Q&A on Precedence



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Precedence
Questions & Answers, Frequently Asked Questions, and Blog


Site updated by Robert Hickey on April 17, 2014

In What Order to Recognize Distinguished Guests in the Audience?     
In What Order to Present Awards?         

Precedence: A former President, two former First Ladies,
       and a Retired Rear Admiral? 
Precedence: Former First Ladies    
Precedence of a Guest Holding the Medal of Honor?      
Precedence of a Guest of Honor Holding the Medal of Honor?        
Precedence of Gold Star Wives / Gold Star Spouses?      
Precedence: A Queen & The Pope?           
Precedence: Diplomats & a Prime Minister?          
Precedence: A CEO and an Ambassador    
Precedence: Among Proclamations by Present & Absent Officials?       
Precedence: Among City Officials?    
Precedence: Among City and State Officials?    
Precedence: Among Current Government Officials?    
Precedence: Among Former Government Officials?         
Precedence: A Brigadier General, ANG, and a Lieutenant, USN?   
Precedence Among Captains of Ships?       
Precedence of a Merchant Marine Officer and a Medical Doctor?        
Precedence of Doctors & Lawyers?     
Precedence of a Merchant Marine Officer vs. a US Naval Officer?        

Which Office Determines Precedence
       If the Person Holds/Has Held More than One Office?  
   

When and In What Order to Acknowledge
Distinguished Guests In the Audience?

       We are a non-profit organizing an annual awards luncheon. Traditionally we recognize elected officials in the audience (this year our Congressman and several city council members and county commissioners) from the podium. This year a State Representative will also offer keynote remarks. The question is – would protocol dictate the other elected officials are recognized before the State Rep is introduced and speaks, or vice versa, or does the order matter as long as all are recognized?  Thank you!

            -- Brian Hancock

Dear Mr. Hancock:
       If you are going to recognize members of the audience .... it should be done by a master of ceremonies before the keynote speaker is introduced and invited to the podium.
       And the keynote speaker (an anyone else who gets the mike) should be instructed not to re-acknowledge the distinguished guests again. It distracts from their message, is not necessary, and irritates everyone in the audience!
    The top guest (the one with the highest precedence) is acknowledged first, then go down the list in precedence order.

    If you can get hold of a copy of my book I provide the correct phrasing to use for introducing by name every type of official you mention. Just look up the "office" in the index and in my information on each office I include the exact words to use in an introduction .... right after I list how to write their place card.
              -- Robert Hickey

In What Order Are Awards Presented?
          We are a non-profit group affiliated with a university in South Carolina and are planning an event in which both the sitting Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court and a retired U.S. Congresswoman are being honored. What is the order for presenting their awards at the dinner? Are they presented lowest to highest?
          -- B.S.S. in South Carolina

Dear B.S.S.,
          Awards are presented either lowest to highest or highest to lowest, but always in precedence order.
          If those who are receiving awards are staying for the whole event -- do lowest to highest -- like at the Oscars.
          However, frequently if someone very high is getting an award they do the presentation in reverse order (top to bottom), because the very high official is going to leave right after they get their award. So the high official can leave quickly, they give them their award first.
          -- Robert Hickey

 

Where to Seat a Guest Speaker Holding the Medal of Honor?
Our diversity group is inviting a WWII Medal of Honor winner to speak at an event in January.  He is also one of the "Windtalkers".  I can't find anything on the proper protocol for acknowledging the precedence of and hosting a medal of honor winner.  I know he outranks everyone and would have the seat of honor, but I don't know what else we should do for him.
            --- Hosting a Hero

Dear Hosting a Hero:
        There is always precedence among guests. But seating is an application of precedence and sometimes guests are seated where they are for reason other than strict precedence.  E.g., speakers are typically seated near the rostrum for convenience.
     As we whether a Medal of Honor winner outranks everyone, see the next posting.

        -- Robert Hickey

What is The Precedence of a Guest Holding the Medal of Honor?
I gave a protocol briefing to colleagues in Chicago yesterday, including order of precedence.  I was asked the question, Where in precedence order would a Medal of Honor Recipient be seated?  The event is not in his honor, he is an attendee.  Now that I think about it, I should have asked what type of event it is and who the other attendees are.  Would you need to know that information before you can answer the question?
      I've looked through your book (which I love by the way, have used several times already,
and find incredibly helpful), but can't find a reference to this situation.
            --- Sue in St. Lou

Dear Sue:
    If the recipient of a Medal of Honor is a guest and not part of the program ... he or she would be seated by the precedence accorded by their office: E.g., if an officer in the armed services, the precedence would be that accorded his or her rank, then if there were others of equal rank, by their dates of service.
    Holders of national or military honors and decorations -- Nobel and Pulitzer prize winners -- Oscars winners -- quarterbacks of Super Bowl Champion teams -- are not listed on any general-purpose precedence list. That's why you didn't find in in the "Prototype Precedence List" that starts on page 121.
    If he or she is an honored guest -- like at an event of Medal of Honor recipients -- then he or she gets a higher precedence due to their function at the ceremony, and then ordered within that group of recipients by some other manner of ordering -- such as "date of their award" for example.

          -- Robert Hickey

       I must take a small exception to your answer about saluting a Medal of Honor recipient.  I was taught, when I entered the Marine Corps, in 1965, that a a recipient of the Medal of Honor was saluted, regardless of his/her rank, first.  And in actuality you were not saluting the person, but the Medal.  I realize that this was over 40 years ago. However, I do not think that this custom has changed.
            --- Lee S., Semper Fi!

    To get a current view I asked four current armed services protocol officers "Is any Medal of Honor recipient is saluted first ... even it he is in the company of a higher ranking officer .... even an O-10 General."  All said my post was correct, but here is more thoughtful reply from Major Elgin Young, USAF that was better than I had expressed. Thank you Elgin.
     Hope all is well.  Thank you for your consideration in sending me this question.  It is a very good one, and actually a bit complicated, and of course dependent upon the situation.  Your response in your blog was spot on. The quick answer is to your question for me is, no, that is not true.
      Medal of Honor recipients are saluted solely as a matter of respect, unless they are/were an officer, in that case it is a requirement.  There is no requirement or regulation stating that MoH recipients are saluted or rendered honors over a General Officer.  If the MoH is participating in a ceremony, it will be either as a guest of honor, guest reviewing official or just an honored guest, in either case that person will be acknowledged at some point during the ceremony and honors rendered.  But that will not occur before "ruffles and flourishes" due a General Officer. 
     If you encounter an MoH recipient and a General officer in passing, and the situation merits (for Marines, you are outdoors and in uniform or under arms), regulations require you to salute the General first and then the MoH recipient. 
     Now, the retired Marine that wrote to you is not absolutely incorrect or wrong.  Saluting an officer is required by regulation, but that requirement is based out of respect for the rank (and hopefully for the person as well).  So, in a given situation like the encounter in passing mentioned above, for that individual rendering the salute, it may also be his/her personal preference whom he/she salutes first.  In either case, both the General and the MoH recipient receive their salute out of respect, and the General should not feel slighted in the least.
     If I were the person rendering the salute in that situation, I would indeed salute the MoH recipient first, thank him for his selfless service, then salute the General and render the appropriate greeting.
      Hope this answers your question.
-- VR, Elgin
          -- Robert Hickey


What is the Precedence of Gold Star Spouses
      / Gold Star Wives and Their Families?
    Do you know what precedence Gold Star Spouses (GSS) and family members hold?
    Today we had a ceremony to dedicate our Memorial Park to our fallen soldiers. A few Gold Star Spouses attended. One commented to us "Gold Star Spouses hold precedence over active duty for seating purposes." We agree in that GSS should sit in the front at a ceremony dedicated to the fallen. BUT, if they attend a different type of ceremony (change of command, retirement, promotion, etc), do they automatically receive precedence over active duty members that are the same rank as their spouse had held?
    -- KG on the Base

Dear KG:
     I've been asked the same question on "Medal of Honor winners" and "POWs" and the consensus was that they received special preference only at events where their "medal or experience" was relevant to the event -- just as you say.

 
            According to a spokesperson for Gold Start Wives
  
          Gold Star Wives (GSW) usually receive preferential seating at memorial events such as Memorial and Veterans Day at Arlington, at the Vietnam Memorial and similar places.
            At other events we do not normally receive preferential status or seating.
 
           Sometimes individual members due to their personal status receive preferential treatment, and my wear their GSW hat and jacket to the event if it is appropriate, but any preferential treatment is due to their personal status rather than as their status as GSW members. On many occasions we all sit together at meeting or other events, and all the yellow hats and jackets may make it appear as if we have some kind of preferential treatment when we do not.

    Further, according to the person who knows more about precedence than anyone I know, Diane Brown of Protocol Solutions, “there is no official precedence, bottom line is to make a determination on where to seat GSS based on their attendance at the event as "guests of the commander."
Ms. Brown is a protocol expert and teaches precedence at The Protocol School of Washington®. 
                     -- Robert Hickey

What is the Precedence Among Retired Officials?
      In the United States order of precedence, Associate Justices of the Supreme Court are explicitly ranked in order of appointment, but the ranking of retired justices doesn't seem to be specified. Will retiring Justice Stevens rank ahead of (earlier appointment) or behind (later retirement) O'Connor & Souter?.

   -- M. Woods.

Dear Mr. Woods:
     Justice Stevens will be first.
     Precedence lists around Washington do include how to order some former officials: but
they don't include how to order former associate justices. When lists DO state how to rank 'formers" they all use the same approach ...
          Former Presidents of the United States by earliest assumption of office.
          Ambassadors of foreign nations by date of presentation of credentials ...
          Senators by length of service ... (which is the same as earliest assumption of office)
          Former cabinet members by seniority of assuming office
          Retired (armed service officers) by date of rank

     So standard protocol is to order 'formers' by the earliest assumption of office -- not by total length of service or most recent date of retirement:
     Stevens appointed 1975
     O'Connor appointed 1981
     Souter appointed 1990

     
 -- Robert Hickey

What is the Precedence Among Proclamations?
      Our local Heritage Association is having a birthday celebration for a citizen turning 100.  We will have the following elected officials in attendance who will be presenting proclamations: Do I have their order correct?
            Mayor of City
            County Commissioner
           
Superintendent of Schools
      We will also have proclamations from the following that will not be in attendance:
            President of the U.S.
            
Former President of the US
            Governor of the State
           
State Representative
      Is there an order to how these proclamations should be given?   Thank you for your assistance.
         -- Judy I., Heritage Association of Frisco

Dear Judy I @ HAF:
    
In terms of precedence an official most closely in his or her domain is always the highest. E.g., follow the hierarchy of officials who represent the location top to bottom.
   
  But, the application of precedence is situational. You have present officials and absent officials. I suggest you read the absent officials proclamations first (since they are high) ... then have the present officials read their own. I would not want to have a superintendent of schools reading his proclamation before a president of the United State's proclamation just because he was in attendence.
     So, based on the White House Precedence List this is what I'd suggest:
  
             Absent Current President of the U.S. (#1 on the White House List)
       
        Absent Governor of the State in his own state (#3 on the White House list)  
      
    
    Absent Former President of the U.S. (#5 on the White House list)
               Absent State Representative (#39 on the White House list)
    Then ....
               Present mayor in his own city (#30 on the White House list)
 
              Present commissioner of the board
               Present superintendent of schools
    I include a prototype White House Precedence List in my book for just this kind of situation. Great thing about using The White House's List is if someone questions you about the order -- you can say "we used the order established on the White House Precedence List'  ... and on hearing that they usually keep quiet!
     
 -- Robert Hickey

What is the Precedence When Addressing
A City Council Meeting?

    As president of a non-profit organization, I'm going to be making a presentation before my local city council requesting funding for a community service project. The seven member council sits on a raised platform at the front of the council chamber. The mayor and clerk-treasurer attend the meetings and are seated at a table to the right of the council members at floor level. The council president is the presiding official. When I get up to address the council, what should be my salutation? Should it be to all members of the council? Or should it be just to the council president? And should it include reference to the mayor and clerk-treasurer whose roles are mainly to comment and advise.  We are a small Hoosier town and I don't want to sound too highfalutin in my opening.
     Is Dear Members of City Council acceptable instead of Honorable Members of City Council?
     I would really like to show honor, respect and decorum in the way I conduct myself. Thanks for taking the time to read and answer this email.

 
         -- Bob In Ohio

Dear BIO.:
    If your oral comments are to all of present ... let's start with how to address each person and then work on their order.
    For the president and members of the city council
        President (surname)
        Members of the the City Council

    The Honorable always precedes a full name ... never an office: So a person is honorable, not an office.
    I am not completely clear whether the mayor & clerk/treasurer are part of "the official team" at the board meeting. But if included the mayor would be:
        Mr. Mayor or Mayor (surname)
    Normally clerks and treasurers are NOT most formally addressed as "Clerk (surname)" or "Treasurer (surname)."  So he or she would be:
        Mr./Ms. (surname)
    There is no need to mention his/her office: in this context everyone will know who he/she is.
    Now, about the order to mention them: I would want to know MORE to be certain who had the highest precedence at this event. But... based on the officials you mention... here is where I would start:
    1. A mayor in his own city
        (Was elected by all voters)
    2. A President of the council as presiding official at his own event
        (Represents all voters, and probably would succeed the mayor if they mayor died or stepped down ... like The Speaker of the House of Representatives succeeds the Vice President if both the VP and the President die or step down...)
    3. The clerk/treasurer if he/she was elected in a general election?
        (Was elected by all voters)
    4. The members of the council
        (Were elected by only their district's voters)
    That would result in the following:
 
       Mayor (surname), President (surname), Mr./Ms. (surname), and members of the city council.
    But it could be that the Mayor and Clerk/Treasurer are not "officially attending" but simply get excellent seats … in which case they would not be addressed. Then your opening would be:
 
       President (surname) and members of the city council.
    You should ask someone … perhaps the City Council's secretary -- before the meeting -- which is better.
          -- Robert Hickey

Whose is Thanked First? A Mayor or A State Senator?
    When in a speech to thank individuals for attending, what is political protocol as to who gets named first: a State Senator  or a Mayor?

 
         -- Claudia in New Jersey

Dear Claudia:
    I really reply I would need some more information:
        Of what city is the Mayor the mayor?
        Of what is district is the Senator the senator of the district?
       
And .. where is the event?
    But generally speaking, their relative ranking will depend on the location of the event .... and if they are both in their domain ... then the order follow the hierarchy of their offices.
     As to whose name is mentioned first ... start low and end high. so the highest person is thanked last.

      -- Robert Hickey

What is the Precedence of These Government Officials?
          I'm the Chief of Protocol for a non-profit and we have a number of federal, state, and city governmental officials participating in our organization’s annual luncheon.
     They will be announced as they enter the stage. The Mayor will be speaking to our luncheon attendees.
    We are hosting the following:
 
              County Commissioner
     
          Former County Commissioner
  
             Judge of a Federal Court
     
          Mayor of our city
  
             Member of the United States House of Representatives since 1993
     
          Member of the United States House of Representatives since in 1997
   
           Secretary of a Federal Department, member of The President’s Cabinet
   
           State Representative from our state
  
             State Senator from our state
     My question is: What order should they come on to the stage and be announced?
     -- Veronica P., Houston, Texas

Dear Veronica:
    There are many precedence lists. In my book I include federal, state, and city models. For your group the Prototype Federal Precedence List on page 121 is the useful. Here’s how that list would rank these guests:
   
    1. Member of The President's Cabinet / Secretary of a US Department
 
       2. Members of the US House of Representatives
                   ... earliest elected is the first
 
       3. Federal judge
        4. Mayor in his city
   
     5. State Senator
  
      6. State Representative
  
   
  7. Current County Commissioner
                   ... followed by the former County Commissioner

    But that's the list used in DC.  Officials in their own jurisdiction would be the highest-ranking. Call your Mayor's protocol officer and work out the local precedence for these officials.
    They should enter the stage in reverse order by rank ... the highest-ranking person would be last.

                     -- Robert Hickey

How to Introduce State and City Officials and In What Order?
     I am involved in fund raising for a non-profit charity which operates a homeless men's overnight shelter.  We have a fund raiser on Saturday, November 7th.  I expect several Washington State Representatives, The mayor of our city, and several city council members to attend.  I need help on the order of introduction as well as the titles to use for each category.  All are elected to office but I don't want to repeat The Honorable over and over.
    Please suggest order and best title to use.

           -- Charles Kolkaski, In the State of Washington

Dear Mr. Kolakaski:
The order in which they are introduced is determined by precedence
    1) Rank your list by their office --- high to low.
    2) When there is more than one official of the same "rank" -- order them within their category.  For elected officials ranking is by length of service in that office. These politicians WILL know their relative ranking (and it's important to them) just like when you go into a market and take a number: You know who was there when you walked in the door, and you know who came after you. You can find the date they were elected in their biographies on the state and city websites. 
    3) Officials in their jurisdiction have higher precedence that those out of their jurisdiction: e.g., the mayor of a city has the highest precedence in his or her town. A state representative in his or her jurisdiction is higher than other representatives out of their jurisdictions .... etc.
Making the introductions
    Even if you get tired of saying "The Honorable" over and over your elected guests will not!  Introduce each correctly ... everyone is entitled to their rank and name. So those entitled to "The Honorable" should get it. Doing so makes you knowledgeable and your organization look good. Best of all for a non-profit organization -- saying their names and titles correctly is absolutely free. The formula is:

   1) (The Honorable) + (full name)
        The Honorable Charles Kolakaski
   2) Then the position they hold
        Member of the Washington State House or Representatives for the 20th Legislative District
       
or House Member for the 20th District
       
or Member for the 20th District to the Washington State House of Representatives
            -- you get the idea.
        Mayor of (city)
        Council member, (city)

             -- Robert Hickey

What is the Precedence in the Introduction
Of Officers: Active Duty vs. Retired?

     Just a quick question in regards to military order of precedence, I understand that the retired officer follows the active duty officer of the same rank, but for introductions for a retirement ceremony script, does a Major General (ret) get introduced first or after the active duty Colonels?

           -- Michael S., USAF

Dear Steven:
    Introductions are done in precedence order and I include a copy of the US precedence list in my book's chapter on "Precedence" for just this sort of query.
    The way the precedence list is worded is: VIP Code 5, #43, Two-star military: Major general, rear admiral, by seniority. Retired officers by rank with, but after active officers.
    Colonels and captains are VIP Code 7, #47 .... so they come after all those in
#43.
      -- Robert Hickey

What is the Order of Speakers?
      I am having trouble determining speaking order for a building dedication ceremony.  Would the following order be correct, or would the FTA Administrator come before the Senator?  Also, should the South Bend Mayor come second since the building is located in his city?
     1.  Governor
     2.  U.S. Cabinet Member (Department of Transportation)
     3.  U.S. Senator
     4.  U.S. Representative
     5.  Administrator for Federal Transit Administration (an agency under the D.O.T.)
     6.  Mayor of our City
 Thanks in advance for any recommendations you have.

        --- Jay Stephenson

Dear Mr. Stephenson,
       This is not something to which I can give a brief reply since how precedence is applied is influenced by many, many things beyond simple hierarchy of the offices held.  Where the event takes place, other priorities and the schedules of the speakers, a speaker's relationship to the program, who is the host, and the preference of the host and the principals are just a few of the things to be considered.
    But do note:
        ... the order they take their seats on the podium (most important last)
        ... seating (best seat for the highest person)
        ... the order people are introduced (most important last)  
        ... depart the podium (highest is first)
    ... are all applications of the established precedence too.
    Contact your mayor's protocol officer and discuss in detail, and get it reviewed in advance. The more everyone knows in advance, the better. No last minute surprises!   
      -- Robert Hickey

Which Office One Holds Determines One's Precedence?
      In protocol order of precedence, and in address, if one has two current titles, which title prevails to determine order of precedence and title of address?
  
          A. Lindsey Graham is both a US Senator and a military officer (colonel, USAFR)
            B. Colin Powell, a general, a former secretary, and also held a White House commission as the National Security Advisor while on active duty.
       
    C. The current physician to the President of the United States who is also an active duty Navy Captain.
     Thanks!

 
             -- 77B

Dear 77B,
    Precedence is based on rank.
    Application of precedence ... such as in seating .... or is addressed .... is influenced by pertinence to the event
            A. A current US Senator is going to be seated as a US Senator even at a USAF event. He would always be addressed as Senator because it's so high.
            B. Colin Powell might be seated as a General ... or former Secretary of State ... or former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff .... depending on the event.  I know people in his DC office and he is correctly addressed as both General Colin Powell, USA Retired and The Honorable Colin Powell depending on for what reason he is being invited to an event. He is entitled to both.
            C. This US Navy Captain is always addressed as a US Navy Captain ... and while the position of Physician to The President, does not appear on any precedence list with which I am familiar, it may influence his seating at certain events.
               -- Robert Hickey

Mr. Hickey
     As for the Captain, while not a Senate confirmed position, his, too, is a White House Commission as a presidential appointed staff member considered to be an Assistant to the President.  Does that change anything?
               -- 77B

Dear 77B,
    Regarding form of address:
        He'd still be addressed as a Captain.   Address is determined by 'rank" ... precedence by 'office.'
    Regarding precedence:
        If you say he has a position of an Assistant to the President, then at The White House (not elsewhere necessarily) Assistants to the President are in VIP code 2, #17 with the other very high White House Staff.
    FYI, your question is answered in my book on pages 121-127, where I include a White House Precedence List.
               -- Robert Hickey

What is the Precedence Among These Guests: A former
President, two First Ladies, and a retired Rear Admiral?

Dear Mr. Hickey:
I am going to help coordinate a funeral tomorrow for a former White House staffer at our church.  The following individuals will be speaking. How should I seat them?  How do I address each one? How should they be introduced? What order should they speak?
        Hillary Clinton
 
       Bill Clinton
 
       Laura Bush
  
      Retired Rear Admiral Stephen Rochon
     The wife of our pastor will be the hostess for the event.  She was under the impression that she would be in seat #1 and the others would be seated to her right, but I am not too sure about this so this is why I am contacting you. I don’t feel I have enough experience to handle this one alone.
    --- Iris Winston, Upper Marlboro, Maryland


Dear Ms. Winston:
    A lot of questions! I will tackle them one at a time.
    Seating, introduction, and speaking order are all determined by precedence (I include the precedence list on pages 121-127 in my book), and the precedence is:
        1)    A former President   
        2)    A current Secretary of State
        3)    A former First Lady not with her husband, the former President
       
4)    A retired Rear Admiral
    The wife of your pastor is correct: as the hostess for the event seat her nearest the podium and seat the others to her right in precedence order. Normally they would speak in reverse order (4), (3), (2), and (1) … the most important person speaking last, but I would check with the staff of each to make sure there are no reasons that anyone has time constraints and needs to leave early. If necessary you'd adjust the order and then tell the others in advance of the adjusted order.
    Here is a correct way for your hostess to introduce them from the podium:
        1)    The Honorable William Jefferson Clinton
        2)    The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
        3)    Mrs. Bush
or Mrs. Laura Bush (she stated she preferred the latter to Mrs. George W. Bush)
       
4)    Rear Admiral Stephen Rochon, United States Navy, Retired
    I did not include a statement after each person's name stating what office they hold or held. Add that information if you think attendees won't know who each person is.
    When you greet them, in indirect conversation call them:
        1)    Mr. Clinton
        2)    Madame Secretary,
or less formally, Secretary Clinton
        3)    Mrs. Bush
       
4)    Admiral Rochon
 
                         -- Robert Hickey

What is the Precedence of these Diplomats and a Prime Minister?
Dear Mr. Hickey:
We are having the following international visitors at a conference. What is the precedence order?
      H.E. Dr. Adnan BADRAN, Former Prime Minister Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and President of the University of Petra, Amman, Jordan                     
      H.E. Ambassador Abdoulaye DIOP, the Ambassador of the Republic of Mali to the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Mexcio, Peru, and Uruguay
      H.E. Ambassador Hamid AL BAYATI, Permanent Representative of Iraq to the United Nations
      Dr. Oleg KRAVCHENKO, First Secretary and Chargé d’affaires of the Republic of Belarus to the United States            
            --- Melissa Watson, University of Oklahoma

Dear Ms. Watson:
Precedence is always dependent on the location and situation. Here's the precedence -- based for an event that's not in any of their 'domains' where they are all equal guests:
        1. A current ambassador to the U.S. -- H.E. Ambassador Abdoulaye DIOP
   
    2. A current ambassador to the U.N. -- H.E. Ambassador Hamid AL BAYATI
        3. A current first secretary and chargé d’affaires -- Dr. Oleg KRAVCHENKO
 
       4. A current president of a university -- H.E. Dr. Adnan BADRAN
    RE #4: Former officials are not granted the privileges of their former office.  Sometimes a former official will be seated with, but after, current office holders, but that's seating ... not precedence. So even though Dr. Badran was once Prime Minister, he wouldn't be granted the precedence of that former rank at this event.
 
         -- Robert Hickey

Precedence: Brigadier General, ANG, and a Lieutenant, USN?
Hi Robert:
One of our PSOW graduates with the U.S. Coast guard is presenting a dinner to a varied group of military officers.  She will have a representative from the U.S. Navy who is a Lieutenant and a representative from the U.S. Air National Guard who is a Brigadier General.  Should they be listed in order by the ranking of their branch of service or by their personal rank?
 
     --- Sarah Baack in The Protocol School of Washington®'s office

Sarah:
      Tell her that precedence among personnel is by rank, so the Brigadier General is first, the Lieutenant is second.
      The order flags are displayed is in the order the services were established, so the Navy was established earlier ... so is first, and Air National Guard was established later ... and is second.
            -- Robert Hickey

Precedence of a Merchant Marine and a Doctor?
Mr. Hickey,
      In a few years I will be Elizabeth Bergan Hunter, MD.  My fiancé, Allan Hunter, is a graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy and a licensed professional captain of two vessels which, in fact, makes him a Commodore.  When using formal address who would come first?
      -- Sincerely, Elizabeth Bergan

Dear Ms. Bergan (soon to be Dr. Bergan):
    People who wear uniformes and have ranks have precedence over people who don't wear uniforms and have ranks. Your medical degree is a personal distinction, but not an official office. So your names would be most formally on a social invitation line for line would be:
        Commodore Allan Hunter
            and Dr. Elizabeth Bergan Hunter
                (Address)

    -- Sincerely, Robert Hickey

Dear Robert,
    Before I concede defeat, I wanted to specify that the vessels are privately owned commercial vessels and Allan has never been in the military. Does he still take precedence?
    -- Elizabeth

Dear Elizabeth,
    Protocol would place a member of the armed services (USA, USMC, USN, USAF, USCG) higher than a member of a para-military civilian organization (a police officer or sheriff, for example) and
a member of a para-military civilian organization higher than a private citizen.
    Since your fiance has the rank of Commodore he is squarely in the
para-military civilian category. A physician is a private citizen.
    That said, there might be a situation where you would be listed first. If you were being invited to YOUR professional event and invited to bring a guest, your name would be listed first on the invitation: your husband is listed second because he is invited only as your date:
        Dr.
Elizabeth Bergan Hunter
            and Commodore Allan Hunter
                (Address)
    -- Robert

Robert,
   
O.K. So what is the precedence of a captain of a commercial vessel vs. captain of US Navy ship?
        -- Elizabeth

Elizabeth,
      According to
Diane Brown of Protocol Solutions, Norfolk, VA. the US Navy does not officially grant equality to non-armed-service 'captains' --- they are considered civilians.
      A commanding officer of a commercial vessel might be granted precedence relative to the size of their vessel (and the size of their crew) in a
Maritime Arena. By specifying Maritime Arena they mean they might grant a a higher precedence to your Commodore at during times of war -- putting him with a US Navy Officer of equal responsibility.
     But typically they would rank your Commodore with para-military civilian personnel ... but that would still be higher than civilians!
     -- Robert

How Do You Establish Precedence Among Captains?
Dear Mr. Hickey
    How are captains of ships ranked relative to one another?  How do you assign the precedence?   
    -- Ms. Alice Rippon

Dear Ms.Rippon,
    On this point of precedence I’d defer to Diane Brown, Protocol Solutions.  Ms. Brown is a protocol expert and teaches precedence at The Protocol School of Washington®.  She says
if you have several 06 Captains their precedence is by their date of rank – the 06 Captain with the earliest date of rank is first.
    However, Ms. Brown says there are some situations which could be handled differently.
        **** If you have two "captains" --- one officer could be a 06 Captain who is captain of a ship. Another officer could be a 05 Commander who is also a captain of a ship. Both are captains of ships but the 06 Captain is higher because a 06 Captain is higher than a 05 Commander.
        **** Within the military some positions are determined by position versus date of rank. One reason for this is to consider the implications of operational succession in the absence of the installation commander. For example a 06 Captain who commands a hospital and several hundred personnel could be placed above a 06 Captain who is a surgeon but commands no one. Or at an Air Force Base, Protocol Officers will typically grand a flying group commander higher precedence than other commanders of the same grade. 
    If the
captains are not captains in an armed service ... but command commercial or private vessels ... they are civilians. Civilians have lower precedence that military officers. Their relative precedence (to one another) would be determined by their rank, size of their ship, and or the number of mariners in their crew.
    Thanks again to Diane Brown.
  -- Robert Hickey

Who Is Higher: A CEO or an Ambassador?
 Dear Mr. Hickey,
   If I have the CEO of a corporation and the Ambassador of Mexico; who is the most important person in this case?

                -- Cindy Ware

Dear Ms. Ware,
    A current ambassador to the United States from a foreign state would absolutely have precedence over any private citizen -- no matter how high his or her position in the organization. Look on pages 121-127 in my book at the  precedence list -- it gives such sequencing.
    And one more bit of info. In my book I have information on addressing high officials from more than 180 countries .... and when addressing a foreign ambassador be sure to use the full country name, which in this case would make his formal title the Ambassador of the United States of Mexico.

            -- Robert Hickey

What is the Protocol When The Queen Meets The Pope?
                    NOTE: This question got to me via Jacqueline Whitmore at
                       the Protocol School of Palm Beach .
                       Thank you Jacqueline.

    A hypothetical situation occurred to me just recently: If His Holiness, the Pope Benedict XVI, were to meet Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, what would the protocol be? Who would be introduced to whom? Would they use titles to address each other? Would His Holiness bow his head to The Queen? Would they shake hands? FYI, I am from Australia.
    -- Yours Sincerely, Fred Turnhill

Dear Mr. Turnhill:
     1) As to who would be introduced to whom … that’s a precedence question. Precedence is applied differently in different situations. Lets consider the meeting in different places.
          i) At Buckingham Palace Her Majesty would be the "host/hostess” and His Holiness would be the “guest”. Their roles as host/hostess and guest would define who was introduced to whom.
         ii) In Vatican City the roles would be reversed.
         iii) On neutral turf, if each was there equally .... each as a chief-of-state (the Commonwealth & Vatican City), or each as a head of a religion (Church of England & Roman Catholic) a determination would be made as to which was higher. The decision would be based on some rational basis … who had established diplomatic relations with the host nation first  … who oversees more subjects … who assumed their "office" first, etc.
         iv) On neutral turf if they were attending in different roles, such as -- His Holiness as head of a church -and- Her Majesty as the head of a nation, His Holiness as a ruler of an spiritual realm would have higher precedence.
    The protocol professionals would negotiate all these decisions.  That’s what they do.
     2) Neither would bow to the other. Only subjects bow to their monarch.
     3) He would call her “Your Majesty.”  She would call him “Your Holiness.”
    
4) Would shake hands? I bet they would. Both are known for warm greetings and skillful interpersonal abilities. You as an Australian and a subject of the Queen may be thinking one never touches the Queen. But that’s a concept most applicable when nobility and commoners are involved, which is not exactly pertinent in this imaginary encounter!
                     -- Robert Hickey

What is the Precedence of Former First Ladies?
     I am working on a report on United States Order of Precedence and in looking at the one you include in your book, what is the precedence for a former first lady (e.g. Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush) when her husband who is still alive is not present? Would Hillary Clinton's status as Secretary of State trump her precedence as a former first lady when she is not with her husband?  I am looking at pages 121-127 in your book, Honor & Respect.
     Thank you, Milton Patel

Dear Mr. Patel:
    The answer to your question is in the difference between "precedence" and "seating."  Think of it this way:
           Precedence is fixed
           Seating is an application of precedence and is event specific.  
    A widow of a former president is the only spouse listed on White House Precedence List. Other organizations have their own precedence lists, but many people look at the White House List as point of reference.
    First Ladies (current and former) have no formal precedence of their own. The preferential treatment they receive is as a courtesy -- based on the precedence of their spouse. (Typically the only courtesy the spouse of any level of official receives is in seating.)
    1) Former First Lady Hillary Clinton's precedence is as the current Secretary of State. When former President Bill Clinton is present, she's moved up and seated as his spouse. The precedence has not changed ... just the seating.
    2)
Former First Lady Laura Bush would receive the courtesies due a representative of former President George Bush and her seating would reflect her role at the event.
    So, in summary .... If you have a guest list you can come up with the precedence list.  If you then add a location & occasion you can then discuss the seating.
    Precedence lists are the basis of how a protocol officer would 'start' establishing all physical manifestation of an event ... seating, introductions, the order of who speaks when, who stands where in a receiving line .... etc.
    During The Protocol School of Washington's five-day "Protocol Officer Training"  this is exactly the sort of topic we cover. The training's precedence segment is taught by Diane Brown: I always defer to her on this subject!
    I am glad you referred to my book!

 
                    -- Robert Hickey

Who Has Higher Precedence?  A Current Governor
Or a Former Secretary of a U.S. Federal Department?

       If a former secretary of defense (and spouse) and a sitting governor (and spouse) are to be in a receiving line, what is the order of the receiving line? The event is a formal luncheon hosted by a couple. The former secretary of defense is attending with his wife. The governor is attending with her husband. HELP!
      
       -- IR

Dear IR,
     A current governor has higher precedence than a former secretary, especially if the governor is in his own state. If the spouses are going to be in the receiving line, a spouse typically stands next to their official spouse, though they have nor formal precedence themselves. 
     So the order would be: the host, the hostess (spouse of the host), governor, the governor's spouse, the former secretary, then the former secretary's spouse.
     I include a precedence list in my book if this sort of thing comes up often!

       -- Robert Hickey

Who Has Higher Precedence: Doctors or Lawyers?
       If ever a host is to receive a medical doctor and a lawyer, with regards to the table seating, who would have precedence: the doctor or the lawyer?
       -- Marie Ange

Dear Ms. Ange,
    I am not aware of any situation in which precedence would be given to physicians and/or lawyers simply due to their profession (outside of an university event, e.g., a their graduation.)
    At official events doctors and lawyers have the precedence of any other citizen, are listed alphabetically in a roster, and would not receive preferential seating.
    However, if he or she held an office (or attended an event in a role) that gave them higher precedence
-- a doctor or lawyer might be seated by the precedence of their office. For example, as president of the local medical board and attending an event as the official representative the organization, a doctor might be seated with other community leaders.
    Or 
a doctor or lawyer is the guest of honor, then he or she would be seated to the right of the host at a table.
        -- Robert Hickey


Not Finding Your Question Answered?
Below are other topics covered in my blog and at right is a list of officials, Between the two I probably have what you are looking for.
     After hunting around a bit, if you don't see your question answered send me an e-mail. I am pretty fast at sending a reply: usually the next day (unless I am traveling.)
      If I think your question is of interest to others, I will post the question & answer – with your name and any personal specifics changed.
      -- Robert Hickey

USE OF NAMES & HONORIFICS   
Mr., Miss, Jr., III, & Names        
Married Women       
Deceased Persons         
People with Two Titles
Post-Nominal Abbreviations and Initials         
 
Couples: Private Citizens / Joint Forms of Address 
Couples: U.S. Military / Joint Forms of Address     
Couples: U.S. Officials / Joint Forms of Address      

USE OF SPECIFIC OFFICIAL TITLES        
Former Officials            
Professionals and Academics        

United States Federal Officials, Currently In Office             
United States State Officials, Currently In Office              
United States Municipal Officials, Currently In Office             
       All About The Honorable with U.S. Officials         
       Former United States Officials of all types             
United States Armed Services, Active Duty             
       Addressing Retired Personnel      
       Use of Rank by Retired Personnel      
       Use of Rank by Veterans      

Tribal Officials 
           
Clergy and Religious Officials           
Canadian Officials         
Australian Officials          
British Officials, Royalty, and Nobility        
Diplomats and International Representatives
           
Foreign National Officials and Nobility        

SPECIFIC SITUATIONS
Business Cards       
Couples        
Etiquette
            
Flags and Anthem Protocol             
Introductions
            
Invitations: Writing & Addressing
        
Invitations: Just Armed Service Personnel        
Name Badges & Tags            
Names on Programs, Signs, & Lists            
Naming a Building or Road            
Place Cards            

Plaques, Awards, Diplomas, Certificates    
Precedence: Ordering Officials 
         
Thank You Notes             


Site updated by Robert Hickey on April 17, 2014


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Robert Hickey is the author of Honor & Respect:
The Official Guide to Names, Titles, and Forms of Address
Published by The Protocol School of Washington®
Foreword by Pamela Eyring

Copyright © 2013 Robert Hickey.     All Rights Reserved.
Book Photo: Marc Goodman.