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History Paper on Oval Office Leads to Presidential Recognition

It’s not every day that a high school student receives letters signed by former Presidents Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush, along with others who’ve worked in the West Wing of the White House. But that’s what happened last spring and over the summer for sophomore Harriet Brantley.

Girl sitting at picnic table looking at camera

It all began when her freshman-year history teacher, David Lynn, assigned students a paper using argument and thesis to dig in more deeply on something they had touched upon in class. Harriett remembered learning that everything in the White House was strategically designed, so decided this was an interesting topic to learn more about.  

In addition to secondary research, Harriet gathered first-person insight from Country Day grandparent Erskine Bowles, who served as Chief of Staff for President Clinton, along with personnel from the White House Historical Association.

Upon completion and with the encouragement of Mr. Lynn, Harriet sent her final paper to the President of the White House Historical Association, the Director of the David Rubenstein Center for White House History, and others who worked in the White House. She couldn’t believe it when she started to hear back replies. “When I got the first e-mail, I jumped up and down,” Harriet remembers. “I really didn’t think I would get a response from anyone.”

Dr. Colleen Shogan Then director of the David Rubenstein Center for White House History, who has since been appointed as Head of the National Archives

Congratulations on an excellent paper; I read it this morning and greatly enjoyed it. You make excellent points about the design of the Oval Office and how it contributes to the power and authority of the presidency. Also, your writing is clear and concise–which is essential to communicate the points you emphasize in the paper."

Additionally, the work Harriet did with the White House Historical Association led to Mr. Lynn being invited to participate in their History Teachers Institute in DC over the summer. 

Harriet doesn’t consider herself a history buff; her favorite subject is science. But she will forever have a keepsake of her excellent work on a history paper.

Two letters signed by George  W. Bush and Jimmy Carter

Read Harriet’s paper here.