Emhoff recently had a private tour of the Library of Congress, where he learned the history of second ladies who came before him, and also got to touch historical items such as Rosa Parks’ bible and Abraham Lincoln’s law notes.
“I just love this stuff!” he said excitedly to the camera, along for the tour to capture Emhoff’s thoughts.
Emhoff spent most of his life until now as a Southern Californian, working at big-time law firms, first as managing director, then as partner, negotiating and navigating contracts and litigating on behalf of clients, many of whom were in the entertainment industry. Now he’s got an albeit small Secret Service detail, a mini-motorcade, a bedroom at historic Blair House and — last but not least — a United States vice president as a spouse.
This week, that began to change. Emhoff had experienced on the trail a smidge of the policy questions, personal queries and general curiosity of the American public and the press, but now, and henceforth, his place in history as the first second gentlemen cemented, that will only intensify.
“Will food insecurity be one of your issues?” asked a reporter on Thursday afternoon as Emhoff was making his way back to his Suburban after his first solo public appearance, at an inner-city, nonprofit gardening program designed to help those in need receive healthy food. Emhoff turned and faced the small group of reporters who had tagged along to capture the second gentleman spread his wings: “It’s an issue for everyone,” he responded. “It’s got to be an issue for everybody. So, I want to do what I can to amplify it.”
During his half-hour visit and tour of the facility, Emhoff — bundled against freezing temperatures in a coat, scarf, gloves and, yes, mask — was taught how to compost (“Learn something new every day!”), what the group does with leftover vegetables for soup (“Great on a cold day!” he quipped) and how volunteers have dedicated themselves to the project. It was perhaps the first of what will likely be dozens of visits to community events and tours of schools, farms, factories and other places that will roll out the red carpet in the hopes of illustrating to Emhoff the second gentleman the importance and urgency of issues he would only be perhaps minimally exposed to as Emhoff the L.A. lawyer.
“This is just so amazing to see the passion, the way these folks are approaching it, coming to a school on a plot of land that hadn’t been used and actually grow food and serving the community that way and also to educate the community about what’s going on,” he said to the press of his thoughts on what he had just witnessed. “And it’s also cool learning about the center they’re going to build and how they are doing to approach it in the future. This is great. We’re in very good hands.”
In an interview with Irish Times after the inauguration, Ella Emhoff commented on the bizarre situation her family is now part of: “I think the idea of sharing our parents with the world is kind of insane. Like, it’s a really cool thing to wrap your head around — because you get to share all the great things, but it’s also like, Huh?!” Cole added, “It’s weird to turn on CNN and see my dad. I’m, like, “Wait, you don’t belong there! But I guess you do?”
The event, press and secret service and staff in tow, and the new teaching gig, are all part of Emhoff’s new Washington world, where he will for a time feel like most newcomers in the political fishbowl: observed and judged. If he is intimidated, he did not show it on Thursday. He was most excited to get home to Blair House — where he and the vice president are living across the street from the White House for several weeks while planned renovations at the VP’s Observatory Circle mansion take place — and share what he saw that day with his wife.
“I always do. Every time I do something, every time I learn something, it’s like notes from the field,” said Emhoff. “We’ll talk about it tonight.”
Just like normal.