#united states secretary of education
How to Address a Former Secretary on a Letter?
I am writing a message to former United States Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, who now works for Hill Knowlton. How do I address him in my letter?
— Kathy J. Young
Dear Ms. Young:
There is only one Secretary of Transportation. so formers don’t continue to be addressed as such.
But they do continue to be The Honorable .
In conversational direct address, former secretaries of U.S. Federal departments go back to the form of address to which they were entitled before becoming a Secretary. so he’s no longer addressed as Mr. Secretary or Secretary Mineta .
So address him on the envelope and in the letter’s address block as:
The Honorable Norman Mineta
. and in the salutation use:
Dear Mr. Mineta:
— Robert Hickey
Is a Former Secretary of (Department)
Still The Honorable ?
Is a former Secretary of Labor still The Honorable ?
— G. G. Johnson
Dear Ms. Johnson:
A former secretary of a U.S. Federal Department continues to be addressed as The Honorable.
The rule is once an Honorable always and an Honorable.
But, he or she is no longer Mr./Madam Secretary or Secretary (Name) since there will be a new holder of this only-one-person-at-a-time office. Generals, judges, ambassadors, senators, and doctors keep their personal ranks forever, but being a secretary grants no personal rank that continues. Like the parking space, preferred seating, and higher precedence. forms of address are a courtesy of the office, and stay with the office.
After leaving office a secretary goes back to the honorific to which he or she was entitled before assuming office. That doesn’t mean you will not hear or read reporters doing it incorrectly in the media. I heard Joe Scarborough on Morning Joe say — after he had misidentified a former as the current. and the gentleman corrected the mis-identification before he started the interview — well, we always puff up our guests to give them more credibility.
— Robert Hickey
How to Orally Address a Former Secretary?
First, if you were working with a former secretary, e.g. former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, would you still address her as Madam Secretary. I think now that she’s out of office she would be just Dr. Rice — the form of address she had before she took office and was on the faculty of Stanford University. Right?
Second, if I am right, how do you delicately inform an executive who strongly feels she is still Secretary (last name) ?
— Kelly Roberts McLean
Dear Ms. McLean:
You are right. Condoleezza Rice is officially Dr. Rice in direct address and identified as the Secretary of State from 2005-2009 or something similar .
There are some positions which come with a rank, and former office holders continue to be addressed with an honorific of their former position forever: senators, judges, ambassadors, and military generals, for example.
But being a Secretary is a ROLE. not a RANK. T here’s only one secretary of (a department) at a time, and only the current office holder is granted the courtesies of the office. Being addressed as a Secretary is a courtesy of the office.
While a former official might find receiving the courtesies of the office to be flattering, it is not respectful to the current, singular, office holder.
As to how I would delicately inform an executive who strongly felt she is still Secretary (Name) . I would inform her only if she asked me for my advice.
I hear a lot of bad grammar too, but that doesn’t make me think the rules of grammar have changed. When I hear bad grammar I simply think I am dealing with someone who doesn’t know the rules, or doesn’t care.
A former Secretary wanting to be addressed as Secretary (Name) is definitely hanging on to his or her former glory, in hopes some of the prestige and power will hang on too! But, there’s no upside for you to get into that argument.
— Robert Hickey
How to Introduce a Former Secretary?
Would you please tell me the appropriate way to introduce Ms. Elaine Chao, former Labor Secretary and Distinguished Fellow of the Heritage Foundation to our CEO and members of his staff?
Thank you for your kind consideration,
Interesting question. Coincidentally Elaine Chao came up in conversation this week, and so here are some ideas:
THE FORM OF ADDRESS
Former cabinet secretaries usually go back to Mr./Ms./Dr. etc, or whatever their honorific was before they took office. Colin Powell went back to General Powell, Henry Kissinger when back to Dr. Kissinger.
So most formally, she would not be Madame Secretary or Secretary Chao and she’d be Ms. Chao.
But I recently heard someone say they met Elaine Chao and one of her staff informed him that she preferred Secretary Chao. Some protocol professionals whose opinion I value say addressing former secretaries as Secretary (Name) is a practice, usually done to follow the wishes of the former office holder who prefers to be addressed with the rank of their former office. Most formally it’s not correct, and probably would not be done in the presence of the current secretary.
Anyway, her preference is second-hand information, so I think you should ask How do you preferred to be addressed: Secretary Chao? or Ms. Chao?
I find no one objects to being asked how they preferred to be addressed. it is respectful and ultimately our name belongs to us and we can dictate to others what we should be called.
You write the appropriate way to introduce Ms. Elaine Chao. to our CEO and members.
You should introduce your CEO and members TO the former secretary since she is the guest. Some good forms for the introduction would be:
Ms./Secretary Chao may I introduce to you Thomas Saunders. Mr. Saunders is the Chairman of the Heritage Foundation
Ms./Secretary Chao may I introduce Thomas Saunders.
Ms./Secretary Chao may I present Thomas Saunders.
— Robert Hickey
How to Address a State Secretary of a Department?
I am addressing an invitation to the secretary of our state’s Dept. of Agriculture, trade and Consumer Protection. How do I address a state-level official? Is he The Honorable. Do I start the letter with Dear Hon. (Surname). Thank you.
On the envelope or the letter’s address block use The Honorable.
The Honorable is a courtesy title, and it always precedes a full name. In the USA, officials elected in a general election are entitled to be addressed as The Honorable (Full Name).
So a secretary of a cabinet-level department — federal or state — is addressed on the outside envelope as:
The Honorable (Full Name)
( Complete Address)
In the salutation,Dear Hon. (Surname) is not correct.
Hon. is not used as an honorific before a name as is Mr. Dr. Senator, Commissioner,General, etc.
The traditional and formal salutation to a federal secretary would be:
Dear Mr./Madame Secretary:
A slightly less formal form is:
Dear Secretary (Surname):
When I was researching my book I polled a number of state secretaries. and they unanimously preferred Secretary (Surname) rather than Mr./Madame Secretary . One state secretary expressed it this way: there is only one US Secretary of our discipline in the cabinet in Washington. but there are 50 of us at the state level. so the singular title makes less sense.
— 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