Obama in RM

This is getting to be a habit. President Barack Obama traveled to the Palm Springs Valley for the sixth time in three years for a five-day visit from Friday, February 12 to Tuesday, February 16. This time, the tour was an official one, with POTUS hosting a U.S.-ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) summit at Sunnylands, the stellar Rancho Mirage estate bequeathed to the people by late Ambassador Walter Annenberg and his wife, Leonore, for such diplomatic purposes.

Rancho Mirage Mayor Dana Hobart was part of the retinue that welcomed Obama on Friday afternoon as Air Force One landed at Palm Springs International Airport. On Saturday, when Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead unexpectedly, the president made his first official statement about judge’s death from Sunnylands. And the joint proclamation from the U.S. and the 10-member ASEAN was termed the “Sunnylands Declaration” based on the location from which it emanated. It calls for respect of each nation’s sovereignty and for international law. That all makes for a lot of “Rancho Mirage” in the news. Bravo!

Not that the president’s sojourn was all work and no play. He did have the opportunity to play rounds of golf at Oracle billionaire Larry Ellison’s Porcupine Creek Ranch in Rancho Mirage, and to enjoy early-morning workouts at the gym at the Thunderbird Country Club. As he has done during past visits, Obama stayed at the Thunderbird Heights home of his friends, interior designer Michael Smith and U.S. Ambassador to Spain James Costas.

While the debates between candidates and our nation’s political parties rage on ahead of this fall’s presidential election, Obama’s presence anywhere can be polarizing. Personally, I adore seeing Air Force One parked at PSP. And I get such joy knowing that my president chooses to have his restful nights’ sleep in my beloved home town of Rancho Mirage. Not to mention that the incalculable media impressions generated by his visit beam the splendors of Rancho Mirage and of the Palm Springs Valley to millions around the globe. That has to inspire others to come discover all the riches of the desert, don’t you think?

One tiny downside of Obama’s trek here is that many modernist aficionados who had purchased tickets to Modernism Week tours of Sunnylands saw their reservations cancelled. The days before and after a presidential visit are as logistically complicated as when he is actually present. Claire Elkins, who traveled from San Juan Capistrano with her wife, Barbara Goutierre, was excited to finally witness all that is Sunnylands. The pair was understandably disappointed about the nixing of their tour, but they took it all in stride. “Sunnylands isn’t going anywhere,” said Elkins. “Obama’s visits are important to the area, to the country, and to the world. We’ll be back.” Added Goutierre, “All the cancellation means is that we get to take more bus tours, attend more panels like the fabulous Mad Men event at the Annenberg Theatre, and spend more time at Modernism Week’s fabulous headquarters, CAMP.” That’s the spirit, girls! But don’t forget all the parties! And I add my voice to yours: “POTUS, you can come back any time. We’ll always welcome you with open arms.”