Rebecca's Reviews > To Obama: With Love, Joy, Anger, and Hope

To Obama by Jeanne Marie Laskas
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bookshelves: epistolary, read-via-netgalley, political, current-events, newbury-library, skimmed

President Obama read a representative selection of 10 letters per day (out of the perhaps 40,000 received at the White House daily) and answered many of them by hand. Ordinary Americans shared their struggles with him: veterans, people with disabilities or diseases that limited their ability to work, college kids trying to pay their own way. Some told heartwarming stories of accomplishment against the odds; others admitted their desperation and made pleas for help; plenty expressed frustration with the administration or disapproval of specific policies. In these cases, Obama’s responses were courteous but to the point, politely disagreeing and setting the writers straight if they had misinterpreted his intentions.

The letter idea was down to Pete Rouse, one of Obama’s right-hand men. Rouse told Laskas, “My view has always been that the quality of the communication says something about how the elected official views his or her role in terms of serving the public, regardless of party affiliation or political philosophy.” Obama added, “Ten a day is what I figured I could do. It was a small gesture, I thought, at least to resist the bubble. It was a way for me to, every day, remember that what I was doing was not about me. It wasn’t about the Washington calculus. It wasn’t about the political scoreboard. It was about the people who were out there living their lives who were either looking for some help or angry about how I was screwing something up.”

I was interested enough to skim through the facsimile letters and read most of Obama’s replies, but not to read Laskas’s connective narrative. Mostly I kept thinking, what I wouldn’t give to have a president so intelligent, engaged and respectful again!
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Reading Progress

January 10, 2019 – Shelved
January 10, 2019 – Shelved as: occasional-reading
January 10, 2019 – Shelved as: epistolary
January 10, 2019 – Shelved as: read-via-netgalley
January 10, 2019 – Shelved as: political
January 10, 2019 – Shelved as: current-events
January 18, 2019 – Shelved as: newbury-library
January 18, 2019 – Shelved as: to-skim-only
April 12, 2019 – Shelved as: skimmed

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