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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Adventist Minister       
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American Indian Chief        
Assemblyman
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   Assemblywoman            
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Attorney General,
       Assistant   
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Australian Officials    
Awards, Name on an

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Brother,
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Bishop,
   Christian Orthodox         
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Board Member     
Boy        
Brigadier General       
Business Cards      

Canadian Officials    
Candidate    
Captain,
   USA, USAF, USMC     
Cardinal
             
Certificate, Name on a 
Chairman
    Federal Reserve      
Chairwoman      
Chancellor      
Chaplain in the
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Chargé d’Affaires         
Chief Executive Officer 
Chief Judge          
Chief Justice,
      U.S. Supreme Court 
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Congresswoman, U.S.   
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   Consul General   
 
Consultant      
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    Councilwoman      
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Curator        

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Doctor of
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Doctor of Osteopathy            
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Doctorate        
Doctorate, honorary      

Earl            
Elect, Designate
  
Pro Tempore      
Emeritus/emerita
     
Eminence     
Emperor    
Engineer    
Esquire, Esq.       
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 U.S. Governor
   or Lt. Gov.    
First Lady, Spouse
   of a U.S. Mayor    

First Lady
   of a Church      

First Lieuten
ant
   
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     
Judge of US City

     County or State     
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    
     

Ma'am          
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,
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Miss      
Monk,
   Christian Orthodox     
Monsignor       
Most Reverend, The        
Mother Superior
    
Mr. (Social)      
Mr. (Business)      
Mrs., Ms. (Use, Social Forms)      
Mrs. vs. Ms.     
Mr. & Mrs. / Couples   
   

Name Badges or Tags     
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Pastor, Christian Clergy  
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   Ecumenical Patriarch
   of Constantinople  
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Petty Officer
      
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PhD     
Place Cards            
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President of
    College or
    University   
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    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. Use of Rank by
       Retired Military    
 

   3. Q&A on
       How to Address
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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       
Sir       

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        
Titles & Forms of
    Address, Useless?        
Tombstones, Names on
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. Spouses of US officials receive no special form of address -- they are private citizens -- they hold no elected office. Being first lady is a role … not an office.  Certainly they get attention and a good seat at events, but those are as a courtesy to their spouse -- the office holder.
    [INTERESTING NOTE: In contrast, "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 United States elected officials.]
     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 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 my book:

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

Traditionally the wife of a President of the United States (POTUS), who uses the same surname as the POTUS, is addressed in writing as Mrs. (surname only).  So, that's the format I suggest below. 
     If she were to have as elevated form of address (honorific or courtesy title), e.g. Dr. or The Honorable, she would be addressed in writing as Dr. (her given name + surname)
or The Honorable (her given name + surname).
     A husband of a POTUS would be addressed in writing using the same pattern, except – if he used the same surname he would be Mr. (full name)
If he had some elevated form of address, e.g. Dr. or The Honorable, he would be addressed in writing using the same pattern as noted in the paragraph above ––  Dr. (his given name + surname) or The Honorable (his given name + surname). I have more detailed information in my book if this sort of question comes up often.

Envelope, official:  (See note above)
    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: (See note above)
    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 (full name)? First Lady (full name)?   Mrs. (full name)?

            -- W.T. Wynne

Dear Mr. Wynne:
       A First Lady is not The Honorable (Full Name) based on being the "First Lady". To be addressed as The Honorable she would have had to meet the same requirement as everyone else, e.g., have been elected to office in a general election.
       She would be identified in an introduction as the First Lady of the United States from (year) to (year) and she is addressed as a private citizen.
       So formally, a former First Lady of the United States is addressed on an envelope as:
              Mrs. (Husband's Full Name)
              (Address)
       Or you could use the form used with a current First Lady:
              Mrs. (Surname)
              (Address)
       And the salutation would have been:
              Dear Mrs. (Surname)
       Note #2: Laura Bush used Mrs. Laura Bush on invitations
when she was in the White House. (Some people surmised it was to differentiate her invitations from her mother-in-law's who was also "Mrs. Bush" on so many documents.)  But whatever the reason, if you know Mrs. (Her Full Name) was the preference of a former First Lady – you could use it.  But -- Mrs. (Husband's Full Name) or Mrs. (Surname) - are the forms that are traditionally correct.
       Note #1: Addressing Hillary Clinton in writing is a different. She is entitled to
The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton -- in her own right since she was elected to office in a general election, and served as Secretary of State -- and is thus an exception among First Ladies.
     -- Robert Hickey


How to Greet a Foreign First Lady?
    I am meeting the wife of the present president of Mexico next week. What is the correct form of address?

 
         -- Vishnu

Dear Vishnu:
    Orally address her in English as:
        Mrs./Ms./Dr./etc. (Surname)
    Use the honorific to which she is entitled or prefers.
    Take note that she may not use the same surname as her husband. In the US, Canada, and Northern Europe women frequently use the same surname as their husband, but in the rest of the world – don't assume that they will.
    I extended conversation switch to:
        Ma'am
    The spouse of a foreign head-of-state is granted many of the courtesies due to her spouse, but she is not an official herself. 
Being a First Lady, as spouse of a head-of-state, does not come with a special form of address.
      -- 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 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 of an Office Holder Addressed as "First Lady"?
      I have a question about the title of the Governor of our state's girlfriend. Is 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 neighbors, 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 ... since she has no official precedence based on being the 'First Lady': She is not an official – she was not elected.
       And while the wife of a President is described as The First Lady ... there is no official form of address for this un-elected role.  Traditionally she is addressed as Mrs. (Surname).    Yes, you hear newscasters saying First Lady (Her Name) ... but that's not a form of address ... its' a newscaster using a shorthand to refer to her in the third person.
       So back to the girlfriend – If you were to address a invitation's envelope to them, here's how it should look. You don't need to mention his office on a social envelope:
              The Governor of (Name of State)
                     and Ms. (Her Full Name)

                              (Address)
       or
    
       The Honorable (Full Name of the Governor)
                     and Ms. (Her Full Name)

                              (Address)

        -- 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 ...
    1. I suggest you not use the word "former". if you feel necessary to define his prior service it's better to include he was the 43rd President or he served as president from 2001 to 2009. "Former" sounds so 'has been'.
    2. It's not necessary to identify that she was the First Lady.
    3. 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 "Laura Bush" as opposed to "Barbara Bush".)   So I would probably consider:
    [Company X] commends the leadership, dedication, and commitment of The Honorable George W. Bush and Laura Bush in their efforts ...
             -- Robert Hickey

What is the DV Code of the First Lady?
      Do you know if the First Lady carries a Distinguished Visitor Code or DV Code?  I Googled this information and was directed to your book “Honor & Respect.”.

           -- Steven @ The Pentagon

Dear Steven:
    In my book I do have precedence lists useful when you need to find our or establish precedence
    The First Lady [spouse of the President of the United States: POTUS] does not have a DV Code.  She does not appear on any official US precedence list.
    However she is accorded some of the courtesies due her elected-official spouse ... especially when she is there as a representative of The President.
    She even receives certain courtesies (like preferential seating) when among office-holders who actually are on the precedence list.  Thus, while she does not have a DV Code .... she always gets very good seat!
    This is typical for spouses who have a significant hostess functionality in the social aspects of very high offices such as president, governor – and perhaps mayor of a city or president of a university.

      -- Robert Hickey


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