Down these stairs come the president and first lady on every state occasion held at the White House. Tall or short, imposing or not, no one can ignore the entrance of the chief executive when the Marine Band strikes up the first chords of "Hail to the Chief." This is the ceremonial staircase, and it is here that the president, first lady, and their guests of honor are photographed before proceeding to the East Room, where the other guests are gathered. The walk down the red carpet is surely the most romantic image of the presidency. Here is the pomp. Most of the rest of the time, the president is subject to circumstance.