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Presidential Forms of Address

Today is an exciting day in the protocol world! The Presidential Inauguration is one of the biggest displays of protocol on one the grandest stages. The Inauguration requires following the order of precedence to create the arrival and departure order, seating arrangements, and overall order of ceremony; as well as adhering to flag protocol, military protocol, and forms of address, among a myriad of other protocols.

As it relates to forms of address, today is also an exciting protocol day because it is the first time the United States has a female Vice President and a male Vice Presidential spouse. This means the protocol world gets to introduce new forms of address! For those of you wondering how to address these new roles, here is a review:

  • Female Vice President
    • When introducing, “Vice President of the United States of America (full name)
    • When addressing (verbally or in writing), the initial proper form of address is “Madam Vice President” then “Ma’am”
    • When referring to the Vice President, the proper form is “Vice President (Surname)
  • Male Vice Presidential Spouse known as The Second Gentleman
    • When introducing, “The Second Gentleman of the United States of America (full name)
    • When addressing (verbally or in writing), the initial proper form of address is “Mister/Mr. (Surname)” or whichever honorific is specific to him (i.e. if the individual holds a medical doctorate or other type of doctorate degree, the proper honorific is “Dr. (Surname)“) then “Sir
    • When referring to the Second Gentleman, the proper form is simply “Mr./Dr. (Surname)”

While reviewing forms of address, here is a quick refresh on Presidential forms of address:

  • President
    • When introducing, “President of the United States of America (full name)
    • When addressing (verbally or in writing), the initial proper form of address is “Mr. President” then “Sir”
    • When referring to the President, the proper form is “President (Surname)
  • First Lady
    • When introducing, “The First Lady of the United States of America (full name)
    • When addressing (verbally or in writing), the initial proper form of address is “Mrs. (Surname)” or whichever honorific is specific to him (i.e. if the individual holds a medical doctorate or other type of doctorate degree, the proper honorific is “Dr. (Surname)“) then “Ma’am
    • When referring to the First Lady, the proper form is “The First Lady (Surname)” or simply “Mrs./Dr. (Surname)”

An important note to keep in mind is, while the President and Vice President are elected offices with protocols of their own, the First Lady and Second Gentleman are simply roles and not actual offices; so, these individuals are extended certain protocols and courtesies as such, but they are in fact private citizens.

In line with this thought, former Presidents and Vice Presidents are often referred to as “Former President/Vice President (Surname)” which is appropriate and polite; however, it is not required to address them as “President/Vice President (Surname).” Once an individual leaves this elected office, he/she returns to being a private citizen and whichever forms of address applied to him/her prior to holding the office should be used. For example, if a Former President is also a retired military officer, he/she will return to being addressed as “Admiral (Surname).”

For more on Forms of Address, I highly recommend Honor & Respect by Robert Hickey.

Keep Calm and Follow Protocol, y’all!

AB

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