Not only was it noticeable that Joe Biden signed a number of decrees in the Oval Office right away on his first day of office as president, but also that he had a bunch of pens ready on the Resolute Desk. That has nothing to do with the corona pandemic. It is a tradition that previous presidents set in motion, although it is not clear who exactly started it.
What is certain is that John F. Kennedy (1961-63) and Lyndon Johnson (1963-69) already used different pens to sign official documents. Lisa Brown clarified this in a 2010 White House video. She was then a White House staff member under Barack Obama. According to Brown, the tradition may go back to Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-45) or Harry Truman (1945-53).
The pens turned out to be a sort of souvenir from the White House, a reminder of the signing of certain decrees. “The custom is for the president to use a number of pens and then donate the pens to people who have worked particularly hard on a decision, who has supported a decision, who really fought for it, or who a decision means a lot,” said Lisa Brown.
Such as with Joe Biden, who already signed several presidential decrees in the first hours after his oath – and also the day after – signed a number of presidential decrees.
The intention was to revoke a series of measures taken by Donald Trump immediately. The most important of these: the US rejoin the World Health Organization and the Paris Climate Agreement, and the removal of entry bans from certain Muslim countries, and the funding of the controversial wall on the border with Mexico.
Another well-known case is that of the so-called Affordable Care Act – Obamacare in the vernacular – in 2010 by Barack Obama. At the time, the president had no fewer than 22 pens at the ready and joked: “I have to use every pen, so it will really take a while. I have not practiced ”.
Apparently, 22 people had to receive such a pen used by Obama as a gift afterward.
On Wednesday, Joe Biden signed three presidential decrees with the same pen in front of the press and then put them back in the box.
On Thursday, he took a new pen for each decree and handed it over with the signed documents. It is all relatively simple, but it will become more complicated when those papers become larger. Perhaps Barack Obama, under whom Biden was vice-president, could advise him to do some training.