President Obama gets tens of thousands of letters, parcels, and emails every day.
Those who write in know that the president himself will most likely not see their message, although someone does read those letters. And sometimes that person is Fiona Reeves, Director of Presidential Correspondence at the White House. She and a group of 45 staffers, 35 interns, and 300 rotating volunteers read thousands of letters sent to Barack Obama.
Of these thousands of letters, Obama has requested that Reeves send him 10 letters per night.
“These letters, I think, do more to keep me in touch with what’s going on around the country than just about anything else,” says the president. “Some of them are funny. Some of them are angry. A lot of them are sad or frustrated about their current situation.”
After Reeves chooses the ten letters for the president, she hands them off to someone who scans them, then passes them to the person who puts together Obama’s nightly briefing book.
Unlike almost everything else that reaches the president, these letters have not been fact-checked or committee-reviewed. And because these letters are so direct and unfiltered, many of them are quite personal.
And here’s the cool part – President Obama often responds to the ten letters.
Most of the time he jots down notes in the margins about how to respond so that his staff writers can elaborate an official response. “And often his margin notes are so extensive, he’s practically responding to the letter himself,” says Reeves. “We end up serving more as typists than writers.”
How can you not love a guy who has one of the most demanding, stressful, and time-consuming jobs imaginable, yet he finds time to read and respond to 10 letters a day.
I had set a New Year’s goal for myself this year of writing some type of letter every day, whether it was a congratulatory note, a thank you note, or just thinking of you note. I think that resolution lasted less than a week.
But now that I see what President Obama has done with his letter writing, it’s got me thinking about trying something like that again.
I think my first one might be to President Obama thanking him for the wonderful job he has done as President, husband, and father.
I’m also looking forward to what he will do for an encore.