Posts Tagged ‘How to Address Retired Persons’

How do I address a retired American Ambassador?  He was a member of the U.S. Foreign Service so he was a diplomat for a long time before he was an ambassador.
           — Carol Bentley

How do I address someone who served as an American Ambassador?  He was a close personal friend of The President and served for four years.
           — Keith Inge

Dear Ms. Bentley & Mr. Inge:
Any retired or former ambassador is addressed on the envelope, or in the address block of the letter, in the standard style used for addressing high US officials:
 The Honorable (Full name)

And, in the salutation or conversation he/she would be addressed as:
   Dear Ambassador (Surname),
     The difference between ambassadors will arise when you introduce them, describe them, give their title, or identify them in writing.

How to identify a political appointee who served as a Ambassador?
Those appointed to serve as a U.S. ambassador after a career in another field (typically they serve just one administration, more or less) are introduced as:
            Ambassador of the United States to (Name of Country) from Year to Year
            Former Ambassador of the United States to (Name of Country)

Who can be identified as a “Career Ambassador, Retired”?
There are certain individuals who can be identified as a Career Ambassador.   They have been accorded the “Personal Rank of Career Ambassador” by the President. If you do a web search for “career-ambassador U.S. Department of State” you find the list. There aren’t many. This small category of ambassadors is introduced or identified as:
          Career Ambassador of the Foreign Service of the United States of America, Retired

Who can be identified as a “Ambassador, Retired”?
Career U.S. Foreign Service Officers who have served as a U.S. Ambassador at one or more U.S. embassies are introduced or identified as:
          Ambassador of the United States of America, Retired

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How do you address in writing a former state senator?
          — RW in Florida

Dear RW,
A U.S. state senator is addressed as “the Honorable” — once one is “the Honorable” one is “the Honorable” for life.  Retired senators, since they are not one-officeholder-at-a-time officials continue to be addressed as “Senator (Name)”.
But, you say former state senator.
If you are addressing a letter relating to his/her public service, or it is social correspondence (a letter to a neighbor, a holiday note, or get-well card) — address the envelope and use in the letter’s envelope and address block  The Honorable (Full Name).  Use Senator (Surname) in the salutation.
If you are writing to someone who served as a state senator, but is now working in some commercial/professional role —  e.g., they are now your insurance agent, attorney, or stock broker — and you are writing to them in the context of this commercial/professional endeavor — address him/her as Mr./Ms./Dr./etc. (Name).  
In the U.S.A. we address people as pertinent to the situation. Each of us has many names and each is correct in a specific time and place. E.g., a woman named “Ann Robinson” might be addressed as “Mrs. Robinson”, “Ann”, “Mom” or “Sweetheart”.  Each name is how she is addressed in a certain situation. How she is addressed relates to (1) who is addressing her and (2) in which role she is being addressed.
Robert Hickey

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I have an example referring to a former president as “The Honorable (Name)”  Is that incorrect?  Yet I also find that one should call a former president as “Mr. (Last Name), and identify him as a former president. So what should I say to formally introduce a former president?
            — MJH

Dear MJH:
Former U.S. elected officials are The Honorable (Full Name). 
All of these would be correct for a formal introduction:
The Honorable William Jefferson Clinton,
President of the United States. 1993-2001

The Honorable William Jefferson Clinton,
                   Former president of the United States
          The Honorable William Jefferson Clinton
                   42nd president of the United States
If you just first & last name – William Clinton – that would constitute a (Full Name) too. I would not suggest using his nickname – Bill Clinton – with The Honorable.
This is correct for direct address, in a one-on-one introduction, or in conversation:
  Mr. Clinton
— Robert Hickey      http://www.formsofaddress.info/faq.html

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What is the proper way to address a former astronaut?
There is a lawsuit in California regarding former astronaut running for Congress. Is he or is he not allowed to call himself Astronaut (Name) in his campaign if he is not currently an astronaut?
       — Brian K. in California

Dear Brian K.,
Being an astronaut is not a personal rank one attains and keeps. It is more like being a chef, teacher, shepherd or lifeguard: a job one holds — in this case – held. He’s rightfully able to identify himself as having been an astronaut.
There is no personal rank granted for being an astronaut, and no special honorific used when directly addressing an astronaut.
A candidate for political office is correctly addressed as Mr./Ms. (Name).
Many astronauts are or have been military officers and thus are socially addressed by rank in retirement. It would not be appropriate for a retired officer to use his/herrank as part of his/her name in a campaign for public office.
If he’s no longer in the NASA program (which you seem to say he is not) perhaps most accurately he would be identified in text or in an introduction as a one of the NASA (name of mission) astronauts or something similar.
       — Robert Hickey    http://www.formsofaddress.info/faq.html


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I have recently retired from the Air Force after 20 years of service and the company I am currently employed with would like me to include my retired rank and status in my signature block… something like:
After looking though you blog, I am in full agreement with the statement from your Pentagon source that says if retirees are in a new job, then they should use a signature block that supports that job and should not their former military rank & retired. 
However there are other retirees working in the company who do use their retired status on business cards and email signature block.
My question is … Is there any firmer or more direct verbiage addressing the use of retire rank other than the above using the ambiguous “should,” I do not really want to rock the boat at my new job, but I also don’t want to be pressured into essentially “Pimping” out my retirement status for the corporation.
             — Rich Stanton

Dear Rich,
There is only the DoD guideline and at issue is how it’s interpreted: … use of military titles is prohibited if it in any way casts discredit on DoD or gives the appearance of sponsorship, sanction, endorsement, or approval by DoD.
I observe armed services protocol officers interpreting the use of one’s former rank in a post-retirement job as giving the appearance of seeking to gain some advantage over others based on one’s pre-retirement rank or another’s lack of military service.  If the new employer is solely interested in the vets experience, then the vet has the knowledge no matter how they are addressed. Right?
A private-sector corporation has no long-term investment in maintaining the respect and prestige of active-duty ranks but perhaps there is a short-term benefit to their bottom line.
This contrasts with the DoD which has a long-term investment in maintaining the value the respect and prestige of those in uniform.
To me it’s economics: can I leverage my former position to my future personal benefit?
    — Robert Hickey

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How would I address a former governor of Tennessee?
             — Sharon in Hillsboro

Dear Sharon,
Former governors continue to be The Honorable (Full Name).
 Once an honorable, always an honorable, more or less.
But in spite of what you hear in the media, only a current governor is formally addressed in conversation or in a salutation as Governor (Name). In a salutation,former governors go back to whatever form of address they used they were before they were the governor.
     Here’s the rule: Offices of which many people hold the same office at a time …senators, judges, Navy captains … continue to be addressed using the honorific used while they were in office.  But offices which are held by a single person at a time … the president, the governor, the mayor … (any office you can put a “the” in front of) most formally go back to whatever they were before.
I cover this in my book, of course, but here’s a link to number of posts on former governors.
    — Robert Hickey

How to Address a Former Judge /
How a Former Judge Should Refer to Himself?

I am a Magisterial District Judge who is retiring- having lost an election for purely political reasons. (In other words, no dishonor as referenced in one of the answers). I am returning to full time private practice. Here in PA, MDJs who are lawyers frequently have law practices in addition to their judicial post, which is what I did.
I understand that many people will still call me “Judge” out or courtesy, respect, and friendliness. My question regards how I refer to myself. I do not intend to use that honorific in attorney correspondence. I am preparing announcements to send to friends, other lawyers, existing clients, and other people advising them that I will be expanding my practice to include certain matters that I could not, by rule, handle while an MDJ.
Would it be proper, in those announcements, to say, for example, Judge Knight will draw on his 25 years of experience as a prosecutor and District Judge, in the defense of criminal and traffic cases.
Thank you for your insight.
             — Kevin Knight

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I am a retired Air Force Reserve Lt. Colonel working as a civil servant for the Veterans Health Administration.  A number of us are retired military who continue to serve our fellow vets.  Is it allowable for us to indicate our retired military status in our e-mail and hard copy correspondence?
Obviously, we are not engaged in a commercial enterprise.  I have looked at the VA/VHA directives and cannot find anything on point.  We think adding are military retired status to our signature blocks help build a closer bond with our patients and amongst each other.
As the medical center’s Compliance and Business Integrity Officer I am especially sensitive to ensuring we follow the rules.  What is proper in this situation??
— Mike in West Virginia

Dear Mike:
    The way I read the DoD guidelines is they are designed to prohibit anyone receiving … or appearing to seek to receive … any benefits, deference, or courtesies due to their former rank in jobs which are not active-duty positions held as armed service personnel.
The DoD wants those courtesies reserved for active duty personnel as they serve with the power of the government behind their actions.
This continued use of your rank as a retiree would be limited to personal, social use — and not used in subsequent employment.
Of course vets and retiree’s share a special bond, but probably VA/VHA employees who are neither can offer exceptional service and can have extraordinary bonds with the vets they serve.
             – Robert Hickey www.formsofaddress.info

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