Kids Use Words to Win Obama's Attention

Special delivery for Obama brings nearly 35,000 letters of advice from kids.

March 17, 2009— -- During President Obama's first 100 days, he has sought advice from cabinet members, senior officials and numerous aides, but this week the president will get a sackful of unsolicited advice.

"I should warn you. Being president is a big responsibility," 11-year-old Danny of Illinois cautioned the president in a letter. "All of the American citizens, even me, are in your hand. Don't be stressed out though, there are some positive sides to being president. I hear it has its own bowling alley. Reporters are worse than animals. Some reporters might even camp near the White House. Okay, I didn't mean to freak you out, but that's just the truth."

Thousands of American children like Danny will be offering their guidance to the president on Wednesday when 34,000 handwritten letters from students across the United States will be delivered to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

The handwritten notes range from suggestions for changing the color of the White House to offering one's family dog to the Obamas. The letters also include poignant personal notes about relatives in Iraq, experiences with hard economic times and the need for quality health care.

"My voice works differently because I have autism, but I cheered for you in my own way," wrote AnnaClaire from Texas. "For the primaries and then every Tuesday I wore a Barack Obama t-shirt. Please take care of people with autism."

Local educators and students will present the letters during a Capitol Hill ceremony on Wednesday morning. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., will accept the notes on behalf of the president and deliver the letters to the White House.

"We wanted to encourage children and students to participate in civil activities and current events," said the congressman. "No better way than to help them as they try and deliver their letters to the president at this historic time."

Handwriting Without Tears, a publishing company that develops educational handwriting curricula for children, is behind this initiative called "Mail to the Chief," which asked kids to write letters of advice to the new president, requiring only that the notes were handwritten.

Wise for Their Years

The Handwriting Without Tears developer called the response from children "overwhelming."

"We have letters from every state in the union, from children living in other countries, letters written in Braille, we have letters that are just amazing to read, they're personal, they're passionate," said Olsen, who is also an occupational therapist. "Most come with a cover letter from the teacher or parent and you can tell two things -- the children used their very, very best handwriting and they wrote what they wanted the president to do."

In line with America's No. 1 concern, many of the children expressed trepidation about the current economic situation:

"Taxes are very high here in Alaska," wrote Reilly who is a fifth-grader from Alaska. "I'm not too stressed about that but I have friends that have trouble with taxes and sometimes it's hard for them to put food on the table."

The wars in the Middle East: "My name is Alex and I will be ten years old on New Year's Eve," wrote Alex to Obama. "My brother Ryan is a soldier in Iraq. Please help him come home soon. I worry about him. He is in the 2-7 CAV. I want all the soldiers to come home because they might have a brother at home that misses them like I do Ryan. I'm proud of my brother. I think you will be a good President because you are a good man."

International relations: "Please work with other presidents and kings. Meet with them and become their friends. Then we can all get along," wrote Wisconsin native Abigail.

Kids Say the Darndest Things

While many letters were provocative and intuitive, others were laced with humor.

"I am very happy that you are my President," wrote Marylander Meghana. "My baby brother keeps taking my toy cats. Can you pass a law?"

Saul of Arizona wondered how former President George W. Bush was feeling about the election results.

"Do you think Mr. Bush is glad that you're president? Because it looked like he wanted John McCain," said Saul.

"Please help save our polar bears and all animals. Oh, and don't wear holey jeans to work," advised second-grader Jessie from Virginia.

In a sign of the changing times, many children expressed concern about the president's former smoking habit that is rumored to still be a part of his routine from time to time.

"Is it true that you sneak cigarettes to smoke?" asked Brandon of Illinois. "If you do you should stop. Your kids would want you to quit."

"My advice to you is don't be too bossy and please make people stop smoking," said Emily who is in second grade in Iowa.

"My advice to you is try to shut down all of the factories that make cigarettes," wrote Anna from Iowa.

The First Daughters

While the White House has been home to many young occupants throughout the years, Malia and Sasha Obama, are the first school-age children in the White House since Chelsea Clinton, who moved into the residence at age 12 when her father, former President Clinton, was sworn into office.

"While we started this project before we knew who would end up in the White House, it has been particularly inspiring to see the connection America's children feel with Malia and Sasha," said Olsen. "This project has offered students a way to personally express their excitement about having children in the White House."

Not surprisingly, several kids felt an immediate connection with the Obama family's much anticipated pup.

"I researched 5 breeds of hypoallergenic dogs," wrote 9-year old Davis from Texas. "Based on my research, I think the Miniature Schnauzer would be the perfect dog for your family."

"Have you decided to get a dog yet? I might get a dog. I would like to have a playdate with Sasha. If I can, I would like a response back," demanded 8-year-old Virginia.

Second-grader Timothy of Indiana even offered up his own dog.

"I have a Beagle that you can have," wrote Timothy.

The Executive Delivery

The letters will be delivered in large mailbags, each bag ordered according to state and each letter accompanied by identifying information. The schools' and children's names will be available should the president wish to reply to specific letters.

"I don't think that any president has ever received so many letters from children. I think we'll make at least the Guinness Book of World Records," said Olsen.

The Handwriting Without Tears founder said she hopes Obama will look to the letters for guidance when he needs a break from presidential pressures and just a breath of fresh air.

As sixth-grader Selena warned, the president may need a reminder not to lose perspective while living in the White House.

"I think you should try to avoid being the type of person who lets the attention go to their head," wrote Selena of New York. "Now I am not saying you will because I think you'll make a great president, but I just want to warn you."