An Average Day in the Life of a President

By Thomas F. Schwartz

            George Aubrey Hastings served as an administrative assistant to President Herbert Hoover.  After Hoover left office, Hastings was asked to speak about his time in the White House and what he observed.  In a talk before the National Republican Club on May 16, 1933, Hastings provided a glimpse into the daily activities of President Hoover:

            “An outstanding impression of the White House is the respect shown by visitors for the President and the office.  The White House is the switchboard of the nation where the lines of the people’s hopes and fears converge.  It has been said that public opinion flows through it in a mighty stream.

            To get some idea of life in the White House, suppose you compare an ordinary day there with one of the busiest days in your own office, whatever your business or profession may be.  In the White House, which comprises both the President’s office and his residence, problems as varied as one can conceive of arise every hour of the day.  They call for knowledge of the facts, experience, executive ability, judicial attitude of mind, political grasp, patience, tact, judgment, decision and action.  They require acquaintance with details of international as well as national and local affairs.

            Supposing you were dealing in your office with matters of vast magnitude and under pressure of time and volume of work and also knew that your anteroom was filled with callers waiting to see you on business, that you had half a dozen speeches scheduled for the near future, that invitations to speak or attend some public function were pouring into your office hourly, that your daily mail was more than ten men could give personal attention to, that press representatives and photographers were waiting to see you, and that a delegation was waiting to shake hands with you—this would give you some idea of what an average day means to the President. 

            President Hoover usually was at his desk by 8:30 in the morning.  He glances at the newspapers and attended to correspondence requiring his personal attention until 10 o’clock, saw callers at 10 or 15 minute intervals until 12:30 or 1 o’clock, shook hands with persons calling ‘to pay their respects,’ and took a brief interval out for lunch.  Before he returned to his office perhaps received a new diplomat calling to present credentials.  In the afternoon, he conferred with Cabinet officers, members of Congress or others whom he had summoned to his office.  He attended to more correspondence, worked on addresses or a message to Congress, prepared for the next meeting of the Cabinet and finally left the office (perhaps with a folder of papers under his arm) at 6:00 or 6:30 for a brief rest.  Dinner was served at 8:00.  Usually guests were present.  Some nights there was a reception afterward.  Most nights, sooner or later, found the President in the Lincoln study working on documents and problems before retiring.  And tomorrow up at 6:30 for a short session of medicine ball on the White House grounds, then to the Executive Offices to go through the day’s grind all over again.  The word leisure was scarcely in his vocabulary.”

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