How Do I Address a Former President?


President_Barack-Obama

Photo by Pete Souza

In the United States, when one leaves an office where they have had a title, such as President of the United States, it often becomes a protocol dilemma on how to refer to them afterwards. Should you still address him (or her) as Mr. President?

The rules of protocol say no.

The rule is that only one living person may hold the title of President at any one time.

While a sitting president should be addressed as Mr. President during their tenure in office, once they leave office, they should correctly be referred to by the title they held previously. For example, President George Washington was referred to as “General Washington” once he retired. President James Monroe was referred to as “Colonel Monroe.”

A deceased President, however, may be referred to using the title “President” before their name, as in “President Washington lived at Mount Vernon.”

This said, many former (and living) Presidents today are addressed as merely that: “Former President,” followed by their name. If, however you are formally addressing them, as in a written correspondence, it is never incorrect to use “Mr.” before their name.

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