We’ve collected 10 of our favorite letters to presidents over the years. Subjects range from friendly advice to 11-year-olds bragging about their March Madness skill. Photo courtesy of Sue Hughes/Unsplash. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.
Hundreds of letters from supportive and opposing constituents get sent to the president of the United States each year, and many of them ultimately end up in the National Archives. Regardless of politics, the White House encourages children and adults to share their thoughts and opinions with the Oval Office. Some of the remarkable letters show concern, send condolences, or gently rib a president for his sports choices, while others can induce laughter and tears.
We scoured the National Archives and picked 10 of the more remarkable letters ever sent to the president.
“Today my mother declared my bedroom a disaster area. I would like to request federal funds to hire a crew to clean up my room,” Andy Smith, from Irmo, South Carolina, wrote to President Ronald Reagan in 1984. Reagan denied his request, as the one who declares the area a disaster zone must be the one to request aid.
Young Fidel Castro had never seen an American greenback before, so he wrote President Franklin D. Roosevelt a letter to see whether the president would send him a $10 bill. “I am twelve years old. I am a boy but I think very much […] If you like, give me a ten dollars bill green american, in the letter, because never, I have not seen a ten dollars bill green american and I would like to have one of them.” He apologized for his broken English and congratulated FDR on his recent reelection.
In a letter to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Linda Kelly, Sherry Bane, and Mickie Mattson share some thoughts about Army hair regulations. “My girlfriends and I are writting all the way from Montana. We think its bad enough to send Elvis Presley in the Army, but if you cut his side burns off we will just die! You don’t no how we fell about him, I really don’t see why you have to send him in the Army at all, but we beg you please please don’t give him a G.I. hair cut, oh please please don’t! If you do we will just about die!” The young women sign their letter as “Elvis Presley Lovers,” and write their rallying cry, “Presley Presley is our cry, P-R-E-S-L-E-Y!”
John Beaulieu, a 13-year-old blind student, sent a letter in braille to President Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower with some tips for his upcoming reelection speech. “Vote for me, I will help you out. I will lower the prices and also your tax bill. I also will help the negroess so that they may go to school.”
Janelle Blackwell sent her concerns of Beatlemania to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration, begging them to allow the Beatles to tour the United States. She writes, “I and three other girls were so upset we couldn’t go to school today because of an article in the paper saying the Beatles can not return to the U.S. until the government gives their approval. […] You must all agree the teenagers of the U.S. want them back. Its none of my business but they’ve just got to return soon, please.”
“I hope you get a little rest. We love this house and this place and have had good weather. I would have stayed to greet you but I promised Johnny Cash that I would be on his show this week so I am off to Nashville,” the Rev. Dr. Billy Graham wrote to President Richard Nixon in 1971. Graham, one of the most influential Evangelical leaders of the 20th century, was a longtime friend of Nixon.
In her letter, Emilia, an 11-year-old from South Carolina, crows over President Barack Obama for his poor choice in NCAA draft picks. Obama apparently has terrible luck when picking NCAA brackets during March Madness.
Holding first lady Eleanor Roosevelt in such high esteem, Hans Habe, a lieutenant fighting in Italy during World War II, requested Mrs. Roosevelt be godmother to his newborn son. Though not technically to a president, it’s still one of our favorite letters.
Elvis Presley, after introducing himself, wrote in a letter how he could theoretically help President Richard Nixon: “I have no concern or motives other than helping the country out. So I wish not to be given a title or an appointed position, I can and will do more good if I were made a federal agent at large, and I will help out by doing it my way through my communications with peoples of all ages. First and foremost I am an entertainer but all I need is the federal credentials.” Presley wrote four more pages explaining where he is staying, and that “I will be here for as long as it takes to get the credentials of a federal agent.” You can read the entire six-page letter here.
Disappointed by President John F. Kennedy’s inability to look him in the eye, Jackie Robinson — civil rights advocate, Major League Baseball Hall of Famer, and Army veteran — admonished the president and gave him some advice for the future. Robinson also let the newly elected president know how hopeful he was for the upcoming administration.
Lauren Coontz is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die Magazine. Beaches are preferred, but Lauren calls the Rocky Mountains of Utah home. You can usually find her in an art museum, at an archaeology site, or checking out local nightlife like drag shows and cocktail bars (gin is key). A student of history, Lauren is an Army veteran who worked all over the world and loves to travel to see the old stuff the history books only give a sentence to. She likes medium roast coffee and sometimes, like a sinner, adds sweet cream to it.
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