People who write the White House know that the president himself will most likely not see their message. Many of their letters start with phrases like, “I know no one will read this.” Although someone does read those letters. And … Continue reading →
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is ninety nine percent. Invisible I'm roman Mars. When you send a letter to the president, it first passes through the office of presidential correspondence the office. Who started under President Mckinley in eighteen. Ninety seven, who had been receiving about a hundred letters per day by the time. Hoover was president a number had gone up to about eight hundred letters per day Today, the president of the United States gets tens of thousands of letters, parcels and emails every day that president. As me, This story is still Rock Obama. Dear monsieur Fred, here. Mr president. Mr President, we met when you came to my hometown, Tesco, writing. Having regard to our relationship with Canada, and if you, or one of those letter writers. You must Imagine that the art of the present actually reading your letter, a pretty slant, that's Jake, a broken arm.
First, they don't come in host of working, a slate pocket and you'd be right. Those chances are pretty slim people often began with a reflection. I'm. I know no one will read this and not as a really common open, but someone does. Read your letter, email and sometimes that person is Fiona Reeves director of Presidential correspondence at the White House, we are the office bad handles all the incoming correspondence from regular people to the president and the White House, so where I am group of small office says made up of forty five staff. Hers thirty five and turns, and about three hundred volunteers, to come and go every day Fiona and the small army of people read through thousands upon thousands of letters addressed to the president. President Obama has requested that ten letters be passed on to him to read every night and its fewness job to decide which ten it will be
The president has asked since day one tureen ten letters from regular people that represent, what's coming in his letters, I think, do more to keep me in touch with what's happening. What country in just about everything else. That's a clip from a two thousand nine video put out by the White House. Some of them are. Some of them are angry a lot of the mob sadder frustrated about their current situation. Sometimes people reach out about being fired when they're down to the last graphs savings or their concern. About gun violence or climate change. So a lot of the stories, heartbreak people who work hard A lot of times or say, I've never written to president before I'm not looking for a handout. All I want is just a fair shake and It ends up being a powerful motivator. For me, you know it is. It is crazy to think that you are holding this piece of paper that
What's in a person's hand, when they were reaching out there, a man and a disgrace, anything on the president holds those pieces of paper. Of course, these s letter stone, always arrive on paper, Fiona, her stuff, Also have to sort through all the emails that come in through the White House this website White house, not Gov slush contact. Truth is where an email office for the most part, but we have a room. That really looks like what you think as male at the White House. Its constant boxes of mail and shelves of top bags and lists of what kind of agency is viewed. Works in the executive office building located just west of the White House. We are stripped scattered throughout this building in which our rooms happened. He available. I can tell you we are tightly packed here. We said very close together. And the staff sitting side by side in the office of presidential correspondence carries on an old tradition of opening red
in and sorting letters for the present. I would tear paper processing system. Cannot be very different than it was a hundred years ago, before letters arrive at the White House, they go through a screening process. So when the office of president of correspondence receives them, they ve already been open by secret service. You know taking for anthrax or explosives paper. Letters are clipped the envelopes they arrived in, but then it's up the staff and in turns and volunteers to dig through the letters and emails and figure out which ones to pass up the chain to Fiona How many do you have treated at various times on the day. But I would say on general day the number that gap sort of past me can be from two hundred four hundred emails and letters, and you read, the end. You read that many emails and letters everyday roughly every day that the president is in town. He only gets a ten hours a day when he's in
fishing. Ten Fiona inner team are looking for a range of opinions and styles that express what Americans are thinking about. The wanna get him but as representative of incoming mail, but is geographically diverse? We also, but for different writing styles and different levels of writing and ways of communicating the office also put some thought into where the president is heading in the coming weeks, in what issues will be discussing to try to make him There are plans to spend time in Non community bore to discuss an issue that maybe he doesn't have a personal perspective on sort of a wave, giving him more advisers in the letters. Don't just inform and influence the president fuel, make sure the entire White House gets a chance to see what people are writing about each day. Our team tat some with the help of anti virus called a random daily sample. So we look
all the email that just came in and I together a list of topics and for an imposed, and we circulate that list throughout White House her prey, broad distribution group to give folks a sense of what may mark and people are saying that day, They also put together a word cloud that shows the most commonly used terms across all forms of communication and asked why Let us help because this generally, when your reaching out your government, you are looking for help, but the issue that matters most you there are times, though, like you can see right now, the biggest where it s gone, where there's conversation, one has arisen of every other topic, so in that case. Fiona will make sure the president gets a letter about guns, but when we do that, we make sure he sees both sides and, we think alike, about the order in which things are given to him? You know how you read, something I think affects the way it hits you
after Fiona chooses the ten letter she hands them off to someone who's, scans them and then handsome to the person who puts together the President's briefing book. So each night he takes Homs River homework Einer and it has information on what help be doing the next day and every night includes the tongue. Can such my letters a move everything else that reaches the president. These letters have not in fact, checked her committee reviewed, there's some the most direct coming patient he receives when people are writing them out the president enough. They are touching on policy topic everyone who has handed matter who may have information to have information to add value, and it takes a look at it and ass their two cents, and so by the time the President Seas. It has gone so many eyes have, but our correspondence is really like. Someone sits down at their kitchen table
and may send Anna piece of their mind, and then that is basically two sets of eyes and the lighthouse it's this volunteer, who thought hey the president should read by us and then its means Langley. Yeah, I agree with and because these letters are so direct and unfiltered, a lot of them are pretty intense and deeply personal, our office, deals a lot and emotion and empathy, because we are for being so much of what people hope and fear, and what their expressing to both the president of the night. The states, but also for all of us and the way they see themselves. Ambrosch Obama and bad bad. I think, makes our workplace quite an emotional one. Alot of people write about where the writing from or what time their writing I'm late at night, because I can't stop thinking about this is sort of open that transport to you immediately into what are they gonna, say or from?
kitchen window, I can see these mountains that we call annually in a person's kitchen with them we also recently have seen more and more letters that begin with something like I've been meaning to. That's for seven years. I think yeah as the days dwindled down we're getting under the wire. I hear here's what I've been meaning to tell you. There was one letter that went to the president yesterday from a man who wrote that he feels like because of the present sir pervasive nature of come violence in the. U S despite being a gay man and the United States felt like you would rather live somewhere. That didn't recognize same sex marriage than a place where he could be discriminated against at the end of a gun, a sort of his his angle, Baron, a we just gave out to the president last night. I don't know how to have him
when he read up or when it hit me at me, hard are there any other need ever their funny. That are that the other side, he eyes we Some funny letters, one I have with me is from a young woman who is running for class president her junior class, and she wrote in bad. She wanted some speech riding advice. President Obama actually responded to that letter. His advice keep speeches short and summit In response to my hand, some of them he writes something like me: can you look into this that a sort of to ask someone on his team to take a look at it and on others? He writes reply, but then he right sort of some drafting and the White House has a team of writers who elaborate on the president's notes and turn them into letters, which they then hand back for the president to sign and because he's,
splendid personally to so many letters of the years. The writers off and have a really good sense of his voice, and often his Martineau there so extensive he's practically responding to the letter himself. We end up, sir. Really more of tat best. Then writers, when the president does engage with the letter, whether by replying or by extending an invitation to a White House event or to highlight a specific letter in public way. The White House you, we get in touch with the author. Sometimes Fiona gets to be the one to make that phone call If, as we don't always need to make those phone calls, we make them because there really, energizing our ties so exciting. When someone has taken this crazy long shot of your writing. Some. Two Barack Obama and putting it in a mailbox people feel about when you call them. Sometimes people flipped out. I generally make those phone calls and I sound more serious,
I feel when I make family noise and conflict respondents advising you to confirm your address one in my heart and like Kenya, fewness excitement is palpable she's been a part of his administration, a long time in its played a huge role in her life. She met her huh, while they were sorting Obama's mail the job, is at a real impact on the White House in the people who work there. I think it shapes policy is that the way has per SE is also it shapes. It shapes the human to work here and you may you you can't help but think about it. I went. Think about outputs of our office. One is we have this pretty big team of young People here, wilt thou line to do other things and will go on with this bunch broader perspective and in some, in some cases very deep and personal perspective on what people who they haven't, necessarily Matt.
Feel and expect from their government and viewed. It is about to be one of those many people who have passed through the office because her job is ending with the administration and, what's an extra you, I don't know either I have no idea. I have truly no idea, I think it's a funny place to work because the institution has existed for so long, but you would begin again every for eight years and so and when you are getting ready to leave, you feel like you, ve, just figured it out and our nailing at the way. Houses, keeping their contact us form open to the last day of the administration January. 19Th even if you write a letter on January nineteenth, it can reach Obama he'll, be receiving ten letters on his last night in the office
A version of this peace originally aired on slates working pumpkin as part of a series of jobs at the White House, produced by Jake a broken and Mickey Camper. The ninety nine percent invisible team who worked on this episode includes every problem: Sharif Youssef in Katy Mingle, with Kirk Hallstatt same Greenspan Emit Fitzgerald Terran, Massa Delaney Hall. In me, roman Mars,. We are a product of many one point: seven k of the reuse impetus go in produced on radio row in beautiful, downtown Oakland, California, we often don't think of winter as a time of growth or creation. But if you think about it, it's the perfect time to create your own website, cooped up your thinking about being proactive and now square space can help you do it with where's Bates can take your cool ideas. You ve creative content, your services, goods and you can turn them into a beautiful website in just a few clicks this, because there is to use
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every day, I read ten messages sent through the contact age. P. I doubt to whom Radio do.
Transcript generated on 2020-02-14.