—-Envelope or a letter’s address block:
—-—-—-Or a bit less formally:
—-—-—-—-The Honorable (Full Name)
—-—-Dear Mr./Ms./Dr./etc. (Surname)—-#1
—-#1) Traditionally former presidents go back to the form of address to which they were entitled prior to taking office. For example, in retirment Dwight Eisenhower was correctly addressed as General (Full name) on the envelope and as Dear General (Surname) in the salutation. After Harry Truman left the presidency he directed others to address him as Mr. Truman.
—-—-For more on this traditional form of address, see the next post Is a Former President Addressed as President (Name)?
How to Address a Former President
Robert Hickey author of "Honor & Respect"
Is a Former President Addressed as President (Name)?
I have been directing people to refer to former presidents as President (Last Name). Is that correct?
______________– Anna McDonald, Stafford, Virginia
Dear Ms. McDonald:
I’m going to give you the most traditional answer to this.
Yes …. in interviews with former presidents, reporters typically address them as President (Surname) – President Obama, President Bush and President Clinton.
But …. it’s not traditionally correct. The traditional rule is that former holders of one-person-at-a-time offices go back to the form of address to which they were entitled prior to assuming office. Like all U.S. officials elected to office in a general election, former president’s continue to be addressed as the Honorable (Full Name) for life. But ‘President’ is not a personal rank one receives, uses while in office, and keeps when one leaves office.
Here’s the WHY behind the correct form:
—–As I noted, there is a traditional pattern for any office for which there is only-one-office-holder-at-a-time. With officials such as:
—–—–the mayor of a city
—–—–the governor of a state
—–—–the speaker of a house
—–—–the chief justice of a high court
—–—–the president of the USA
—–… only the current office holder is addressed with the ‘title’. Formers are no longer The person. They are out of office.
Elevated forms of address are courtesies of the office. A former-office-holder is no longer due the courtesies we extend to the current office holder: elevated precedence, better seats at events, big corner office, great parking spot and … special form of address. Those stay with the office and the current office holder.
A former one-office-holder-at-a-time now speaks with the authority of a private citizen. We honor former office holder’s service, but the ‘elevated forms of address’ –– which acknowledges the responsibilities and duties of office — belong only to the current office holder.
With offices of which are many office-holders at a time … senators, admirals, judges, etc. addressing ‘formers’ with their former honorific is not disrespectful to a singular current office holder.
To explain the correct form I would say “using the title of a former position is flattering to the former official and he or she may not correct you, but is not respectful to the current office holder. There’s only one The (one-at-a-time officeholder) at a time.”
— Robert Hickey
How to address a former President
Dear Mr. Hickey,
Yes, but everyone uses the title President that way.
______________— Anna McDonald, Stafford, Virginia
Dear Ms. McDonald:
Are presidents of organizations and companies addressed as President (Surname)? Do other former presidents keep being President forever? President is not typically used as an honorific and formers go back to being identified in the manner they were before.
Being president of the United States is a role, not a permanent rank one attains and keeps as one’s personal property. When being interviewed after leaving office, reporters should address them with a form of address supported by the role they are in the day they are interviewed.
What’s so disrespectful with addressing them as who they are today? The founders included “No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States” in Article One of the Constitution. I wonder if some might argue that this sentiment would apply to permanent titles. The only one that is traditional is “The Honorable (Full Name)” to acknowledge service as an elected official.
— Robert Hickey