How to Address The President of the United States



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HONOR & RESPECT

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     State
     Supreme Court

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   1. Formula For
       How to Address     
   2. Q&A / Blog On
       Use of Rank by
       Retired Military    
 

   3. Q&A / Blog on
       How to Address
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Senior Judge 
      
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Speaker of the U.S.
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Widow
     
White House Staff    
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Woman, social        

Yacht Club Officer      


   

How to Address The President of the United States

Envelope, official:
    The President
        The White House
            1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
                  Washington, DC 20500

Letter salutation:
    Dear Mr./Madam President:

How to Address President Barack Obama
While the President is referred to as President Obama,
Mr. Obama, Barack Obama, and Obama in the media, these usages are not direct address. In direct address the President's given and surnames are never used.

Envelope, official:
    The President
        The White House
            1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
                 Washington, DC 20500

Letter salutation: Dear Mr. President:
Complimentary close: Most Respectfully,
Announced: The President of the United States
Introduction: Mr. President, may I present ...
Conversation: Mr. President

Link to Q&A just on How to Address a Former President



FYI, here is what's come in to the Blog that relates to this office/rank.
   For recent questions sent in, check out Robert Hickey's Blog.

   For specific offices/ranks, check out Robert Hickey's On-Line Guide.


How Should the Media Refer to The Current President?
    How should President Obama be referred to by the media? I hear them refer to him as Mr. Obama and this just doesn't sound very respectful of him or the office (in my opinion). Mahalo for your time.

         -- Ms. Brazile in Honolulu

Dear MBIH:
    Great question!
    In the media the journalists are referring to The President in the third person in a story ... so they will refer to him in various ways so who they are talking about is clear to the listener. You'll hear:
        Barack Obama
        President Obama
        Obama
        Mr. Obama

    These are not forms of address ... for which there are rules.  In direct address a president is addressed as
        Mr. President
    His given name or surname is not used in his presence.  
    Listen to a White House news conference, and all the reporters address him as Mr. President.
    White House staff refer to him as The President  ... which makes sense since he is the only
President to them!   But on the evening news they may refer to several presidents ... the president of the United States ... the president of British Petroleum ... the president of a national association.
    Sometimes you hear someone directly address the President of the United States as President Obama ... but that person is incorrect .... doesn't know the tradition ... and has probably just been listening to the evening news and thinks that is correct.

    Whenever I hear that I write a note to the reporter. Not sure it does any good, but I feel better.
                   -- Robert Hickey

How to Address The President and First Lady?
Dear Mr. Hickey:
    I am looking in your book and I find a salutation for The President, and a salutation for The First Lady, but I can’t find a form for the correct salutation to use when writing President Obama and Mrs. Obama (in the same letter), If you tell me, I would be most appreciative!
         --- Desiree Whitley

Dear Ms. Whitley:
     You don't see a form for that because an official letter would not be jointly addressed to The President and The First Lady. Each has their own office ... his in the West Wing ... and hers in the East Wing ... both at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. So separate letters would be sent to each.
    But that said ... if you are set on writing them as a couple write it line-for-line like this:
        The President
            and Mrs. Obama
                The White House
                    1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
                        Washington, DC 20500

        Open the letter with the salutation:
            Dear Mr. President and Mrs. Obama:
        Close the letter with:
            Most Respectfully,
            Desiree Whitley

                           -- Robert Hickey

Is The Honorable used with the Names of the Deceased?
In a picture caption, should former president be listed as The Honorable (Full Name) as The Honorable George Washington or The Honorable John F. Kennedy?
             --- CH in Watkinsville, GA

Dear CH:
     The courtesy title the Honorable is used when addressing or listing the name of a living person. When the name of a deceased person is listed it's just (Full Name) + Office Held that is pertinent to the story being told for which the photo is included.
     So a photo of John F. Kennedy might list his name followed by
John F. Kennedy, Lieutenant aboard PT109, John F. Kennedy, Senator from Massachusetts, or John F. Kennedy, president of the United States.  But it would never be The Honorable John F. Kennedy.
           -- Robert Hickey

Should The President Bow to An Emperor?
     President Obama bowed very deeply to Emperor Akihito during his trip to Japan this week.  His doing this does not seem to be correct.  Your opinion?

           -- BL in California

Dear BL:
      It's not correct for one chief of state to bow to another
chief of state: they are peers. This sort of meeting is a symbolic ceremony ... a metaphor for the two nations' relationship ... hence the photographers, protocol officers, and press. Personal actions by the participants are omitted in this arena ... so the person named "Barack" actually getting to know the person named "Akihito" happens when the principals have private time.
    The bow was not the right thing to do ... it's an action more appropriate by a courtly "Southern gentleman" to an older person ... an gracious form of respect for years of service and personal accomplishment .. but more appropriate in the realm of social situations in the USA.
    But ill advised or not -- except perhaps in the blog-o-sphere and talk radio -- I find that few Americans really think The President was bowing as a subject, or supplicant, to the Emperor of Japan -- and I find only a minority think it's important.  I think it's important and that many are unfamiliar with diplomatic rules and have little cross-cultural knowledge. I don't admire this ignorance  .... but I do observe it. 
             -- Robert Hickey

How Should a Foreign Official Address the POTUS?
     I am drafting a letter from a foreign head of state to President Barack Obama.  Would I simply use the address block, salutation, and complimentary close that you already have listed for addressing the U.S. President, or is there a separate protocol if the letter is coming from a foreign Head of State (in this particular case, Kazakhstan)?
       -- Zoe L. J.

Dear Zoe L. J.,
    Use what I show on my page How To Address The President Of The United States. It will be absolutely correct.
    Since it's an official letter ... is should be formal and what I have there is most formal.
    If there were to be several head-of-state presidents in the room ... an introducer might introduce President Obama and President Nazarbayev so the rest of us would know which president he or she was referring to ...  but should be in conversation with either president, we should directly address the President of the United States in the most formal way (not using his name) as Mr. President .... and the President of Kazakhstan as Mr. President also.

       -- Robert Hickey

Link to Q&A just on How to Address a Former President


"How to Address The President:  He is Not Your Excellency, or Your Honor, But Mr. President." –– From an 1891 issue of The New York Times: in a story reprinted from the Washington Star.
      "If you ask a President's private secretary, he will tell you among other things that not one person out of ten in writing to the President addresses him properly.  Each correspondent seems to follow his own sweet fancy…"
      "To cut a long matter short, let the correct form for addressing the President be given. It is simply this: "Benjamin Harrison, President of the United States, Mr. President."   Then after you have said your say, if you are not proud, you can finish the communication thus: "I have the honor to be, Mr. President, your obedient servant, John Smith..."
      "It is part of the law of nations that they are coequal. The King of Samoa writes to President Harrison in the same terms of equality that are used by the Emperor of Germany, and the President replies in kind …. Yet the King of Samoa is addressed by the President as "Great and good friend", and the President signs himself, "Your good friend." And when Queen Victoria receives a letter from the President she treats him with precisely the same formality and no more".
       © The New York Times.


Not Finding Your Question Answered?
Below are other topics covered in my blog and at right is a list of officials, Between the two I probably have what you are looking for.
     After hunting around a bit, if you don't see your question answered send me an e-mail. I am pretty fast at sending a reply: usually the next day (unless I am traveling.)
      If I think your question is of interest to others, I will post the question & answer – with your name and any personal specifics changed.
      -- Robert Hickey

USE OF NAMES & HONORIFICS   
Mr., Miss, Jr., III, & Names        
Married Women       
Deceased Persons         
People with Two Titles
Post-Nominal Abbreviations and Initials         
 
Couples: Private Citizens / Joint Forms of Address 
Couples: U.S. Military / Joint Forms of Address     
Couples: U.S. Officials / Joint Forms of Address      

USE OF SPECIFIC OFFICIAL TITLES        
Former Officials            
Professionals and Academics        

United States Federal Officials, Currently In Office             
United States State Officials, Currently In Office              
United States Municipal Officials, Currently In Office             
       All About The Honorable with U.S. Officials         
       Former United States Officials of all types             
United States Armed Services, Active Duty             
       Addressing Retired Personnel      
       Use of Rank by Retired Personnel      
       Use of Rank by Veterans      

Tribal Officials 
           
Clergy and Religious Officials           
Canadian Officials         
Australian Officials          
British Officials, Royalty, and Nobility        
Diplomats and International Representatives
           
Foreign National Officials and Nobility        

SPECIFIC SITUATIONS
Business Cards       
Couples        
Etiquette
            
Flags and Anthem Protocol             
Introductions
            
Invitations: Writing & Addressing
        
Invitations: Just Armed Service Personnel        
Name Badges & Tags            
Names on Programs, Signs, & Lists            
Naming a Building or Road            
Place Cards            

Plaques, Awards, Diplomas, Certificates    
Precedence: Ordering Officials 
         
Thank You Notes             


Site updated by Robert Hickey on August 31, 2014

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For forms of address for invitations, place cards, name badges, introductions, conversation, and all other formal uses, see Honor & Respect: the Official Guide to Names, Titles, and Forms of Address.

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Photo: Marc Goodman.





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