Restoring the White House, One Etiquette Lesson At A Time


Published: October 30, 2008

The president of the United States is our chief diplomat, but people don’t usually think of the significance of this role. From the way he greets foreign leaders to his dinner table etiquette, he is probably being scrutinized the way a significant other might be the first time you introduce him or her to your parents. If he uses the wrong utensil or picks at his food, it may be enough to incite poorly concealed comments in another language. No matter how serious things might get, your parents will never forget that time your boyfriend wiped his nose on his sleeve. Likewise, every move the president makes is watched, and every word he utters is dissected. However, unlike your significant other, dumping the president would be extremely difficult and involves both the House and the Senate. Therefore, I think we should take preemptive measures now to avoid having to end things on a bad note.

What do I recommend for the next president? I suggest a boot camp in etiquette, a more intense version of “Pretty Woman,” minus any illegal activities. The first day could be basics, such as memorizing table settings. Mr. President, your water goblet is to the right. In America, you hold your fork with your right hand, and in Europe, with your left. And do not forget: elbows on the table are never acceptable.

Day two can be dedicated solely to foreign greetings. Attendance is mandatory for the first lady as well. Make sure the president has his people check the native language of each country before visiting, because the main language of Brazil is not Spanish and they do not speak Swiss in Switzerland. It might also be helpful to memorize other phrases in foreign languages in order to avoid awkward sign language that might be interpreted as inappropriate gestures. You do not want to give someone the thumbs-up in Iran, Iraq, nor in Thailand. Google it, Mr. President.

Day three is a lesson in geography. It is most important to know the countries you are occupying, but you should know their neighbors as well. Just so we are clear, America is the country between Mexico and Canada. Did I mention it is north of the equator? I hope you are having your people write this down, Mr. President. For homework tonight, label a blank map.

Day four will be pronunciation. If the president is visiting a foreign country, he should be able to pronounce the name of the country, along with the name of its leader. In this presidential boot camp, your foreign policy experience and alma mater do not count; however, your enunciation does. I don’t think it is too much to ask for presidents to be able to talk about the potential threat of NU-CLE-UR weapons in IR-AHN, where the president’s name is AH-MA-DI-NEH-JAD. Don’t give him a reason to be mad at you.

Day five, graduation with certificate included. It is fine to be happy that it’s over with, but we hope you don’t forget the lessons. Nonetheless, we are proud of you. We, the people, do not ask for perfection. Everyone makes mistakes, even the president. However, it is difficult for the president to talk about education reform when he is making mistakes that a fifth-grader would look down on. We don’t want to be the stupid country.  So, Mr. President, make sure you represent us well. We’ll be watching to your every move.