ONE SMALL BLOW AGAINST ENCROACHING TOTALITARIANISM

“I cannot help feeling that the gun crisis is at the core of everything that ails our country.” — Owen King

About
Thanks and Have Fun for Running the Country.

 

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Thanks and Have Fun
Running the Country,

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About the Book.

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Editor Jory John writes:

Every day after school, about 65 kids, mostly from Latino homes, come into 826 Valencia—a nonprofit literacy center in San Francisco—to get help with their homework. The place is always vibrant, but on November 5, 2008, the 20 tutors in the room essentially played zone defense to keep things in order. The election of Barack Obama had overturned the students’ world.

The kids, mostly middle-schoolers, had been interested in the election all year, but few of them, truth be told, really thought Obama would be elected. They’d only known one president all their lives, and he didn’t look like them. But when Obama won, it was like Christmas had been declared a permanent state of being. The students ran around, yelling about where they were when they heard the election results. Some kids brought in celebratory cookies. Two eighth-graders changed our computers’ desktop backgrounds to Shepard Fairey’s ubiquitous Obama portrait. Kids drew pictures of Obama on their school folders and posted his image all over our center.

In the midst of all this, we had an idea: to ask our students to express their thoughts to Barack Obama in personalized letters. This could be both an engaging writing assignment and a way to start students thinking about the new president’s impending challenges and goals. The notion that they would potentially be heard by the president compelled the students to take the task seriously.

Our sister 826 National chapters—located in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Ann Arbor, Boston, and Seattle—all jumped in and asked their students to write letters, too, assembling the collected thoughts of hundreds of kids across the country. The resulting letters contained hilarious advice, unusual questions, or heartfelt pleas for a better life. Almost all of them identified with Sasha and Malia. One student, Ribika Hailemariam, born in Ethopia, even offered advice on moving to a new town.

These kids have a way of getting to the heart of matters quickly, honestly, and bluntly. Sheenie Shannon Yip, a 13-year-old from Seattle, wrote to the new president, “I really hope you put America back together. No pressure, though.”

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Letters From the Book.

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Dear President Obama,

I know you want to save the earth, but people don’t want to clean. My life is to clean up all the world and help you to clean. I always dream of cleaning the world with you. I’ll do anything for you because you are the president in this world.

Stephanie Gonzalez, age 7
Los Angeles

Dear Obama family,

When you move into the White House, turn on the heater so it won’t be cold. You could also take hot baths in your new antique bathtubs. Or you could make hot tea and coffee. When I moved to a new house, I helped my dad. He took apart a chair and I carried pieces of it. If I were your helper when you move in, I could move everything! Have a nice day being the first family.

Nazrawit Dessie, age 7
Seattle

Dear President Obama,

If I want anybody to be president, it’s me. I would clean the streets and give myself more money. I would also give everybody a piece of a Reese’s candy. Every homeless guy or girl would get $50 for help and a place to sleep for the winter. My family and other families would get free gas for our cars; single people with no kids would have to pay. The money would come from copying other bills. The $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100 bills would be copied one thousand times.

The paper would not come from trees but from hardened glue. The way to make it is by mixing water and glue together so that it looks like paper. You then put it in a fire, then let it cool in the freezer.

Weslie Jackson, age 12
Chicago

Dear President Obama,

When you are president, don’t eat junk food. Junk food makes you fat. Your family shouldn’t eat junk food, either, because it is not healthy. Obama, you rock.

Amy Ramirez, age 8
San Francisco

Dear President Obama,

Are you going to be pictured on our money? How do you get in the White House? Do you like Abraham Lincoln? Do you have a big backyard? Martin Luther King Jr. had big fans. How many fans do you have? You could help us by giving us food. I am Luis Ramirez. I go to school at Mayberry. I like to play video games.

Luis Ramirez, age 8
Los Angeles

Dear President Obama,

I am 10 years old. I am a nice girl and I like to write. I wish you could be the first president of all the world. Obama, when I went trick-or-treating on Halloween, people were giving me candy and telling me to vote for you. Obama, I think it will be better if you tell the people that sell TVs, and all those things, to sell them for a lower price, because my mom and my dad are not working and not getting a lot of money. I want people that are not in a house and don’t work to get something for Christmas. Obama, if I were president, I would change a lot of things in this world.

Paulina Rojas, age 10
Los Angeles

Dear President Obama,

Be a good president. I voted for you because you are nicer than the others. Me and my family think you are more helpful than McCain. Obama, if I were a president, I would copy the same things you are doing, because you are helping people who are from Mexico. Good luck, President Obama, on being a president. I am happy you are the new president. Obama, my sister is intelligent and so am I. I like to play my Nintendo DS. We are working hard for you. You are more intelligent than the others.

Sincerely,

Citlali Mora, age 9
Los Angeles

President Obama,

You should not smoke when you are president! There are simple reasons. Because you will die by smoking, and then you will not be president! But I want you to be.

Your No. 1 fan,

David Lopez, age 7
Los Angeles

Dear President Obama,

I want to meet you at my tutoring program with my teacher, Bonnie. Did you ever go to a tutoring program after school like me? What age are your daughters? Are they 11 years old like me? Are you going to help people like my parents find good jobs? I want to tell you that I learned to ride my bike. That is good because I get exercise and play with my friends. It would be cool if everybody rode bikes, because they don’t use gasoline and they don’t make the air dirty. If I were a president, I would give people jobs.

Furthermore,

Karla Mora, age 11
Los Angeles

Dear Obama,

I like you because you won. We saw you on TV. I hope I am your friend.

Sincerely,

Edwin Martinez, age 6
Los Angeles

Dear Barack Obama,

I have a great idea for you: you should set up a special phone, a special place just for kids to call the president if they find things that are dangerous and can affect people, like someone smoking. This would be a special place for kids to talk to Barack Obama and let him know what’s going on.

Another important thing that I want to talk to you about is cars and buses. There is a bus called the Galactic Wizard which runs on biofuel or vegetable oil. I think, instead of polluting the environment, scientists should work on those buses. You should make it so that everyone turns off any light whenever they are not in the room—that way we can save the environment and also pay less on our electricity. We can’t just use up the environment until we have nothing, or we will starve to death. Nobody wants that, do they? I want to tell you, Barack Obama, if one day I could travel around the world and help people, I would definitely do it.

Dhamaril Nunez, age 9
Boston

To President Obama,

If I were president, I would help the people. If we don’t throw the trash away, we are going to get sick. I could walk around to check where there is trash.

From,

Kenia Zelaya, age 6
Los Angeles

Dear Barack Obama,

Congrats on becoming the president of the United States and slaughtering John McCain. I think that, unlike W., you should dodge other countries and not shoes. You should not be so quick to go to war and negotiate with terrorists. I like what you said about bringing the troops home from Iraq.

If you like my letter, know that it’s from

D’andre “the King” Legrand, age 12
Brooklyn

Dear Mr. Obama,

My name is Lydia and I am 10 years old. I am from Seattle, Washington. My favorite thing to do is to read and my favorite book is nonfiction. It is about horses and how to ride. I am very happy you were elected president. I love your speeches. My friends and I looked on the computer when you were doing your speech. I was wondering what kind of dog you are getting. I think you should get a Labradoodle and name it Soñador (it means “dreamer” in Spanish). I hope you can change our state and the United States.

From,

Lydia Sumner, age 10
Seattle

Dear President Obama,

I want to tell you hi. Do you work with Santa Claus? Can I meet you in your house? Can I say bye to you after I meet you? And then can I meet you again? And then again after that?

Sergio Magana, age 5
San Francisco

Dear Barack Obama,

You are one of my friends. I cannot believe you are president. In our community, you’re the best guy I’ve ever seen. You rock the whole world. I cannot believe you did such an awesome job.

Love,

Jennifer Navarreto, age 10
Brooklyn

Dear Obama,

If you were going to make up a holiday, what would it be? If you were going to make a law, what would it be? I liked you before you were even president. I’m friends with Jerey Best, the girl that was on CNN and also sent you a letter.

Sincerely,

Lauren Solomon, age 11
Los Angeles

Dear President Obama,

I think that this year you will have to do a lot of work. One thing that you will have to do is to make school more important for everyone. That way, kids will always do a good job. If I were the president, I would work really hard to change Boston and other cities. I would make the world very smart. I would make all of the world work really hard and always do the best job that they can.

Gabriela Quezada, age 7
Boston