Saturday, October 22, 2011

What Happens When You Write the President

Obama opened the purple folder on Jan. 8 and pulled out a three-page letter written on lined notebook paper. He prefers handwritten letters to e-mails, believing them to be more thoughtful, with better stories. The writing consisted of bubbly block letters, sometimes traced twice for emphasis. Obama started to read.
"Dear Mr. President," the letter began.

Jennifer Cline, 27, did not typically write letters, but she was not usually this bored. "Jeopardy" had ended, and so had "Wheel of Fortune." She sat on the couch in her single-story duplex in Monroe, MI flipping through the channels until Obama's face appeared on the screen. It was a holiday special of some kind, featuring the first family, and Cline set down the remote. She had voted for Obama, and she liked him even more now on TV, glimpsing his life inside the White House. He had two young daughters; she had two young sons. He had a dog; she had a dog. It occurred to Cline that Obama seemed normal somehow, like the kind of person who might want to read a letter.

"I lost my job, my health benefits and my self worth in a matter of 5 days...In Michigan, Mr. President, jobs are very difficult to land....I then was diagnosed with both melonoma [sic] and basal cell skin cancer."

Cline had written three pages in less than 10 minutes, more a stream-of-consciousness journal entry than a formal note. She never considered that anyone might read it.

She walked to the porch, dropped the letter in an aluminum mailbox and pulled up the red flag. She had never been to Washington. One day, she wanted to take her boys. She wondered what the White House looked like up close. She wondered whether it had a mailbox.

More of this touching story - the kind you don't normally read about powerful politicans, particularly not about a sitting POTUS.

Sometimes Obama writes a short note back like this:

 And on more than occasion, the president has cut personal checks to struggling Americans who've written to the White House.

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