Eli Saslow has written a book titled "Ten Letters: The Stories Americans Tell Their President." This week, the Washington Post printed an excerpt.
A few times during his presidency, Obama admitted, he had written a personal check or made a phone call on the writer’s behalf, believing that it was his only way to ensure a fast result. “It’s not something I should advertise, but it has happened,” he told me. Many other times, he had forwarded letters to government agencies or Cabinet secretaries after attaching a standard, handwritten note that read: “Can you please take care of this?”
“Some of these letters you read and you say, ‘Gosh, I really want to help this person, and I may not have the tools to help them right now,’ ” the president said. “And then you start thinking about the fact that for every one person that wrote describing their story, there might be another hundred thousand going through the same thing. So there are times when I’m reading the letters and I feel pained that I can’t do more, faster, to make a difference in their lives.”
Referring to his days as a community organizer by comparison:
“The people were right there in front of me, and I could say, ‘Let’s go to the alderman’s office,’ or, ‘Let me be an advocate in some fashion,’ ” he told me. “And here, just because of the nature of the office and the scope of the issues, you are removed in ways that are frustrating.
“Sometimes, what you want to do is just pick up the phone and say, ‘Tell me more about what’s going on, and let me see if I can be your social worker, be your advocate, be your mortgage adviser, be your employment counselor.’ So what I have to constantly reconcile in my mind is that I have a very specific role to play in this office, and I’ve got to make a bunch of big decisions that you hope in the aggregate will end up having a positive effect over this many lives. But you can’t always be certain.”...
Later that night, he would sit down on his couch, open the folder and find missives from rural Arkansas and downtown Detroit, notes of inspiration and devastation. He would read all 10 letters and reply to one or two. Sending a response still allowed him to provide one thing immediate and concrete.
“It lets them know I am listening,” he said.
And sometimes listening was all he could do.
Go read the whole thing. I am just at a loss for words in how to express my support and gratitude to this man who occupies our White House. Yes, he's the real deal!