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The Public Papers of the President

President Obama with National Archives/OFR and GPO officials

Photo 1. The President examines the first volume of his Public Papers

Photo 2. The President displays the Public Papers with NARA and GPO

This post is about one of the unique experiences of being a public servant at the Office of the Federal Register.  In addition to our regulatory publications and the Public Laws, the OFR also compiles and publishes an authoritative record of the Presidency — first in the Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents, and then in the Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States series.

On February 25, we were privileged to present President Obama with the first volume of his Presidential papers. In Photo 2 — standing to the right of the President are: David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States; Ray Mosley, Director of the Federal Register; Michael White, Managing Editor of the OFR; and Amelia Otovo, Senior Editor, OFR Special Projects. Standing to the left of the President are: William Boarman, Public Printer of the United States, GPO; Davita Vance-Cooks, Chief of Staff, GPO; and Stacey Mulligan, Chief Editor, OFR Presidential Documents Unit.

The Public Papers series began in 1957 in response to a recommendation of the National Historical Publications Commission. Every President starting with Dwight D. Eisenhower has invited the National Archives to participate in this formal presentation ceremony in the Oval Office.  The full collection of Public Papers volumes from President Hoover to the incumbent President are displayed in a bookcase in the West Wing of the White House.  Quite often selected volumes of the series will appear in the background of Presidential appearances in the Roosevelt Room and other locations.

A typical volume includes six months of material. The major items include writings; public addresses and remarks; messages to Congress, agencies, and foreign leaders; bill signing statements; and Executive orders, proclamations, and memoranda. Ancillary items include a digest of the President’s daily schedule and meetings; nominations submitted to Senate; and a table of Proclamations, Executive orders, and other Presidential documents. Each volume includes three indexes organized by subject, name, and document category.  In addition, each Public Papers volume features a foreword signed by the President, and a portfolio of photographs selected from White House Photo Office files.

The Public Papers have official status — they may be noted in legal pleadings and cited as evidence in courts of law. The first book of an administration is not offered for sale until the President personally receives the first specially bound edition. The Presidential papers of President Obama are now available from the GPO Bookstore.  An XML-based edition will be posted on FDsys.gov in the near future, and also made available from Data.gov.

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