Why does the US President use a new pen for each order?

  • This photo shows President Biden at his desk in the Oval Office. He is holding a pen and signing an executive order. On his right is a pile of further executive orders. In front is a box with approximately 12 pens, apparently one for each order.

    Biden signing executive orders
    Source: BBC News

    Why does the President need so many pens? It gives a slightly comical impression.

  • Panda

    Panda Correct answer

    10 months ago

    It's a tradition and the pens are given out later as souvenirs. From this TIME article:

    The rationale is fairly simple. The pen used to sign historic legislation itself becomes a historical artifact. The more pens a President uses, the more thank-you gifts he can offer to those who helped create that piece of history. The White House often engraves the pens, which are then given as keepsakes to key proponents or supporters of the newly signed legislation.

    During President Trump's first signing ceremony, he used multiple pens too, later given to the Members of Congress who had attended.


    (The pens are placed on Trump's right.)

    Source: https://us.cnn.com/videos/politics/2017/01/20/donald-trump-first-law-pens-orig-mg.cnn/video/playlists/atv-road-to-the-white-house-automated/

    President Obama famously used 22 pens to sign Obamacare into law. The White House released a video then explaining the tradition.

    Obama used 22 pens to sign health care reform legislation into law in March of 2010. He used a different pen for each letter or half letter of his name. "This is gonna take a little while," Obama said.


    Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/obama-legacy/obamacare.html

    Recently, Speaker Nancy Pelosi also used multiple pens when signing the articles of impeachment during Trump's first impeachment.


    Source: AP Photo

    This tradition dates back at least to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

    They also sell those pens in the gift shop (though probably not the ones used to sign bills). I was given an Obama-era White House pen as a gift a while ago; it's unlikely that Obama actually used that particular pen for anything, but it's supposedly the same *kind* of pen. (I'd assume it'd come with some kind of certificate if it was actually used for something historic.)

    Here is a video by the Obama White House about it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZSoUBNz13Q

    That's got to be hard to break muscle memory enough to _change pens_ mid signature.

    @lejonet Not as much as for the laptops.

    In his memoir Obama commented that the many pens also made the act look like it was signed by a small child.

    @Bobson Not just mid-signature, but *mid-letter*. 22 pens to write "Barack Obama" = 2 pens per letter. Unless he padded it out by adding multiple underlines or little floating hearts or something around it...

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM