in politics

10 letters a day

Incredible story from The New York Times on how Obama’s “10 letters a day” policy was instituted:

President Obama was the first to come up with a deliberate and explicit practice of 10 letters every day. If the president was home at the White House (he did not tend to mail when he traveled), he would be reading constituent mail, and everyone knew it, and systems were put in place to make sure it happened. The mail had currency. Some staff members called it “the letter underground.” Starting in 2010, all hard mail would be scanned and preserved. Starting in 2011, every email every day would be used to create a word cloud, its image distributed around the White House so policy makers and staff members alike could get a glimpse at what everyday Americans were writing in to say.

The breadth of the emails is breathtaking to consider: love letters, suicide notes, desperate please, harsh criticism. Obama read them all. And in the end, he was grateful for how they impacted him:

“I tell you, one of the things I’m proud of about having been in this office is that I don’t feel like I’ve … lost myself,” he said…“I feel as if — even if my skin is thicker from, you know, public criticism,” he said, “and I’m wiser about the workings of government, I haven’t become … cynical, and I haven’t become callused. And I would like to think that these letters have something to do with that.”