By J.G. Noll
Update, May 12, 2017, 4:31 PM ET: The White House Press Secretary’s Office has issued an official proclamation in honor of Military Spouse Day in the afternoon of May 12. The document names the day “Military Spouse Day,” reverting the original name for the day. (President Obama called it “Military Spouse Appreciation Day” starting in the 2010 proclamation.) You can read the proclamation in its entirety here.
It looks as if President Donald Trump will not sign a proclamation declaring May 12, 2017 as Military Spouse Appreciation Day. This makes him the first president in more than a decade to dispatch with the recent precedent set by his last two predecessors.
Presidential proclamations are mostly ceremonial documents meant to highlight or honor specific and worthy events, people, other noteworthy topics by the highest office in the nation. They have little legal implication unless codified by Congress. Most proclamations are signed and published before the day or week of the event it is announcing. At time of publication, according to the White House’s Press Office Proclamations page, the last presidential proclamation signed by President Trump was on May 5 for Public Service Recognition Week. None of the earlier listed proclamations since Inauguration Day 2017 reference Military Spouse Appreciation Day.
Military Spouse Appreciation Day has it’s beginnings in a presidential proclamation. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan signed Proclamation 5184, the first time Military Spouse Day was introduced to the nation. “As volunteers, military spouses have provided exemplary service and leadership in educational, community, recreational, religious, social and cultural endeavors,” he wrote. “And as parents and homemakers, they preserve the cornerstone of our Nation’s strength—the American family.”
For more than 20 years, presidents did not publicly acknowledge Military Spouse Day through an official proclamation. After 1984, Presidents Reagan, H.W. Bush, and Clinton did not sign any proclamations regarding Military Spouse Day during their tenures. In the middle of his presidency, President George W. Bush issued Proclamation 8013 in 2006, and yearly proclamations became the norm. Throughout the rest of his presidency, Bush issued 8141 in 2007 and 8252 in 2008. President Barack Obama signed a proclamation declaring Military Spouse Day every year of his presidency: 8375 in 2009, 8515 in 2010 (where it officially appears as “Military Spouse Appreciation Day” for the first time), 8669 in 2011, 8816 in 2012, 8976 in 2013, 9119 in 2014, 9275 in 2015, and finally 9442 in 2016. He is the only president to issue a proclamation in honor of Military Spouse Day or Military Spouse Appreciation Day every, single year of his presidency.
Earlier this week, Vice President Mike Pence, Second Lady Karen Pence, and Ivanka Trump honored military families at the White House. The event was catapulted to national attention when the Huffington Post caught a surprising exchange between a military child and the Vice President.
Of course, a president is able to issue a proclamation at any time he chooses. If a proclamation is made and signed today on Military Spouse Appreciation Day, we will update this article as quickly as possible.