What Benefits Do You Receive From Being President?

South façade of the White House, the executive...

South façade of the White House, the executive mansion of the President of the United States, located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the benefits of being the father of school aged children is the chance to go back to school so that you can revisit the material you have forgotten or never learned about.

The 2012 presidential campaign and the questions it generated presented multiple reasons and opportunities to do this. Some of it came from personal memories from my childhood in which teachers and various grownups suggested that if we worked hard we might grow up to become president.

When my daughter asked me why there haven’t been any “lady presidents” I wondered if that was something I wanted for her. It might sound like an odd question, but when I thought about how crazy the process of becoming president is and what happens afterwards I wondered what sort of benefits came with it.

There is definitely something noble about serving your country but there is a substantial cost here and as a father it is my job to think about these things and as a writer I am naturally curious.

A Partial List

Last week while I was waiting for my car to be serviced I came up with a list of questions that I wanted answers to. I have shared seven of them below:

  1. Does the president carry a wallet?
  2. Does the president carry house keys?
  3. Does the president have the option of driving his own car?
  4. How much freedom does the president have to alter his own schedule?
  5. How much vacation and sick time is the president allotted?
  6. Are those tallied up separately or do they come from one bucket of personal time?
  7. Does the president accrue vacation time?

Since I wanted to get “real” answers and didn’t want to rely upon intuition or what Dr. Google says I made a point to visit the White House website and discovered a wealth of information but nothing that answered those questions.

For example I found this:

White House Trivia

  • There are 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, and 6 levels in the Residence. There are also 412 doors, 147 windows, 28 fireplaces, 8 staircases, and 3 elevators.
  • At various times in history, the White House has been known as the “President’s Palace,” the “President’s House,” and the “Executive Mansion.” President Theodore Roosevelt officially gave the White House its current name in 1901.
  • Presidential Firsts while in office… President James Polk (1845-49) was the first President to have his photograph taken… President Theodore Roosevelt (1901-09) was not only the first President to ride in an automobile, but also the first President to travel outside the country when he visited Panama… President Franklin Roosevelt (1933-45) was the first President to ride in an airplane.
  • The White House kitchen is able to serve dinner to as many as 140 guests and hors d’oeuvres to more than 1,000.
  • The White House requires 570 gallons of paint to cover its outside surface.

I don’t know about you but I really do find all of this to be quite interesting, which is part of why I continued to read through the website.

Air Force One

You won’t see the president or most members of our government  tooling around on commercial airlines like most of us do. That is probably a big part of why the system the public deals with isn’t as efficient as it could be, but we’ll save that for a different discussion.

I don’t have a problem with the president being granted more tools/resources to conduct his business on our behalf. Take a look a below at what Air Force one comes with

Capable of refueling midair, Air Force One has unlimited range and can carry the President wherever he needs to travel. The onboard electronics are hardened to protect against an electromagnetic pulse, and Air Force One is equipped with advanced secure communications equipment, allowing the aircraft to function as a mobile command center in the event of an attack on the United States.

Inside, the President and his travel companions enjoy 4,000 square feet of floor space on three levels, including an extensive suite for the President that features a large office, lavatory, and conference room. Air Force One includes a medical suite that can function as an operating room, and a doctor is permanently on board. The plane’s two food preparation galleys can feed 100 people at a time.

That was interesting but it still didn’t answer the questions I posed above so I visited the Library of Congress (online) and chatted with a digital librarian who referred me to 3 U.S.C. 102 – Compensation of the President  and the CRS report about pension and retirement benefits for former Presidents.

I also visited the National Archives and found a wealth of information there as well.

Those links I provided contain detailed information that answered some of the questions I posed but they don’t make it available in simple terms. You have to read through the documentation carefully to figure out what lies within and what it says/means.

One of the things that jumped out at me was information about the Vice President that I found intriguing.

The Vice President’s Residence & Office

Located on the grounds of the United States Naval Observatory (USNO), the white 19th Century house at Number One Observatory Circle in northwestern Washington, D.C., was built in 1893. Originally intended for the superintendent of the USNO, the house was so lovely that in 1923, the chief of naval operations kicked out the superintendent so he could move in himself. Historically, Vice Presidents and their families lived in their own homes, but the cost of securing these private residences grew substantially over the years. Finally, in 1974, Congress agreed to refurbish the house at the Naval Observatory as a home for the Vice President.

Three years passed before any Vice President actually lived at Number One Observatory Circle. Vice President Gerald Ford acceded to the Presidency before he could use the home, and his Vice President, Nelson Rockefeller, only used it for entertaining. Walter Mondale was the first Vice President to move into the home. It has since been home to the families of Vice Presidents Bush, Quayle, Gore, and Cheney. Vice President and Dr. Biden currently reside there.

I hadn’t thought about where the Vice President lived or at least I couldn’t remember having done so, but I was surprised to see that it is only within the last forty years or so that the veep didn’t live in their own home. I would have thought that they had a “state” house long before that.

Circling back to the start of this post I still wonder about the “perks and benefits” of being president and whether it is worth it. I suppose it takes a certain kind of person to want to do the job, but I am not sure I would want to give up the chance to live a “normal” life.

On the other hand you are privy to some extraordinary experiences you couldn’t have any other way and that is something that really attracts me.

What do you think?

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5 Comments

  1. Pingback: The Content You Ignore Is Killing Your Blog - Joshua Wilner

  2. Hajra November 11, 2012 at 7:46 am

    132 rooms? Really?

    How long does it take to get the house cleaned when guests come at short notice?

  3. Mary Stephenson November 7, 2012 at 9:48 am

    Hi Josh

    Pretty interesting stuff today.
    I think just being a celebrity such as movie star or famous singer would be a little better. You could mess up and people could think either way about you and eventually you could fade into the woodwork.

    But being president you would be put through public scrutiny and you better be squeaky clean. Public opinion can be brutal and you will always be remembered and not always for the good things. Half the people will probably disagree with your decisions and that is not necessarily in the country, it could be the whole world. I think the stress to get it right would be tremendous. Maybe that is why many have aged so much after 8 years in the position. Don’t think the job really pays enough for what they have to go through. There are others that make a lot more and are responsible for a lot less and they can mess up and are soon forgotten!

    I always hope who wants to be president wants it for the right reason and not for an ego trip. Or that once they are in the position that they don’t use their power make foolish decisions.

    Lots of stuff I did not know!

    Mary

    • Josh November 8, 2012 at 12:53 am

      Hi Mary,

      Yeah, celebrities are allowed to be human and to do stupid things. Presidents and ex presidents are held to different standards than average people.

      I imagine that would get old real quickly.

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