Do you think it is easy to be a part of the First Family? Sure, it comes with plenty of perks, but it is not always easy. It is not a good idea to think that you can do anything you want just because you got elected as the leader of the free world! Although many rules are not set in stone, there are certain expectations that people have of the head of state and their family. Keep reading to find out some of the traditions and rules the First Family needs to follow during their stay in the White House. These are simple, everyday things that Melania Trump did not have to follow until her husband was elected!
Do Not Open The Windows
Although there are plenty of amazing things about living in the most historical and famous house in America, there are lots of restrictions as well. A couple of them will seem odd to some people. For example, it is not allowed for anyone to open the windows of the White House. Michelle Obama said that she missed opening the window to let some fresh air in during the time they lived there. She even jokingly told Ellen DeGeneres that she was planning to spend a lot of time “just hanging out the window” when her husband left the office.
Planning A Presidential Funeral
Did you know that one of the first tasks a president needs to do upon taking office is to plan their funeral? “It may sound shocking, but during the first week of moving into the White House, the president is asked to plan his or her funeral should anything occur during their presidency,” explained the deputy assistant of George W. Bush. A presidential funeral is a gigantic ordeal full of ceremonies. It normally lasts about five days. Overall, eight Presidents of the United States have died during their term. Four of them were the victims of assassinations. As you can see, it is important to ensure their security.
Moving In And Out
Are you surprised to hear that the First Family normally has to foot the bill when they move into the White House? They pick the moving company they want, although the movers do not get permission to enter the building itself. The residence staff gets clearance to enter the White House, so they are the ones who need to get the items inside after the moving truck is halted. This is also true when they have to move out.
No Imported Wine Here
We are not joking when we say that you can find just about anything on the food menu in the White House. However, there is something that you will never see there. We are talking about imported wines. The cooks have to ensure that the beverages and food they serve all come from the US! During the Ford administration, imported wine got taken off the White House menus. Since then, they have only ever served locally-made wines. Most of the stocked wine comes from Idaho, Virginia, and California.
No Driving On Public Roads
One thing that many members of the First Family miss is the opportunity to go on a drive. For their safety, they are not allowed to hit the public roads. The last president who was allowed to do this was Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th President of the United States. With that said, they can still drive around on private roads. In fact, George W. Bush liked to drive his truck around on his private ranch in Crawford, Texas. Meanwhile, Ronald Reagan enjoyed taking his jeep for a drive on his Santa Barbara property.
Interior Designers And Curators
There is no interior designer on the White House staff. The task of hiring an interior designer for the first family falls on the first lady. This happens not long after the First Family moves into the White House. The designer is given the responsibility of organizing and redesigning the White House. However, the historical rooms are considered to be off-limits. For rooms that fall under that category, a staff curator is the person in charge of maintenance and care.
The Football Follows The POTUS
When the president goes traveling, you will be sure that “The Football” is going to be nearby. This is the nickname of the briefcase that always comes with the president. The public has no idea what it might contain, but it is undoubtedly something important. People assume that the briefcase contains the nuclear codes. Should the president be away in case of an attack, he can still access these codes. The briefcase allegedly weighs approximately 45 pounds, so we are not sure if there is anything else in there.
The White House Easter Egg Roll
The White House Easter Egg Roll is what they call the time-honored tradition in which kids roll Easter eggs using a spoon across the lawn of the White House. It has been happening since 1878, although there are also claims that it started during the Lincoln administration. It is held on Easter Sunday every year. The only times this has been called off was during major construction jobs and wartime. Tradition dictates that attendees receive a wooden Easter egg after the event, a practice started by FLOTUS Nancy Reagan.
Rules About Redecorating
Did you think the First Family has full control over the White House? It is easy to make this assumption, but you should know that this is not accurate at all. The White House is actually more like a museum than a proper house. There are some rooms they do not get the clearance to change. On the list would be the Lincoln Bedroom and the Oval Office. Decoration changes need to get the approval of the historical committee that supervises the White House. However, the second and third floors can be decorated to the liking of the First Lady.
There are many perks that one will receive if they win the presidential race. When you get elected into the position of the President of the United States, you get a fancy new car in addition to a fancy new house. This happens to be a special car, mind you. It gets called all sorts of nicknames such as “Cadillac One”, “First Car”, and “The Beat”. It is not your regular car either because it is built more like a tank. It is not only equipped with bulletproof glass, but it is also reinforced with enough protection to survive a bomb explosion. It has an internal oxygen system and sealing capacity for chemical attacks too.
FLOTUS-Picked Christmas Tree Themes
In 1961, FLOTUS Jackie Kennedy began the tradition of the Christmas tree themes. The practice lives on to this day. The first Christmas tree theme, which was set up during JFK’s first year in office, was based on “The Nutcracker” by Tchaikovsky. This tradition caught on and the first lady gets to pick a new theme every single year. Some themes that have been chosen are “American Flower Tree”, “Mother Goose”, and “Antique Toy”. In 2017, First Lady Melania Trump picked the theme “Time-Honored Traditions”.
An Important Day At The White House
Whenever a new president gets elected, the 20th of January becomes an auspicious day at the White House. The president is not allowed to move into the official residence before this day because the previous president still lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue until the 19th of January. The next First Family will then have 12 hours to move in, a time limit set for security purposes. Apparently, the Obamas only took five hours to officially move out. It is probably a record in itself.
No Free Lunch
You would be very wrong if you think it is a cushy job to be the President of the United States. They do not simply live off the taxpayer’s money. They actually need to pay for their toiletries, food, dry cleaning, and many other personal services and items. As the old saying goes, there is no such thing as a free lunch. The White House kitchen staff also get their own official Instagram account. If you want to see what they are cooking for the First Family and the White House staff, make sure to check it out.
The Turkey Pardons
The National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation is a traditional ceremony that dates all the way back to the ‘40s. However, it was not until the Reagan administration that a turkey was “pardoned”, even though he did not actually use that exact word. The first official pardon from a president happened in 1999 when POTUS Bill Clinton pardoned ‘Harry The Turkey’. Although this is a pretty new tradition, it has become expected of the sitting president to pardon a turkey whenever Thanksgiving rolls in.
Under Constant Surveillance
When you are a part of the First Family, you tend to lose certain freedoms. For one thing, you will no longer be able to visit anywhere you please on your own. The members of the First Family are always under the watchful eye of the secret service. The team is tasked with the security of the POTUS, the First Family, and the family of the vice-president. No matter what you do and where you do it, you can bet that you are under surveillance when you are a member of the First Family.
No iPhones For The POTUS
If you are the President of the United States, you do not get access to the newest and latest piece of technology either. Of course, this is a rule that has been set for the sake of their security. President Barack Obama was the first American head of state who got permission to own a smartphone. He got a Blackberry during his term, although it had been modified by the secret service so much that it can hardly be considered a smartphone. “Does your three-year-old have one of those play phones? That’s basically the phone I got,” he said. We bet he was glad to finally indulge in a new phone after his term!
The Decoration Budget Allotment
Presidents cannot simply go wild when they redecorate the White House, even if they get to call it home. They get a budget of $100k and should shell out their own money if they go over that. The Carters allegedly used up the budget and then spent $50k out of their pockets. The Reagans turned down this opportunity and simply used their own money for the whole project. The Obamas and Clintons reportedly spent around the same amount the Carters did. However, the full restoration that happened during the Kennedy administration costs $16.4 million in today’s money.
No Convertibles Allowed
Aside from the fact that the president cannot drive on public roads, they are not allowed to ride in certain kinds of vehicles. For one thing, you will never see a president in a convertible in this day and age. After the assassination of POTUS John F. Kennedy, this car type has been deemed off-limits for the sitting president. This makes perfect sense to us, and we are sure they would not want to do it anyway!
Phone Calls Must Be Made On Secure Lines
One more rule the president should always follow is to exclusively make calls using secure lines. It does not matter if it is a private call, they have to do it on a secure line. This rule is extremely important. All the incoming and outgoing calls by the POTUS must be done this way for the sake of natural security. “Because the smartphones of high-level government officials — including the President — are obvious targets for foreign intelligence services, the government goes to significant effort to ensure that government-issued smartphones are constantly updated to address security vulnerabilities,” explained a White House expert.
Planning In Advance
When you are the President of the United States, nearly every waking minute of your day has already been planned in advance. Good luck squeezing in something that has not been scheduled! For one thing, the secret service will not let you unless you let them know four hours prior. There was a time when POTUS Barack Obama wanted to organize a spontaneous basketball game, but he did not receive permission because he failed to let the secret service know four hours before this. The team needs some time to ensure that the activity poses no risk to the president’s life.
The White House Correspondents’ Dinner
While it is not set in stone that the POTUS should show up at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, it has become a long-held tradition. It is also an opportunity to enjoy light-hearted humor directed at them. This event is normally attended by athletes, comedians, journalists, and pop culture figures. This event is a tribute to the First Amendment, which safeguards one’s right to free speech. It means that the president gets roasted a lot! Aside from all the fun, they also hand out awards and scholarships during this event, which is where the admission fees go toward.
No Side Hustles For The President
Did you know that the president is not allowed to earn any additional income on top of the government salary given to them? If you have been elected as the President of the United States, we are sorry to let you know that you cannot take on a side hustle. The sitting president makes $400k a year. If the POTUS is a business owner, they no longer get a say on how it is run. They typically let someone else run it. When it comes to their investments, they need to be placed into a blind trust during the administration.
Social Media And The First Children
When it comes to the first children, they get very limited social media accounts. Sasha and Malia Obama were not allowed to have Twitter accounts and got limited Facebook access. Although it is a huge honor and privilege to be a member of the First Family, we are sure they have a tough time because they are not allowed to do some things their peers can. “I still am not a big believer in Facebook for young people … particularly for them, because they’re in the public eye. Some of it’s stuff they don’t need to see and be a part of … So we try to protect them from too much of the public voice,” explained Michelle Obama.
The Secret Service
After President McKinley got assassinated in 1901, Congress passed a law that officially gave the secret service the task of protecting the sitting President of the United States and the First Family. The team is also in charge of keeping the Vice President safe as well as the president-elect and vice president-elect during an election year. However, you might be surprised to learn that certain members of the family can give up the protection of the secret service. In September of 2017, Donald Trump Jr. refused the right to come under the protection of the secret service.
Closed Car Windows
Aside from getting chauffeured around in a huge armored vehicle, the First Family is not allowed to open the windows in a car. They can only break this rule if they happen to be on private property and away from the public eye. “One day as a treat, my lead agent let me have the windows open on the way to Camp David. It was like five minutes out, and he was like, ‘The window’s open. Enjoy it!’ I was like, ‘Thanks, Alan,’” recounted Michelle Obama.
The First Ladies Of The United States
When an election wraps up, it is a tradition for the incoming and outgoing First Ladies to get together for tea at the White House. The most recent instance this happened was between outgoing FLOTUS Michelle Obama and current FLOTUS Melania Trump. They discussed what it was like to live in the White House, although reports say they specifically talked about raising kids there. We doubt it is an easy job! Michelle also gave Melania a private tour before they went to the Oval Office to meet their husbands.
Not Above The Law
Even though it might seem like the President is above the law as the person in charge of signing bills into law, they do not get to break the law. They are just like any other citizen when it comes to the delicate topic of breaking the law. If a sitting president ever breaks the law when they are in office, Congress gets the right to take this matter into its own hands. The House of Representatives has the right to impeach the sitting president, whereas the Senate can get the president taken to court.
No Power To Declare War
Without a doubt, presidents are very important authority figures with a lot of power. However, they cannot declare war on another country. The constitution exclusively grants this power to Congress. The last time the power to declare war was used had been during the Second World War. Congress has only done this 11 times in the past. The first one had been the declaration of war against Great Britain in 1812. Although the United States is presently in conflict with a number of countries, Congress has yet to declare war against any of these nations.
The Yearly Hanukkah Party
This is not exactly a rule, although it has become a tradition for the POTUS to host a Hanukkah party each year. This tradition dates back to 1979 during the Carter administration. President Jimmy Carter lit the menorah on the Ellipse, a park near the White House. In 2001, President George W. Bush made history as the first POTUS to light the Hanukkah menorah on his own. This tradition lives on until this day, and it is definitely something to keep an eye on as the year is coming to a close.
The Grand Piano In The White House
We have already told you that the First Family gets the opportunity to redecorate the White House to their liking, with the exception of certain rooms and items. One thing that they can never move is the famous grand piano! They can play it if they wish, although it should never be moved. The White House curator on duty ensures that important historical artifacts and artworks are preserved and cared for. We bet this is no easy task, especially if there happen to be young kids living in the White House.
Yearly Snowball Fight
Each and every year, there is a White House snowball fight. Sounds fun, right? Well, the first family is meant to participate. Here we can see an Instagram photo that was posted by the Obamas, frolicking in the snow with the entire family.
End Of Ramadan
The White House hosts the Iftar dinner every year. It’s an annual reception held at the White House and is hosted by the POTUS and First Lady to celebrate the month of Ramadan. This tradition began when Hilary Clinton hosted a Ramadan Eid celebration dinner back in 1996.
This sweet tradition is meant to “soften the image” of the president and his family. According to CNN, having a pet does exactly that. Former presidents haven’t been fazed by this at all, in fact, they’ve had every type of pet you can imagine, from ponies to raccoons.
In the past century, the only president to send their children to a public school was former President Jimmy Carter. However, this tradition was put in place not only because private schools offer a better education, but more so to keep the children in a safer and more controlled environment.
Air Force One
Since Roosevelt, every chief executive has flown of dedicated presidential airplanes. However, John F. Kennedy was the first president to ever fly in a jet that was specifically built for presidential use only.
Meeting The Queen
The tradition of the POTUS meeting Queen Elizabeth II began with President Harry Truman, according to Time. While Elizabeth wasn’t technically the queen yet, she did visit Washington D.C. on behalf of her father, King George IV.
Cinco de Mayo
For the past 16 years or so, the White House has celebrated the Mexican holiday, Cinco de Myo. The holiday marks Mexico’s 1862 victory over invading French Emporer Napoleon III in the Battle of Puebla.
You’d think being the child of the POTUS would mean no chores, right? Well, you’d be wrong. The first children still have to do their chores. Even though the White House is a cool place to live as a kid – it does have a bowling alley, a movie theater, a swimming pool, and more – there are still chores to be done. Reportedly, Michelle and Barack Obama ran a tight ship while living in the White House, with the girls expected to complete their chores.
One of the first things the First Family needs to do after they settle into the White House is to design their own china for their administration. The Obama Administration’s China had 3,250 pieces that were rimmed in textured gold.
It sounds pretty cool to have a personal taste tester, but it’s not all it’s made out to be. The presidential taste tester isn’t hired to make sure the food meets the President’s standards. In fact, the taster’s main job is to make sure there is no danger in the food the President is about to eat. His services are only required when the President is out of the office seeing as there are chefs in the White House with strict guidelines. If there is no taster on hand, the President isn’t allowed to eat. How crazy is that?
No Expensive Gifts
You might think that being the president, they get lavish gifts constantly from leaders of all kinds of companies and supporters. Well, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. There are very strict rules against getting gifts from anyone. In 2016, the law stated that any gift worth over $375 would have to be turned over to the National Archives.
Can’t Secure A Copyright
If the President just so happens to find the time to write some kind of book, whether it be a memoir or anything that required publishing while in office, they wouldn’t be able to secure a copyright. US copyright laws state that any work created by a federal government employee or even the President when he’s in office is considered public domain.
While it would be great to be able to pay off millions of college graduates’ student loans, the president can’t actually grant such a thing. Even though they have the power of a presidential pardon and can pardon people with extreme crimes, they can’t do the same for students.
Welfare seems like something the president would have control over, but that isn’t the case. Any type of welfare reform needs to first be passed as a law or as part of a budget. This also means that it has to go through Congress, meaning the president doesn’t really have much control over it. The president can propose changes, but there’s no guarantee of any being passed.
Government Shut Down
Seeing as the president is the leader of the government, it would only make sense that they have the ability to shut down the government in case of an emergency or some kind of particular situation. However, this isn’t true. The only people that can shut down the government is the Senate after they fail to agree on a federal budget for the upcoming year. While there have been several government shutdowns in the past, none of them were enacted by a president.
No Keys Needed
Being handed the keys to your new home is the most exciting part since it signifies it’s really yours. Unfortunately, the first family doesn’t get to experience this. While there is a lock on the ceremonial “north door”, the family does not have access to the key. White House curator William Allman said, “Because of the presence of the Secret Service protecting every entry point, there’s obviously no need to lock those doors generally. And the family wouldn’t ever need to lock or open them — they’d always be escorted”. How nice it must be to never have to carry keys!
Presidential Townhouse: Off Limits
Adjacent to the White House sits the Presidential Townhouse. In 1969, Richard Nixon decided it would be the official place for former presidents visiting Washington, DC to stay. The home has accommodations for the Secret Service, a few bedrooms, 2 dining rooms and is 5 stories high. The house is maintained through a support fund. Interestingly enough, the President is forbidden to stay in this home while in office.
Ex-Presidents Are Encouraged To Travel
Ex-presidents are encouraged to travel after being in office. The government gives them a $1 million annual travel stipend to encourage they serve as goodwill ambassadors for the rest of their lives. They also maintain diplomatic passports for life, meaning they can travel wherever they want. The wives of previous Presidents also receive some cash for travel…$500,000!
Libraries Are Customary
The Presidential Libraries Act of 1955 was created to influence former presidents to build an official library with their presidential papers and other historical materials. This act is a public service to the country and therefore the libraries are, more often than not, open to the public. Many presidents are even buried on the grounds of their library.
It is common practice for the 2 first ladies (the former and the future) to sit for a cup of tea. During this meeting, the women exchange niceties to one another as they sip their Earl Grey. Laura Bush offered assistance to Michelle Obama during their tea time, just as Michelle did for Melania Trump.
The Family Too
The president isn’t the only member of the first family to stay in the White House, it is customary for the entire brood to reside there as well. Since the White House is the first family’s official residence, we can see JFK and his 2 children enjoying a moment of play in the historical structure.
They Have No Say
The secret service protects the president, VP, and family members. According to the Department of Homeland Security, sitting Presidents can not decline protection. The only people who have a say in whether they want to be followed around are former presidents.
Choose A Niche
Thanks to first ladies like Eleanor Rosevelt who did more than just hostessing, the wives of the presidents do much more today. They usually support numerous initiatives and advocate for causes they feel particularly strongly about. For example, Michelle Obama was a big proponent of healthy eating to end childhood obesity.
In order to make adjustments to the White House, the president must first receive special approval. In order for the swimming pool and the bowling alley to be built, the presidents had to ask. Obama had to get permission to redesign the tennis court to double as a place to shoot hoops.
Lodging Bedore The Inauguration
Before an inauguration, it is customary for the first family to stay at the Presidential guest house donned ‘Blair House’. It resides at 1651 Pennsylvania Ave, a hop, skip and a jump away from the White House. This is a tradition every President has followed since it has become a custom.
They Frequent Camp David (Frequently)
The President of the United States’ country retreat, Camp David, is located in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountain Park. They spend a lot of time there, whether for pleasure or for business meetings with diplomats of foreign countries.
LGBT Pride Month
A sitting President is supposed to officially recognize LGBT Pride Month. During the evenings in the month of June, the White House is lit up with rainbow lights to show support for the LGBT citizens of the United States. Donald Trump was one President who failed to recognize this month in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
A Sweet Christmas
Each year during Christmas, there is a white chocolate replica of the White House displayed in the State Dining Room. This tradition began in the 1960s and it is still going strong today. The masterpiece takes bakers up to 3 months to construct and has weighed up to 300 pounds!
Dressed To The Nines
Although the White House traditions have become more up to date over the years, the staff continue to wear formal wear when serving guests. Even during informal occasions, White House waiters and waitresses wear tuxedos.
The Most Popular Type Of Tree
Although the First Lady has the option to choose whichever type of Christmas tree her heart desires, Firs are the most popular time and time again. Since 1961, the Blue Room Christmas tree has been a Fir 51 times, a Spruce 7 times and a Pine 1 time. Firs continue to take the cake!