By Jason Goldman
Every night, President Obama reads 10 letters that were sent to him by citizens. It has been a part of his daily routine since taking office in 2009. These 10 “letters a day” — or 10 LADs, as they’re known to staff — do more to keep the President in touch with what’s happening around the country than just about anything else. “It ends up being a powerful motivator for me,” he has said.
He’s not alone in this. Reading letters from the public is a presidential tradition going back to Thomas Jefferson.
(TOP: President Barack Obama).
For the greater part of our nation’s history, the only way to get a message to the president and the White House was to send it by mail. Technology made new ways of communicating possible. In the 1880s, the White House began receiving phone calls. In 1994, WhiteHouse.gov introduced a way for the public to submit messages online.
Today, there are more ways than ever for us to communicate. No matter where you are or what time of day it is, it’s possible to connect instantaneously, in real time, to people all over the world. One of our jobs at the White House is to keep up.
That’s why today, for the first time ever, you will be able to send a note to President Obama simply by messaging the White House on Facebook, the same way you message your friends.
Our goal is to meet people where they are. It’s why the President launched his own Twitter account and the First Lady is on Snapchat. It’s about creating opportunities for people to engage with their government in new and accessible ways, using the same technologies we already rely on in our daily lives.
Getting a word in with the President has always been one of the White House’s most popular citizen services. As President Obama himself has pointed out, “Abraham Lincoln was able to have regular office hours where people would come and wait outside his office, which was over in the residence.” Face-to-face time is a little harder to come by these days, but technology makes it possible for anyone with an internet connection to send a message to the President and his Administration. The White House’s Messenger bot, a first of its kind for any government the world over, will make it as easy as messaging your closest friends.
While we’re excited about the technology, what this comes back to is the importance the President Obama attaches to hearing from you:
“To make sure that in all the hustle and bustle that’s taken place here, we don’t lose sight of why we’re here — which is a bunch of citizens all across the country, needing our help, seeking advice, more than occasionally being angry, wanting to be heard. And what’s interesting is not only do these letters help me to stay in touch with the people who sent me here, or the people who voted against me, but a lot of times they identify problems that might not have percolated up through the various agencies and bureaucracies. And more than once there have been occasions where these letters inspired action on real problems that are out there.”
So, head on over to the White House’s Facebook page to send the President a message.