Letters to President Obama

This morning I read a piece in the Washington Post that details the ten letters of "unvetted correspondence" President Obama reads daily. Written to Obama from the American people he governs - he considers these letters "among his most important daily reading material". These letters address a wide array of topics spanning from fan mail that offers support to citizens demanding jobs or healthcare. "Each day, 20,000 letters and e-mails addressed to Obama are screened for threats and then sent to a nondescript office building in downtown Washington. Hundreds of volunteers and staff members sort the mail into categories before a senior aide picks the 10 destined to provide Obama with his daily glimpse beyond what he calls 'the presidential bubble'."

It's amazing the amount of effort that the selection of these ten letters require each day. However, I think the importance Obama places on these letters says a lot about his commitment to the American people. " He gravitates toward messages that 'inspire,' and prefers mail that provides a 'counterbalance to business in Washington' and transports him someplace else." Kudos to you, President Obama.

Anyhow, this piece got me thinking about the importance of handwritten letters and why exactly they mean so much. One of my favorite books to page through, Other People's Love Letters: 150 Letters You Were Never Meant To See, is great because it offers a sense of intimacy to its readers; offers them a connection to the writer because of it's unflinchingly honest characteristics. One of my weekly addictions is checking the Post Secret blog - "an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard". (There are also a handful of Post Secret books that have been published.)

Again, there is something to be said about how personal handwritten letters are. I've been carrying around a handwritten letter in my wallet for about two years - not because I read it everyday but because it is so meaningful to me I want it to be with me always. What is it that makes handwritten letters so meaningful? Maybe because they are individualized and purposeful, reflective and emotional.

There is probably some sort security measure that prohibits the publication of Obama's letters, and if there weren't it would take a lot of work to get the consent of the writers to be published, however I think it would make for a really great book - a collection of the letters Obama read everyday. Is anyone on that?

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