Monthly Archives: March 2013

The letter and the legacy

writing desk

Governor’s mansion writing desk image courtesy of sienna12, Morguefile.

A few days ago, I explored a news site which had a large collection of President Obama photos. It fascinated me since the photos showed the President in a variety of different moods — solemn, playful, sincere, tender and formal.

One of the most intriguing photos showed the President reading a letter that was left for him in the Oval Office. The letter was on the top of the Resolute desk and written by former President Bush. This is a tradition at The White House; the outgoing president leaves behind a letter for the new president to find and read.

My writer’s imagination went to town on this one because I found this tradition to be charming. What did that letter contain? Was it short or long? Was the new president warned about on-the-job hazards, or did the letter just wish him good luck?

And what would I say if it was me writing that letter? I like to imagine that I’d impart some wisdom and maybe give the new President something to smile or laugh about. The road to The White House is a tough one.

I don’t know which President started the tradition, but it’s been going on at least since Reagan’s time. Mostly, the content of the letter is kept secret, but I found one letter you can read, at least.

We live in an era now where it’s more common to send a tweet, post on Facebook, text on a phone or click a button to send an e-mail, but I don’t think letters have completely lost their influence. It’s easy for us to click on a button and delete an electronic communication with a couple of clicks, but much harder to get rid of a paper letter. I’ve saved some letters that I received which were meaningful to me because of what the writer told me, and I still have them. I also have some letters from my childhood that I like to keep because they show me how my writing has evolved over the years.

As bloggers, I think that we understand more deeply than others how truly powerful the written word can be since many of us will probably never meet each other. We can’t see the faces of those other bloggers and interpret their facial expressions and body language (unless they choose to post a picture or put up a video of themselves), so we can only understand another blogger’s character by what they write online and how they express themselves.

And sometimes I wonder if future generations will find the letters we’ve saved and our blogs, and better understand what we were like. Maybe they will. I hope so.

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