I’ve always enjoyed receiving mail. When I was a kid, I would even send off for free stuff, some requiring enclosure of a cereal box top perhaps — just for the fun of finding something addressed to me in the family mail box.
Better yet was getting letters. And during World War II, with my father’s encouragement, I decided to write to no less a figure than Franklin Delano Roosevelt, president of the United States of America and commander in chief of the U.S. armed forces. Remarkably I got a response — from the president’s private secretary, Grace Tully.
“He [the president] appreciates your friendly thought in writing and asks me to send you his very best wishes.” As I recall, we kids had the chance to purchase stamps at school, and I’m sure I helped staff a desk selling the stamps.
Through the magic of Wikipedia I read that Grace Tully, writer of the letter to me, moved to Washington, D.C. in 1933 when Roosevelt was elected President. . . . She continued working for the President until his death in April 1945 at his “Little White House” in Warm Springs, Georgia, where she was present when he died.
Fast forward to 2012, a presidential election year. I wrote a personal letter of support to President Obama (hey, he’s a Punahou grad and everyone in the Punahou family should at least be proud of him, right?). I even enclosed a check to support his campaign. This time, though, my response was a printed card, saying: “Thank you for writing. In accordance with Federal law, we are unable to accept any political contributions.” The rejected check, made out to “Obama for America” was enclosed. And I still have it.
Alas, no note this time from a private secretary.