How to Address the First Lady: How to Address the Spouse of the President of the United States



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HONOR & RESPECT

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Acting Official       
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Admiral
        

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Adventist Minister       
Alderman
        

Archbishop, Catholic        
Archbishop,
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Architect
Archpriest        
Ambassador, Goodwill
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Ambassador of the U.S.
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American Indian Chief        
Assemblyman
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   Assemblywoman            
Associate Justice,
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Associate Justice of a
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Astronaut      
Attorney
         
Attorney General           
Attorney General,
       Assistant   
Attorney, U.S.         
Australian Officials    

Baron, Baroness           
British Officials,
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Brother, Catholic
         
Brother,
   Christian Orthodox          
Bishop, Catholic            
Bishop,
   Christian Orthodox         
Bishop, Episcopal        
Board Member     
Boy        
Brigadier General       
Business Cards      

Canadian Officials    
Candidate    
Captain,
   USA, USAF, USMC     
Cardinal
             
Chairman
    Federal Reserve      
Chairwoman      
Chancellor      
Chaplain in the
    Armed Services        
Chaplain of Congress          

Chargé d’Affaires         
Chief Executive Officer 
Chief Judge          
Chief Justice,
      U.S. Supreme Court 
Chief Justice, of a State
      Supreme Court             

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City Manager
   
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    or USMC     
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   Consul General   
 
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    Councilwoman      
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Curator        

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Earl            
Elect, Designate
  
Pro Tempore      
Emeritus/emerita
     
Eminence     
Emperor    
Engineer    
Esquire, Esq.       
Etiquette    
Excellency           

Family     
Fiancee      
Firefighter    
First, Second,
   Third, etc.        
First Lady, Spouse
   of the President of
   the United States 
First Lady, Member
    of Her   
    White House Staff      
First Lady, Spouse
   of a Governor
   or Lt. Gov.    
First Lieutenant
   
Flag Protocol     
Former Officials    
Freeholder       

Gay Couple      
Geshe

General
    USA, USAF, USMC
Girl       

Goodwill Ambassador      
Governor General         
Governor, Lieuten
ant
 
Governor, Lt., Spouse   

Governor, Tribal Council          
Governor, U.S. State       
Governor, Former    
Governor
    Spouse of     
Governor's Staff,
    Member of
     
Governors, Board of 

High Commissioner    
Honorable, The
          
Honorary Ambassador       
Honorary degrees
Honorary doctorate
   
Honourable, The
   
 
   

Indian Chief         
Inspector General    
Interim Official   
Introductions       
Invitations
  
   Writing &  
   Addressing  
Invitations
   
Military:
    Writing &
    Addressing

Judge, former     
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        US Count     
Judge, US Federal            
Junior, Senior,
    I, II, III, etc.       

Justice, Associate

     Federal
     Supreme Court

Justice, Associate

     State
     Supreme Court

King     
Knight      

Late, The
   (deceased persons)
       
Lawyer      
Lesbian Couple    
Lieutenant      
Lieutenant Colonel,     
   USA, USAF, USMC      
    
Lieutenant General,
   USA, USAF, USMC      

Lieutenant Governor    
     

Major
   USA, USAF, USMC  
Major General,
   USA, USAF, USMC   
Man, business
          
Man, social
         
Marquess / Marchioness
 
 
Married Women       
Marshal for a
   Judicial District, U.S. 
Mayor, U.S. City   
Mayor, Canadian City    
Mayor Pro Tempore
     
Mayor, Vice    
Medic      
Minister,
   Protestant Clergy       
Miss      
Monk,
   Christian Orthodox     
Monsignor       
Most Reverend, The        
Mother Superior
    
Mr. (Social)      
Mr. (Business)      
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Mrs. vs. Ms.     
Mr. & Mrs. / Couples   
   

Name Badges or Tags     
Nobility, British
       
Nobility, Other     
Nun, Catholic
  
Nun, Orthodox
Nurse           

Officer, Police     
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Pastor, Christian Clergy  
Patriarch,
   Christian Orthodox  
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   Ecumenical Patriarch
   of Constantinople  
People with Two Titles      
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     Representative        
Petty Officer
      
Pharmacist     
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PhD     
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Police Officer                     
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President, corporate
President of
    College or
    University   
President of a
    Secondary
    School      
President of a
    US State Assembly 
President (current)
   of the U.S.A.          
President (former)
   of the U.S.A.     
     
President of the
    U.S.A., spouse of  
President-elect
    of the U.S.   
Priest, Catholic          
Priest,
    Christian Orthodox 
Priest, Episcopal        
Prime Minister
       
Principal      
Professionals
   & Academics         
Professor
     
Pro Tempore,
   Elect, Designate    
Psychologist      

Queen

Rabbi               
Ranger, Texas        
Representative,
   U.S., Federal           
Representative,
   U.S., State            
Reservist, Military      
Resident
    Commissioner 
Retired Military
   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
       Retired Military   
Reverend, The
      
Right Reverend, The         

Same Sex Couple      
Salvation Army    
School Board Member
     
Second
Lieutenant        
Secretary,
   U.S. Department,
   Member of the Cabinet
Secretary
   of Defense, U.S.       
Secretary, Assistant       
Secretary General
   of the U.N.            
Senator, U.S., Federal       
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Senator, Canadian       
Senior, Junior,
     I, II, III, etc.         
Senior Judge 
      
Sergeant       
Sergeant at Arms
          
Seventh Day
     Adventist Minister       
Sheriff       
Sister, Catholic       
Solicitor General      
Speaker of the U.S.
   House of
   Representatives.           
Specialist       
Spouse of the
    President of the U.S.       
Spouse of the
    Vice President
    of the U.S.           
Spouse of an
    Elected Official            
State Attorney     
Surgeon General          

Texas Ranger        
Town Justice      
Town Manager       
The Honorable     
Tribal Officials     
Two Titles,
    Person With

Under Secretary    
US Attorney
       
US Federal Officials
     
US State Officials     
US Municipal Officials

Venerable, The        
Veteran (not Retired)         
Veterinarian
           
Very Reverend, The         
VFW Officer/Official    
Vice Mayor       
Vice President
    of the U.S.
Spouse of the
    Vice President
   
of the U.S.
Vice President-elect
    of the U.S.      
 
Viscount and/or
   Viscountess        

Warrant Officer       
Widow
     
White House Staff    
Woman, business        
Woman, social        

Yacht Club Officer      


   

How to Address the First Lady: Michelle Obama

While Michelle Obama is the First Lady, and is typically identified on the news and in the media as First Lady Michelle Obama such references are examples of a news reader/writer identifying Mrs. Obama in the third person for clarity in a news story.
    The term "First Lady" has not traditionally used as an honorific in direct address with First Ladies of the United States.
    [INTERESTING NOTE: "First Lady" is traditionally used as an honorific for the wife of the pastor in many African-American congregations, but that is not the tradition for the spouse of The President.]
     Most formally Michelle Obama is addressed in conversation as Mrs. Obama.
     When addressing a letter, the traditional form of address to any First Lady is to "Mrs. (surname)" in care of The White House. Using just the surname is not confusing at The White House as to whom the letter should be delivered. Here are the correct forms of address ... all based on the forms I include on page 166 in my book:

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

Letter salutation:  Dear Mrs. Obama:
Complimentary close:  Sincerely,
Introduction to a group: 
     Michelle Obama
, First Lady of the United States of America
Introduction, one person to another:  Mrs. Obama
Conversation:  Mrs. Obama

Here is the formula for any spouse of The President from page 166 of my book:

How to Address the First Lady, or
How to Address the Spouse of
The President of the United States

Envelope, official:
    Mrs. (surname)
       
The White House
            1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
                   Washington, DC 20500

    Mr. (full name)
       
The White House
            1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
                   Washington, DC 20500

Letter salutation:
    Dear Mrs./Mr. (surname):


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 to Address a Former First Lady?
       How should a letter and envelope to a former First Lady be addressed?  The Honorable ______?

            -- W.T. Wynne

Dear Mr. Wynne:
       A First Lady is not the honorable when her husband is in office -- much less after.
       She might be identified in an introduction as the First Lady of the United States from 1981 to 1989 but she is addressed as a private citizen.
       So, for example, most formally, Nancy Reagan would have been addressed on an envelope as:
              Mrs. Ronald Reagan
              (Address)
       And the salutation would have been:
              Dear Mrs. Reagan
       Laura Bush did use Mrs. Laura Bush sometimes on invitations while she was in The White House, so if you
know Mrs. (Her Name) was her preference, you could use it. But using the formal form -- Mrs. (Husband's Name) -- is safe because using a formal form is never wrong.
       Addressing Hillary Clinton is a bit different because she was elected to office -- and is entitled to
The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton -- in her own right -- and is thus an exception among First Ladies.
     -- Robert Hickey

How to Greet a Foreign First Lady?
    In your book you give forms of address for many First Ladies ... but not specifically for the First Lady of Mexico. I am meeting the wife of the present president of Mexico next week. What is the protocol? What is the correct address? I am male. Thanks.

 
         -- Vishnu, Ontario Science Center, North York, Ontario

Dear Vishnu:
    Greetings to Toronto. I have several good friends there who are always asking when I am going to visit.  Haven't been in years and it's about time!
    The President of Mexico is Felipe Calderon, and his wife is Margarita Zavala.
    Assuming you are greeting them in English, then verbally address her as:
        Ms. Zavala
    or in an extended conversation as:
        Ma'am
    There is no reason to greet her in anything but English, unless you happen to be fluent in Spanish, and if you are Spanish would of course be appropriate.
    The wife of a foreign head-of-state is granted the courtesies due to her spouse, but actually is not an official herself.
    Be ready to introduce yourself, wait for her to extend her hand, and if she offers it .... shake it. Some traveling officials (and spouses of officials) will want to shake hands with everyone they meet, no matter how many that maybe: but others may not want to … preferring to just nod and smile. Follow her lead.
    Do some research to find out of her personal interests .... why she is visiting ... and either verbally or with your smile extend her warm best wishes for her visit.
    Hope this helps!

      -- Robert Hickey

How to Address the Spouse of a Female President?
Dear Mr. Hickey:
    What is female president's spouse called? The First Gentleman?
        -- Mickey (
Michelle) Broom

Dear Ms. Broom:
    First Lady is used to describe the wife of the president of the United States, but it's not a form of address or honorific. The First Lady is addressed as "Mrs. (surname)" so currently that is -- Mrs. Obama.
    The male spouse of a president of the United States would be addressed as Mr. (full name) in writing and Mr. (surname) in conversation.
    
In my book (page 166) I show both the masculine and feminine forms ... but avoid the issue of whether he would be the First Husband and titled the section Spouse of The President.

            -- Robert Hickey

Is a Girlfriend Addressed as "First Lady"?
      I have a question about the title of the Governor of New York's girlfriend. She is Sandra Lee from the food network. What would her title be as his girlfriend? Would she be addressed as the First Lady if they aren't married?  Hope you can help. If she isn't called First Lady, how would she be addressed? Thanks so very much.

        -- PR in Florida

Dear PR,
       Spouses, partners, girlfriends (cousins, children, and nieghbors, etc.) of officials do not receive any forms of address based on their spouse's/ partner's/ boyfriend's office. Spouses typically DO get preferential seating as a courtesy to the official ... e.g., when they are with the official -or- the preferential seat the official would get when they are representing the official.
       Interestingly the First Lady of the United States is not even on The White House's Precedence List ... she has no official standing herself: She is not an official since, she was not elected.
       And while the wife of a President is described as The First Lady ... there is no official form of address. She is addressed as "Mrs. Obama." Yes, you hear newscasters saying "First Lady Michele Obama" ... but that's not a form of address ... its' a newscaster using a shorthand to refer to her in the third person. So Sandra Lee will remain Ms. Sandra Lee.
       If you were to address a social envelope to them, here's how it should look:
              The Honorable Andrew Cuomo
                     and Ms. Sandra Lee

        -- Robert Hickey

How to Refer to a Former
President and First Lady in Text?

 
     I was thrilled to get your book as a gift. I am enlisting your advice on the correct way to phrase the following message:
    [Company X ] commends the leadership, dedication, and commitment of former president George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush in their efforts to provide hope for cancer patients in their fight against cancer.
             -- Nelson Jacques

Dear Mr. Jacques:
    Most formally it would be:
    [Company X] commends the leadership, dedication, and commitment of The Honorable George W. Bush and Mrs. Bush in their efforts to provide hope for cancer patients in their fight against cancer.
    1. It's really not necessary to identify that he was The President and she was the First Lady. People know that.
    2. Mrs. Bush liked to be referred to by her first and last name  "Laura Bush."  (Probably to be specific that the First Lady "Mrs. Bush" was "Mrs. Laura Bush" as opposed to "Mrs. Barbara Bush".)   So also consider:
    [Company X] commends the leadership, dedication, and commitment of The Honorable George W. Bush and Laura Bush in their efforts to provide hope for cancer patients in their fight against cancer.
             -- Robert Hickey

What is the DV Code of the First Lady?
      Do you know if the First Lady carries a DV Code?  If so, where can I find this in print?  I tried to Google this information and of course I was directed to your book “Honor & Respect” which I will be purchasing today.

           -- Steven @ The Pentagon

Dear Steven:
    The First Lady [spouse of the POTUS] does not have a DV Code since she does not appear on any precedence list.
    However she is accorded the courtesies due her spouse ... especially when she is there as First Lady & representative of The President. She get's the courtesies of the POTUS even when she is mixed with office-holders who are actually on the precedence list.
    So, while she does not have a Distinguished Visitor Code (DV Code) .... give her a very good seat!
    This is typical for spouses who have a significant hostess functionality in the social aspects of some very high offices such as president, governor, or president of a university.

      -- Robert Hickey

What is the Precedence of Former First Ladies?
     I am working on a report on United States Order of Precedence and in looking at the one you include in your book, what is the precedence for a former first lady (e.g. Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush) when her husband who is still alive is not present? Would Hillary Clinton's status as Secretary of State trump her precedence as a former first lady when she is not with her husband?  I am looking at pages 121-127 in your book, Honor & Respect.
     Thank you, Milton Patel

Dear Mr. Patel:
    The answer to your question is in the difference between "precedence" and "seating."  Think of it this way:
           Precedence is fixed
           Seating is an application of precedence and is event specific.  
    A widow of a former president is the only spouse listed on White House Precedence List. Other organizations have their own precedence lists, but many people look at the White House List as point of reference.
    First Ladies (current and former) have no formal precedence of their own. The preferential treatment they receive is as a courtesy -- based on the precedence of their spouse. (Typically the only courtesy the spouse of any level of official receives is in seating.)
    1) Former First Lady Hillary Clinton's precedence is as the current Secretary of State. When former President Bill Clinton is present, she's moved up and seated as his spouse. The precedence has not changed ... just the seating.
    2)
Former First Lady Laura Bush would receive the courtesies due a representative of former President George Bush and her seating would reflect her role at the event.
    So, in summary .... If you have a guest list you can come up with the precedence list.  If you then add a location & occasion you can then discuss the seating.
    Precedence lists are the basis of how a protocol officer would 'start' establishing all physical manifestation of an event ... seating, introductions, the order of who speaks when, who stands where in a receiving line .... etc.
    During The Protocol School of Washington's five-day "Protocol Officer Training"  this is exactly the sort of topic we cover. The training's precedence segment is taught by Diane Brown: I always defer to her on this subject!
    I am glad you referred to my book!

 
                    -- Robert Hickey


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