I have started (and stopped) this letter to you a number of times. It is a note to remind some (many) of you that the person who holds the highest office in the United States is a PRESIDENT. Currently, that means that our 44th President is President Obama, not MR. Obama or even Barak Obama.
Why am I such a “stickler” for such formalities? You see, it is hard enough to be an educator and parent these days. We spend a lot of time in our classrooms and homes discussing issues of respect and the value of being positive in a world that often makes it difficult. Therefore, in my humble opinion, when we refer to our President as “Mr.” we are showing a sense of disrespect. Kids see and learn from adults, especially by means of the media. And, when there is a demonstration among adults to not show respect then our kids may not either. I believe that President Obama (and every person who holds the office of President) has earned the right to this “official title” and our respect. We owe it to our youth who look to us to model positive decorum.
What happens when a President leaves office? Is he/she still entitled to be called, President? Well, there are those who believe this person can maintain the title with “former” before it. Others believe differently. Robert Hickey from the Protocol School of Washington, wrote the following on the matter in reference to former President Clinton and even addressed the question on how to address him if his wife is elected President and he becomes known as perhaps – “First Gentleman”?
“While it is common practice in the media and elsewhere to address and identify former presidents as ‘President (Name),’ this is a mistake,” said Hickey. “Serving as President of the United States does not grant one the personal rank of ‘President’ for life. The office of President is a one-person-at-a-time role that a specific individual holds and then hands off to the next person.”
If you go to his article you will find that several people asked many other specific questions and there were even a few who disagreed with his rationale.
I, for one, needed a bit more convincing as I always thought that former state and national officials were able to keep their titles. So, I continued my quest for knowledge by checking out an entry via Emily Post! This is what she had to say on the subject:
When addressing a former President of the United States in a formal setting, the correct form is “Mr. LastName.” (“President LastName” or “Mr. President” are terms reserved for the current head of state.) This is true for other ex-officials, as well.
When talking about the person to a third party, on the other hand, it’s appropriate to say, “former President LastName.” This holds for introductions, as well: A current state governor is introduced as “Governor Tom Smith,” while you’d introduce an ex-governor as “former Governor Jim Bell.”
In closing, “Dear Media”… please remember the Commander of Chief has a name while in office, and it starts with PRESIDENT ___________.