Our President reads 10 letters a day from ordinary Americans..............

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Maui Life Homes / Metro Life Homes RS-78439 / BRE #01708344

By NANCY BENAC, Associated Press Writer – Wed Mar 24, 3:11 am ET

Perhaps nothing crystallized President Barack Obama's determination to press forward on health-care legislation more than the 10 letters he reads each day from ordinary Americans.

The letters became talismans for him: He carried them around. He recited their stories. He used them as rallying cries. (Or as props, as his critics saw it.)

And when at last it came time to sign the landmark health care bill, Obama still had them very much in mind.

The guests invited to Tuesday's signing ceremony in the East Room included the family of an Ohio woman who wrote to Obama that soaring premiums had forced her to give up her insurance and a small business owner from California who e-mailed the president about his struggle to insure his five employees. Other letter-writers were invited to a midday celebration of the legislation, including a 17-year-old girl from Pennsylvania who got a letter back from Obama after she wrote that her family of five had lost their insurance.

In his first week as president, Obama asked his staff to select 10 letters a day for him to read from among the tens of thousands that were flooding into the White House. He wasn't looking for a folder full of pats on the back, aides say.

"I don't want to tell you what to put in this folder," Obama told his correspondence director, Mike Kelleher, at one point early on.

Obama joked recently that he's sure his staff is sending him a representative sample — "because about half of these letters call me an idiot."

Fourteen months later, Obama still takes 10 letters (including e-mails and faxes) with him when he heads upstairs at the end of each weekday. He personally writes back to three or four.

The letters, the president has said, "do more to keep me in touch with what's happening around the country than just about anything else."

Health care and the economy are the most frequent topics of those who write to Obama, according to Kelleher.

And it was in those letters that Obama found a compelling counterpoint to abstract policy debates.

"The toughest letters are in children's handwriting," Obama said this winter. "Kids write me, 'My dad just lost a job; my grandma is sick, she can't afford health insurance.'"

This spring, it was Natoma Canfield who captured the president's attention.

The 50-year-old self-employed cleaning woman from Medina, Ohio, wrote to Obama that she had to drop her health coverage after her premiums shot up 40 percent. She feared losing her home if health bills started piling up.

Obama wrote back, "It's because of folks like you that we are still fighting to get health care done!"

He read Canfield's letter aloud to insurance company CEOs. His spokesman read it at a White House briefing. The White House invited Canfield's sister to introduce the president at an Ohio rally, where Obama expanded on her story, adding the news that she'd recently collapsed and been hospitalized.

"I'm here for Natoma," he declared.

The case humanized Obama's final push for health care. But it also demonstrated the dangers of what Obama's critics see as using people as props and oversimplifying complex issues with gripping anecdotes.

It turns out that Canfield most likely qualifies for Medicaid health coverage and the Cleveland Clinic, where she is being cared for, has no plans to put a lien on her home.

"You can find a story to suit any purpose," says Stanley Renshon, a political psychologist at the City University of New York. "It's willing exploitation — people who want to lend themselves to a story line."

It was all too much for some Obama critics.

Conservative commentator Glenn Beck parodied Obama's letters with one from "Gertrude," complaining about the president's constant talk about his letters. "When do we find relief?" Beck read. "In our small town alone, 1,457 people have attempted suicide simply because they are sick and tired of hearing Barack Obama read letters or talk about letters that he reads every night."

Obama is as likely to answer his critics as supporters, aides say.

Jenn Whitcomb, who worked as a field organizer for Obama during the 2008 campaign, wrote to Obama last fall expressing her frustrations that he was taking a weak position on providing people with a public option for health coverage. "My father is going to die before he sees help from the government," Whitcomb wrote shortly before his death.

Obama wrote back to say he was sorry about her father and asked her not to be discouraged.

"The final bill may not be perfect — nothing is — but I guarantee it will help millions like your dad," he wrote.

The letters to Obama aren't all gloom and doom — there's comic relief in there, too.

One boy sent Obama his math homework and asked what the president thought. Obama checked it out and wrote back, "I think you only missed two."


Re-Blogged 2 times:

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  1. Richard Ruggaber 03/24/2010 12:03 AM
  2. Rose Osman 07/26/2010 04:40 PM
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Sally K. & David L. Hanson
EXP Realty 414-525-0563 - Brookfield, WI
WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce

You are sooo right...no bill on any topic is perfect...to our minds, any step in any direction is positive for a situation that has been broken for a long time....costs out of control....charges that medicare pays that were never incurred...(my Father billed for the removal of a pacemaker he never had ) and physicians scamming the "good old boys" network so that everyone they know gets a referral fee...absolutely anything has to be an improvement...to the nay sayers....work with it....improve it...trashing it puts us right back where we have always been.

Mar 23, 2010 11:15 PM #1
Barbara Todaro
RE/MAX Executive Realty - Retired - Franklin, MA
Previously Affiliated with The Todaro Team

Ralph...he should read as many letters as possible because he won't be reading any after 2012.

Mar 23, 2010 11:24 PM #2
Dale Terry
Yadkinville, NC

I just try to take the comments, understand the message and see if it is logical.  So we now have a multi trillon dollar bill that doesn't fix something that is already a disaster-  Medicare.  Why not just "reform" it instead of the bill we got.  Once again I will state my opinion that this bill is just the vehicle in which the government can get more of our money, under the guise of health care.  There is already talk of a value added tax to be instituted to pay for this.  Look under the playbook for VAT in Europe and Socialized HealthCare.

Mar 23, 2010 11:41 PM #3
Carra Riley & Declan Kenyon
Brokers Guild Cherry Creek Ltd - Westminster, CO
Helping people Transition at all ages!

The job as President, regardless of party affiliation, is a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. 

cosmic cow

Mar 24, 2010 04:53 AM #4
Delaware Junk Removal Residential And Commercial Hauling Clean Outs
Delaware Junk Removal 302-530-9186 - Wilmington, DE
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Carra- You mean damned if you turn us into a socialist nation and damned if you dont?  Nah, hes a bad guy who is doing bad things.

Mar 24, 2010 08:04 AM #5
Ralph Gorgoglione
Maui Life Homes / Metro Life Homes - Kihei, HI
Hawaii and California Real Estate (310) 497-9407

You know,

I'm just so happy that the passage of this bill shows that our country still has a majority of people who are compassionate about their fellow citizens more than they are passionate about their own personal wealth and personal agendas, that I'm not going to be negative about some of the negative responses here.

It's just such a shame that some people, rather than participate and say "well, I'm not in full agreement with this, but I want to participate in a positive way to shape it",  they would rather be destructive, condemning and just alienate themselves from the whole process.

Mar 24, 2010 01:15 PM #6
Ralph Gorgoglione
Maui Life Homes / Metro Life Homes - Kihei, HI
Hawaii and California Real Estate (310) 497-9407


How anyone by any means of comprehension can even remotely take this post of a man who reads 10 letters a day from his constituents can turn around and say "he's a bad guy who is doing bad things"

just clearly illustrates that you are so set on your personal agenda that you could care less about those in need who will benefit from this Presidents actions.  It just shows me that you do not have the true American or dare I say Christian values of working with your fellow man.

Do you REALLY not believe that there are hard working Americans who are being taken advantage of by the health care and pharmaceutical industry?


Mar 24, 2010 01:24 PM #7
Delaware Junk Removal Residential And Commercial Hauling Clean Outs
Delaware Junk Removal 302-530-9186 - Wilmington, DE
Whole House Clean Outs, Basements, Garages, Attics

Ralph-I proudly served this country for 21 years as a Air Force Firefighter defending your right to be wrong.  I have seen and done things that would have left you a sniveling mess balled up in the corner of the room. 

But that is not why I am right and you are wrong

You are wrong because

obamacare will cause people to lose jobs.

It will cause old people to as obama said, "forget the operation and just take a pill"

It will raise taxes on everyone.

The level of service will go down.  There is no way in hell you give care to 30 million people and save a trillion dollars.  obama cant even explain this one! (mostly because he hasnt read the bill)

Do we have to go into the govt taking 90 billion from the drug companies and how that will effect people?

Its a bad bill from a bad man.


Mar 24, 2010 02:49 PM #8
Jon Zolsky, Daytona Beach, FL
Daytona Condo Realty, 386-405-4408 - Daytona Beach, FL
Buy Daytona condos for heavenly good prices


Imagine that a heinous crime is being committed. you have an option at least not to participate if you can;t stop it. But participating in a positive way makes you ... an accomplice.

And I do not want to be an accomplice to a crime of destroying what was good. And by the way, the majority of the country was against it, politicians are not the majority, they are simply the loudest

Jul 26, 2010 04:47 PM #9
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Ralph Gorgoglione

Hawaii and California Real Estate (310) 497-9407
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