politics Strict Rules And Traditions Every First Family Is Supposed To Follow  

Matt Manser
39.8k views 15 items

Just because the president of the United States is the leader of the country's executive branch doesn't mean that the whole presidential family can do whatever they want. In fact, there's a whole list of things the first family is supposed to do - and a list of things they shouldn't do - regardless of whether they'd actually like to do them or not.

Some of these are surprisingly strict rules for the first family, like how opening the White House windows is expressly forbidden. This is one of the stranger things that shows what it's like to live in the White House, while some rules are more like guidelines for the president and their family, such as various holiday events that can be ignored. The first family also has to be keenly aware of all the priceless artwork in the White House, which can be difficult if you're one of the presidents with problem children. All in all, these first family traditions show how they don't just make the rules - they have to follow some too.

Family Members Aren't Supposed To Serve In The Administration


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Photo:  North Charleston/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 2.0

Typically speaking, members of the First Family are discouraged from taking on official roles in the administration. This rule is supposed to ensure the president has credibility, because it prevents them from being accused of nepotism. The 1967 Federal Anti-Nepotism Statute legally prohibits this from occurring, but it is open to interpretation. Some say the rule prevents family members of the president from taking on any administrative role, while others say the law only prevents family members from taking on paid positions. In the Trump administration, daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner were brought in as unpaid advisors.

Presidents Must Accept Secret Service Protection, But The Family May Decline


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Photo:  Pete Souza/Obama White House

The Secret Service's job is to protect the safety of the current president and vice president, as well as the president-elect and vice president-elect if a new administration is on the way. In addition, in 2013, President Obama signed a law guaranteeing secret service protection for presidents, vice presidents, and their spouses even after they leave office. Secret Service protection is also available to the presidents and vice president's family members, but they can decline this protection if they desire. For instance, Donald Trump, Jr. gave up his Secret Service protection in September 2017.

The First Family Can't Open The White House Windows


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Photo:  Pete Souza/Obama White House

For security reasons, windows of the White House have to remain closed so no unauthorized people can make their way inside. When speaking to Oprah Winfrey at the United State of Women Summit in 2016, Michelle Obama revealed how an open window caused a problem a few years earlier. "Sasha opened her window once - there were calls," Michelle Obama said. "'Shut the window!' It never opened again." And just before leaving the White House, Michelle told Stephen Colbert that the thing she was looking forward to the most on her return to civilian life was to "open a window."

The First Lady Must Choose A White House Interior Designer


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Photo: Pete Souza/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

When a new president moves into the White House, there's no on-site interior designer just waiting around from the previous president. Instead, the first lady must choose their own interior designer to give the place a unique touch. For instance, it's widely known that Melania Trump didn't officially move into the White House until June 2017; however, she was prompt about picking a designer, when she selected Tham Kannalikham as the official interior designer on February 3, 2017.