The President of the United States is one of the world’s most powerful figures. Perhaps even the most powerful. But he or she still has a specific set of rules to follow after walking into the White House for the first time. And we’ve taken a closer look at 40 of those regulations – some of which are pretty weird!
40. They can’t go to children’s events
If you have dreams of becoming the president and a parent one day, you might want to hear this from Villanova University’s Dr. Jim Ronan. The political science teacher told Reader’s Digest, “Attending a child or grandchild’s dance recital or sporting event would involve such extensive security preparations for other attendees and participants that it’s essentially out of the question.” Oh well.
39. They can only decorate certain White House rooms
When you move into a new home, there’s a good chance that you’ll want to redecorate a room or two. The president’s no different in that respect after they arrive at the White House. But here’s the thing. The leader and his clan aren’t allowed to spruce up certain spaces like the Yellow Room or the Lincoln Room. In fact, the second and third tiers are the only spots they can really work on! Doh!
38. Former leaders must stay at Presidential Townhouse
Once a president’s term in office is finished, you might believe that they’re free from any more commitments. Well, that’s not quite accurate. Because if an ex-leader wants to travel to Washington, D.C, he’s strongly advised to shack up at the Presidential Townhouse. This building is safeguarded by teams of security – and the White House is just around the corner.
37. Their family must live in the White House
After a president’s inauguration, their family usually joins them to stay at the White House. Makes sense right? But that wasn’t the case with Donald Trump’s clan. Yes, his wife Melania and their kid Barron didn’t move into the famous building immediately as the latter needed to complete his school studies in New York.
36. They can’t say no to protection
The U.S. president is one of the most heavily guarded individuals on the planet. And given their importance, we can understand why! So you might not be too surprised to hear that the leader can’t turn down security details from the Secret Service. The vice-president’s in a similar spot as well.
35. Commercial flights are off the table
When a person becomes president, certain activities are instantly barred to ensure their safety. And cybersecurity specialist Dr. Karla Mastracchio informed Reader’s Digest that commercial flights are on that list. In truth, that’s not too surprising. They can just use Air Force One anyway! Surely that’s better?
34. Ex-presidents are still needed for diplomatic trips
Thought that ex-presidents could just put their feet up after leaving office? Well think again! As it turns out, they’re still obligated to take diplomatic trips around the world. You see, these individuals are looked upon as “goodwill ambassadors,” so travel is a must. They reportedly receive $1 million each year to cover the costs. Nice!
33. They’re expected to pay for White House meals
We can only imagine how cool it must be to live in the White House – but it doesn’t come cheap. According to ex-First Lady Laura Bush, the occupants don’t get free dinners. They’re actually obligated to pay for all of the food that gets eaten inside the famous old building. Pretty surprising right?
32. Presidents must host the Easter Egg Roll
When spring comes around, the president is expected to host the traditional Easter Egg Roll outside the White House. This event was first established in 1878 while Rutherford B. Hayes was in power. Kids and their families are invited to the South Lawn the day after Easter Sunday to take part in the fun and games.
31. They shouldn’t clean their office
No one likes a messy office right? Well, regardless of how cluttered it might get, presidents are advised against cleaning their workstation, or throwing out notes. As Dr. Karla Mastracchio told Reader’s Digest, “Under the Presidential Records Act, they’re mandated to hang on to things that an ordinary person does not.” So that means the leader can’t delete their emails either!
30. Ex-leaders are given a permanent security detail
After an outgoing president makes way for their replacement, they retain a pretty useful perk. Yes, the ex-leaders are handed their own security detail. The scale of the team is entirely up to them. But here’s an interesting snippet. Apparently, Richard Nixon stands alone as the sole man to turn down the offer.
29. The White House holds Cinco de Mayo celebrations
Back in 2001 George W. Bush kick-started a new tradition at the White House. From that point on, Cinco de Mayo was commemorated there, as the president would open his doors to Mexican luminaries in honor of the occasion. Yet in 2017 the festivities were moved to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building – and Donald Trump didn’t take part.
28. Past and current leaders always meet after election
It goes without saying that elections can be draining for both of the competing parties. But even so, they still have to abide by a somewhat awkward rule at the end. Because the outgoing president and his replacement have to see each other. That might be one of the hardest parts of the entire process.
27. They shouldn’t lie to the media
As you probably know already, the president deals with the media on a consistent basis while he’s in the White House. Regardless of the questions, though, he’s meant to have “full transparency” in his answers at all times. Simply put, the U.S. leader really shouldn’t lie during press conferences.
26. The personal technology rule
To explain this next rule, Dr. Jim Ronan spoke to Reader’s Digest. He said, “A more recent restriction has involved personal technology, specifically, President Obama’s Blackberry and President Trump’s Twitter account. Both were advised to discontinue, or at least heavily curtail, their usage after assuming office.” Judging by Trump’s social media activity, he disregarded that advice!
25. They always visit the Queen
Queen Elizabeth II has had quite the run in the United Kingdom – she’s ruled the country for close to 70 years now. And since being coronated in 1953, the monarch has also maintained an impressive record when it comes to meeting presidents. Yes, she’s seen every American leader over the last few decades. Who wouldn’t want to visit Buckingham Palace?
24. Ex-presidents still get national security briefings
When you’re president, national security briefings are part and parcel of the job. But they’re not just cut out of the loop once their term ends. Because ex-leaders continue to get intel from those meetings. Plus the current incumbent in the White House has the ability to use them as a sounding board for guidance.
23. They can’t go to the cinema
To discuss this rule, a Homeland Security teacher named Matt Pinsker opened up to Reader’s Digest. The Virginia Commonwealth University professor revealed, “Going to the movies is generally not an option [for the president]. They have to bring a film to the White House.” We hope the popcorn’s just as nice as it is at the cinema.
22. Their entire family must attend the inauguration
When a new president is elected, inauguration day is one of the biggest events in the American calendar. All eyes are on Washington. So the incoming leader shouldn’t be alone when they’re sworn into power. Yes, their entire family is meant to be there with them – come rain or shine.
21. Former leaders have a lifetime pension
Whether they need it or not, ex-presidents are provided with a compulsory lifetime pension after departing the White House. This rule was put in place once Harry S. Truman encountered financial issues following his presidency in 1953. Apparently, the yearly payment was just under $210,000 in 2017. Not bad.
20. They must pardon a Thanksgiving turkey
No Thanksgiving is complete without a turkey. But since 1989 one lucky bird has been “pardoned” each year by the president. The idea had been around for longer than that, but it was not an annual thing. George H.W. Bush’s pardon was particularly memorable at that initial event, as he promised the animal would “live out his days on a children’s farm not far from here.”
19. Presidents are responsible for moving in themselves
When a person is elected president, plenty of their previous responsibilities fall by the wayside. Then again, they’re still accountable for certain aspects of their life. The leader has to make sure that all of his personal items are transported to the White House as he settles in, for instance. He’s got to pay the movers as well.
18. Eating out is a challenge
Unlike some other activities, the president can grab a bite to eat outside the White House. It’s not an easy process, though. Matt Pinsker informed Reader’s Digest, “Going out to dinner can be done, but the Secret Service will need sufficient notice ahead of time so that they will be able to secure the restaurant.” Perhaps not so great for the other diners present!
17. They don’t pay White House utility bills
Here’s something to remember for your next trivia night. Even though the president calls the White House home during his time in office, he doesn’t pay for any of the utilities. There’s no mortgage either. Yet the leader will have to lump out money for stuff like books or CDs – as we all do!
16. They can never drive in public again
Yes, you’re reading that correctly. As Dr. Jim Ronan told Reader’s Digest, “One of the biggest restrictions former presidents have cited is the loss of driving privileges, even after leaving office. As a result, Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush each enjoyed riding around their respective ranches while in office, as the Secret Service allowed them to drive around the secured property.”
15. They must choose theme for White House Christmas tree
Regardless of the president’s feelings towards the festive season, he must abide by a White House custom that’s nearly 60 years old. Yes, the U.S. leader and his clan have to pick out a “theme” for the property’s Christmas tree. Jackie Kennedy was responsible for making this a yearly thing in 1961.
14. Expensive renovations are a no-no
As any homeowner will tell you, renovations can cost a lot of money. It’s no different at the White House, but presidents are advised against splashing too much cash to spruce up the place. That didn’t stop Donald Trump, though. As per government documentation, his cabinet parted with nearly $2 million in 2017. And President Obama forked out $1.5 million during his time in office.
13. They can’t move in before inauguration day
By the time inauguration day rolls around on January 20, it’s no secret who the next president will be. But just because the election is done and dusted, the new incumbent can’t choose to relocate to the White House early. They’ve got to wait! Plus the leader will only have 12 hours to get everything in order once the move begins.
12. The formal roles rule
Under normal circumstances, the “formal roles” in a president’s cabinet aren’t meant to be filled with members of his family. Then again, Donald Trump went down a different path. As you might already know, Ivanka Trump was named as his assistant while her husband, Jared Kushner, was the senior advisor.
11. They must look after White House collections
From paintings to the grand piano, the White House is full of priceless artifacts. And even though there’s a caretaker who watches over it all, the president and his clan have some responsibility too. Because they’ve got to ensure that nothing gets damaged during their stay in the historical building.
10. They have to attend White House Correspondents’ Dinner
The White House Correspondents’ Dinner is held in Washington every year, as the president and the press come together for a light-hearted evening. There’s plenty of ribbing involved, with comedians like Cecily Strong, Wanda Sykes and Jimmy Kimmel taking to the stage in the past. But Donald Trump decided against making an appearance in 2017, ignoring the standard custom.
To help celebrate the conclusion of Ramadan, Hillary Clinton came up with an idea in 1996. As the First Lady, she signed off on a yearly dinner at the White House. The custom kept going for the next two decades, as George W. Bush and Barack Obama took part. Donald Trump didn’t follow suit in 2017.
8. They send kids to private school
Picking the right school for your kids is very important – and it’s no different for the president. Yet the leaders have largely followed the same path over the last 100 years, signing their youngsters up to private institutions. Jimmy Carter, incredibly, stands alone as the one person to plump for a public facility in that time.
7. No more normal phone calls
If you value the ability to make spontaneous telephone calls, the presidency isn’t the role for you. Matt Pinsker told Reader’s Digest, “The Secret Service goes to great lengths to plan, coordinate, and secure all of the president’s activities. For example, talking to a friend over the phone or video-chat can only be done on a secured line.”
6. They can’t build additions without permission
Planning permission is a requirement that we all have to go through when mapping out extensions. And the president isn’t above it either. Because if they want to erect something within the White House grounds like a basketball court or a pool, the leaders need “special approval.” There’s no way around it.
5. The White House snowball fight
Who doesn’t love a good snowball fight? They’re a lot of fun! Keeping that in mind, the White House reportedly hosts an annual battle that the president and his clan are meant to take part in. Andrew Jackson instigated one of the earliest examples all the way back in 1835, with cotton balls standing in for snow.
4. Happy Hanukkah
Hanukkah is one of the most important periods of the year for Jewish families. To mark the occasion, Jimmy Carter ignited a menorah on the White House Ellipse in 1979. After that, his presidential successors followed suit and made a tradition out of celebrating the holiday. That’s pretty cool right?
3. The transition period
When you win the presidential election, you enter what’s known as a transition period. This is when intel is shared between the current cabinet and the one set to take its place. And the incoming leader has quite the task during that spell. Says the Center for Presidential Transition, they’ve got to select 4,000 people for jobs within their government. That’s a lot of work!
2. They must plan their own funeral
We can only imagine how hectic it must get for the president when they first arrive at the White House. Yet alongside everything else, they’re advised to map out their own funeral in that opening week. Yes, you’re reading that right. It’s morbid but ultimately necessary in case the worst happens.
1. They can never open windows
When the summer months roll in, you’re more inclined to open your windows at home. The president doesn’t have that luxury, though. To preserve their safety, the panes of glass must remain shut in both the White House and their vehicles. Michelle Obama noted that her daughter, Sasha, broke that rule, and it generated quite a stir. So we hope the leaders have access to some air conditioning at least.