jo Handelsman, and OSTP Principal Assistant Director for Energy and Environment Tammy Dickinson met with all-star female students participating in this year’s White House Science Fair. There was a lively discussion of the changing image of women in STEM and the need for even more extraordinary female role models to step up and tell their STEM stories.

In the afternoon, Vice President Biden joined a group of students, teachers, and STEM advocates for a discussion on the importance of providing access to STEM education to all Americans, regardless of background. The Vice President -- joined by NFL player Victor Cruz and actress Cierra Ramirez -- talked with the students about the tremendous opportunities that are becoming available every day because of advances in science and technology. He closed reminding participants never to lose faith in their own abilities to shape the future.

It was a whirlwind day for science and engineering at the White House! Geeks descended upon 1600 Pennsylvania -- filling rooms and halls from the State Dining room to the East Garden -- and showcasing more discoveries, inventions, and bright ideas than ever before.

We can’t wait to keep track of where these incredible young innovators go next!

President Barack Obama hugs Emily Bergenroth, Alicia Cutter, Karissa Cheng, Addy O’Neal, and Emery Dodson, all six-year-old Girl Scouts, from Tulsa, Oklahoma after viewing their science exhibit during the 2015 White House Science Fair celebrating student winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) competitions, in the Red Room, March 23, 2015. The girls used Lego pieces and designed a battery-powered page turner to help people who are paralyzed or have arthritis. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
 

Becky Fried is Deputy Assistant Director for Strategic Communications at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

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House Republicans Vote to Allow the Amnesty of Our Broken Immigration System to Continue

This week, House Republicans put at risk critical funding that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) needs to keep our nation safe by insisting on a series of amendments to overturn the President’s immigration accountability executive actions... Read more »