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White House Life: Now and Then

Life in the Cabinet Room
Art and Furnishings

Theodore Roosevelt's Cabinet met for the first time in the West Wing on November 6, 1902.
James Madison's Cabinet met in the East Room, where they discussed the issues that led to the War of 1812.





Debates and Decisions
Life in the Cabinet Room

From 7:08 p.m. to 7:09 p.m. on April 12, 1945, the Cabinet Room was the site of the changing of the guard at the White House. Earlier that afternoon, Eleanor Roosevelt sent a request to Vice President Harry Truman at the Capitol and asked him to come at once to her study in the White House. After he arrived, the Vice President received the grave news that President Franklin Roosevelt had died in Warm Springs, Georgia. When the Vice President asked Mrs. Roosevelt if there was anything he could do for her, she replied, "Is there anything we can do for you? For you are the one in trouble now."

Soon flags across the nation were lowered to half-staff as the American people learned of President Roosevelt's death. With his wife standing next to him, Harry Truman was sworn-in as the 33rd President of the United States in a one-minute ceremony in the Cabinet Room in the West Wing.

The Cabinet Room has provided 20th-century presidents with a place to conduct the business of the American people. From routine meetings to serious deliberations, the Cabinet Room's oval table and leather chairs have provided a stately yet comfortable environment for the president to communicate his priorities and to listen to his Cabinet's opinions and advice.

If the walls of the Cabinet Room could speak they would tell of discussions and lively debate over national budgets, the state of the military, domestic and social issues and matters of national security. President George W. Bush convened a meeting on September 12, 2001 with his national security team in the Cabinet Room, where he declared that "freedom and democracy were under attack." Nearly 40 years earlier, President John Kennedy held intense discussions in the Cabinet Room during the days of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

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