The Times News receives several emails, phone calls and letters each week. Writers normally complain about something in the newspaper, the actions of their local politicians, or what is happening at their child’s school. Other writers make a call to action, thank someone, or ask a question.
But the mail we get here at the newspaper is nothing compared to what the President of the United States gets at the White House.
Mike Kelleher, director of the Office of Presidential Correspondence under President Barack Obama’s administration, said the president receives about 65,000 paper letters each week and about 100,000 emails, 1,000 faxes and 2,500 to 3,500 calls. telephone calls per day.
While researching various topics on the websites of the Library of Congress or some presidential libraries, I always manage to come across a few letters and take the time to read them. Some are sad, some are frustrating, some are interesting, and many are humorous. I thought this week I would share a few with you.
The first letter was written to Abraham Lincoln in 1864 by a slave named Annie Davis who lived in Belair, Maryland.
“Mr. President, It is my desire to be free, to go see my people on the eastern shore. My mistress will not let me. Please let me know if we are free and what I can do. I write to you for advice. Please drop me a line this week or as soon as possible and oblige.
I don’t know if President Lincoln answered him, but his answer would have been no. Davis lived in one of four remaining pro-slavery states in the Union. For this reason, the Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to her. She would have to wait for the abolition of slavery and a new state constitution in Maryland.
The next letter I have is interesting to say the least, written by Elvis Presley to President Richard Nixon asking to be made a federal agent.
“Dear Mr. President. First of all, I would like to introduce myself. I am Elvis Presley, I admire you and have great respect for your office. I spoke to Vice President Agnew in Palm Springs a while ago. three weeks and I expressed my concern for our country.
“The drug culture, the hippie elements, the SDS, the Black Panthers, etc. don’t see me as their enemy or as they call the establishment. I call it America and I love it. Sir, I can and will be of any service that I can to help the country. I have no concern or motivation other than to help the country.
“So I wish not to receive any title or appointed position. I can and will do more good if appointed as a traveling federal agent and will help in doing so through my communications with people of all ages. First and foremost, I’m an artist, but all I need are the federal credentials. I am on this plane with Senator George Murphy and we have discussed the issues facing our country.
“Sir, I’m staying at the Washington Hotel, room 505-506-507. I have two men working with me by the name of Jerry Schilling and Sonny West. I’m checking in as Jon Burrows. I’ll be here too long as it takes to get a federal agent’s credentials I’ve done extensive study of drug addiction and communist brainwashing techniques and I’m right in the middle of it all where I can and will do the most good.
“I’m happy to help as long as it’s kept very private. You can ask your staff or anyone to call me anytime today, tonight or tomorrow. I’ve been named the next year among the ten most remarkable young men in America. It will be January 18th in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. I am sending you the short autobiography of myself so that you can better understand this approach. I would like meeting you just to say hello if you’re not too busy Respectfully, Elvis Presley.
President Nixon arranged for Elvis to have a Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs badge, so in the end I guess the letter worked.
The last letter I have is actually two letters, a question from a seventh grade student in South Carolina to President Ronald Reagan and the president’s humorous response.
“Dear Mr. President, My name is Andy Smith. I am a seventh grade student at Irmo Middle School in Irmo, South Carolina.
“Today my mom declared my room a disaster area. I would like to apply for federal funds to hire a crew to clean my room. I am willing to provide the initial funds if you provide matching funds for this project.
“I know you will be fair when considering my request. I will await your response. Sincerely, Andy Smith.
President Reagan sent back a very smart response with government bureaucracy and a private sector solution consistent with his administration.
“Dear Andy, Your disaster relief request has been duly noted but I have to report a technical issue: the disaster reporting authority is supposed to make the request. In this case your mother.
“However, putting that aside, I have to point out the larger issue of available funds. It has been a year of disasters: 539 hurricanes as of May 4 and several more since, numerous floods, wildfires, drought in Texas and numerous earthquakes. What I mean is that the funds are dangerously low.
“Can I make a suggestion?” This administration, convinced that the government has done many things that could best be done by volunteers at the local level, sponsored a program of private sector initiatives, calling on people to practice volunteerism in solving a number local problems.
“Your situation seems to be natural. I’m sure your mother was absolutely right to declare your room a disaster. Therefore, you are in an excellent position to launch another volunteer program to support the more than 3000 already underway in our country. Congratulations. Send my best regards to your mother.
In short, President Reagan told Andy to clean his room.
Write to the President
Do you want to write a letter to the White House?
First, it’s faster to send an email. Go to whitehouse.gov and there’s an email form you can fill out and submit.
If you’re keen on writing a paper letter, the Office of Presidential Correspondence has a few suggestions.
First, consider typing it on an 8½ by 11 inch sheet of paper.
Second, if you are writing your letter by hand, please write as neatly as possible with an ink pen.
Third, include your return address on your letter as well as on your envelope. If you have an email address, add that too.
Fourth, be sure to write the full White House address on the outside of the envelope to ensure your letter gets there quickly.
The White House address is:
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500