Stewart McLaurin, president of the White House Historical Association, hosted a town hall event on Monday at Decatur House with Pete Souza, former White House photographer and author of the new book, The West Wing and Beyond: What I Saw Inside the Presidency.
Souza – who served as an official White House photographer under President Ronald Reagan and the chief official White House photographer under President Barack Obama – was interviewed about his experiences by McLaurin in front of a live audience. Guests were greeted with a welcome reception and holiday shopping at the Association’s gift shop, and Pete signed personalized copies of The West Wing and Beyond.
During the conversation, McLaurin asked Souza to reflect on some of the most famous and poignant photos he captured at the White House, including the late Princess Diana dancing with John Travolta at a Reagan State Dinner.
Souza also shared his private experiences with the first families, including what it was like being the only person in the room during an intimate family moment aboard the presidential aircraft with Mrs. Nancy Reagan and her son and daughter-in-law kneeling over the coffin as President Reagan’s body was flown from California to Washington to lie in state.
As the director of the White House photo office during President Obama’s entire time in office, Souza reflected on one of his most compelling photos taken during those 8 years (one he did not fully appreciate until much later) – when President Obama leaned over in the Oval Office so a young African-American boy could touch his hair – and what that moment represents for so many.
The Pete Souza Town Hall was live streamed on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter as part of the Association’s popular White House History Live series, which was launched during the pandemic.