Here is a good, interesting story in the Washington Post about the people who write to Barack Obama, why they write, and the process by which some of their letters reach the president. It is heart-warming and kinda sad, too.

All White House correspondence has to be read by someone, to screen for threats. And every day the staff and volunteers select a handful of letters, faxes, and emails that the president might find interesting. And then a staffer puts that day's ten selections into a folder that the president reads at the end of the day. A couple times a week, President Obama handwrites a brief response to a select few letter-writers on a notecard.

The story also provides a kind of cheat sheet for those looking to score a personal response:

  • Hand-write it.
  • Have hard times.
  • But be optimistic.
  • Being a veteran doesn't hurt.
  • Have your hard times relate to larger trends in the nation as a whole.
  • If you're going to criticize, be "level-headed."

You could argue over whether this process—involving as it does careful vetting and lots of filtering—just creates the illusion of keeping up with the thoughts and hopes and fears of Real Americans, but there's no arguing that Jennifer Cline, the letter-writing subject of the piece, has a sadly all-too-common story of falling behind in recession America.

Read the story for the details. But this was Obama's response:

"Thanks for the very kind and inspiring letter," he wrote to Cline. "I know times are tough, but knowing there are folks out there like you and your husband give [sic] me confidence that things will keep getting better!"

Oh man, knowing there are folks give you confidence, Mr. Obama? Not so smart without your tellyprompter, are you?

[White House Photo by Pete Souza]