All the President's pen: why Obama's White House letters have that personal touch

It is a tiny but preciously guarded part of the daily routine of the world's most powerful man.

Each evening, back in the family residence after his official work is done, President Barack Obama reads 10 letters and emails, selected by aides out of the mountain of correspondence sent to him in Washington by Americans across the country. And to three or four, he pens a reply in person. One of them was Jennifer Cline.

Every day the White House receives 20,000 letters and emails. They go through a three-stage vetting process. First their physical contents are tested (the 2001 anthrax scare has not been forgotten). Then they are sent to a Washington office where they are filtered, where they are sorted into categories and judged for their topicality.

The most striking are marked "sample" and sent on to the correspondence office in the White House proper. Of them, 10 are selected by an aide to be sent to the President, as the final section of his nightly briefing book.

Ms Cline, 27, is from Michigan and a mother of two young sons. She had written to every President since she was six, when her teacher gave her class the assignment of writing a letter to George HW Bush after his election in 1988. But, she told the Detroit Free Press, she had never received a reply – until now.

As simple statistics indicate, there are countless Americans like her. Usually they will get a form letter in reply, at best. This correspondent's son, for instance, received one after writing to wish Bill Clinton well in 1997, when the then president had knee surgery. "I'm following my doctor's orders and expect to make a quick and full recovery," the reply said. But it was electronically typed and, significantly, the ink used for the signature did not run.

The ink, however, did run on the note that arrived at Ms Cline's home in a large envelope, sent by first-class mail from "The White House," in Washington, DC. Between two pieces of cardboard was a smaller envelope containing a card with ornamental curly edges and bearing an embossed Presidential seal and a handwritten note.

"Jennifer – Thanks for the very kind and inspiring letter," it read. "I know times are tough, but knowing there are folks out there like you and your husband give (sic) me confidence things will keep getting better! Barack Obama."

Her own epistle, sent three weeks earlier, was a chronicle of her recent life. Ms Cline wrote that she and her husband had lost their jobs, and she had to cope with two types of skin cancer, even though she had no health insurance.

In retrospect, it was a natural to make the cut. It touched on two burning domestic issues, healthcare reform and the high unemployment rate.

Ms Cline told Mr Obama how she was back at college on a fully-paid grant, and that her unemployment benefit had been extended: "In just a couple of years we will be in a great spot."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Start a Career as a Financial Markets Trader

£40000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Become a professional Trader a...

Recruitment Genius: Software Implementation Consultant

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Recruitment Genius: Service Desk Co-ordinator / Client Services Administrator

£22000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The successful applicant will s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales & Warehouse Assistant

£14807 - £15470 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This manufacturer and supplier ...

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks