The Summer White House

Even before President Obama and his family landed on the Vineyard for their first extended vacation away from the nation’s capital, all the signals from the White House indicated this presidential visit to the Island will differ markedly from the Clinton years around here. If these signals hold true, the Island community can expect from the Obama family a vacation quieter and less intrusive than the Vineyard grew accustomed to during the Clinton visits of the 1990s. When the President, Michelle Obama and their two daughters landed at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Sunday afternoon, there was no public greeting ceremony of the kind that had become a ritual during the Clinton Summer White House years. The President and family moved immediately by motorcade to their private residence at Blue Heron Farm in Chilmark, and by a little after four o’clock the White House announced an end to the news for the day and evening. Monday’s schedule simply confirmed that the First Family had come to the Vineyard for the seclusion of a much needed vacation away from the political battles and burdens of crisis that are so much a part of the President’s life in Washington.

Listen to the President’s instructions to the press corps about vacation time and what he expects from the next week of rest and relaxation on the Island: “He wants you to relax and have a good time. Take some walks on the beaches. Nobody is looking to make any news; so he’s hoping that you guys can enjoy Martha’s Vineyard while we’re there.” The press spokesman also asked reporters to respect the privacy of the Obama daughters, Sasha and Malia. In short, the President and his family appear to want what many thousands of other families want when they come to the Vineyard for time away from their mainland lives. On Monday that meant a little tennis, some workout exercise and eighteen holes of golf.

Visitors, from presidents to kings to ordinary folk, come to the Island for a change in the pace of life. They come for the quiet, the privacy and the beauty of this fragile place in the sea. They come because the Vineyard offers a slower pace of life. They come in search of some balance and a different perspective on life. That may mean quiet time to read a good book or to walk with family along the water’s edge at sundown. These are among the many rewards the Island returns to those who pause long enough to enjoy the treasures of both her natural world and her human landscape. Visitors come to the Vineyard because the Island provides a sanctuary distant from the clatter of everyday life and they often leave with a sense of renewal and hope about their lives and the time ahead.

We presume the magic of Martha’s Vineyard contributes as much to the quality of life for Presidents and First Families as it has for the millions who have visited the Island in the past and will continue to arrive in the future. Finally, the President will find Island citizens welcoming and respectful of the family’s need for quiet time together. The Vineyard has been a good host to presidents in the past and now the Island will assume that same role in her embrace of this President and his family at the Summer White House in Chilmark over the next week.