Dear President Obama: Kids Speak To The Next President

With Inauguration Fever sweeping the nation, even the youngest citizens are putting in their two cents, offering up advice for our 44th President on everything from job creation to education to eating more cotton candy.

The letters are adorable and well-intentioned: the children clearly have pinned their hopes on their new President (along with the rest of us) and show their concerns, hopes, and questions in a series of letters collected by writing teachers at 826 Valencia, a non-profit writing center that will be releasing the letters in a book titled Thanks and Have Fun Running the Country: A Collection of Kids’ Letters to President Obama. Some of the letters are very direct:

Dear President Obama,

Here is a list of the first 10 things you should do as president:

1. Fly to the White House in a helicopter.
2. Walk in.
3. Wipe feet.
4. Walk to the Oval Office.
5. Sit down in a chair.
6. Put hand-sanitizer on hands.
7. Enjoy moment.
8. Get up.
9. Get in car.
10. Go to the dog pound.

— Chandler Browne, age 12, Chicago

Others are quite moving:

Dear Obama,

I have grown up with a very liberal mom and a very conservative dad. Thank you for bringing my parents somewhat closer together. :) You are my idol Mr. Barack — I am partly African-American and I am very happy to see an African-American leading this country.

— Olivia Roper-Caldbeck, age 12, Seattle

And some are just awesome:

These are the first 10 things you should do as president:

1. Make everyone read books.
2. Don’t let teachers give kids hard homework.
3. Make a law where kids only get one page of homework per week.
4. Kids can go visit you whenever they want.
5. Make volunteer tutors get paid.
6. Let the tutors do all the thinking.
7. Make universities free.
8. Make students get extra credit for everything.
9. Give teachers raises.
10. If No. 4 is approved, let kids visit the Oval Office, but don’t make it boring.

— Mireya Perez, age 8, San Francisco

Some people are tiring of this Obama cuteness parade, and that's a fair point, as we have a tendency to assign a type of mythical power to this man, a sense that everything is going to be a-ok as soon as he takes the oath of office. And over the next four years, it is highly likely that he will let us down at times, that he will disappoint us and break our hearts. But for now, the story has not been written, and we are starting off in a very different position we started in with our last President: we are a broken country, we are struggling and suffering and trying to find a sense of a national identity after eight years of division, war, loss, and lies, and confusion. And though common sense tells us that things won't be okay, not for a while anyway, the only thing that our new President has ever asked of us, hope, is perhaps stronger right now than it has been in many, many years. We all know we are facing hard times: but for the next few days, before the real work begins, let's all just take the cuteness, the giddiness, and the notion that we are on to better things, and just go go go go go with it.

Then, on Wednesday, January 21, get your signs out, set your sights on the changes you still want to see, and get back to work. The Bush Administration was successful in one thing: getting people to care about their rights, to recognize the importance of their voice in the political process, and to fight for the things they believe in. One can only hope that people will continue those fights, as we still have a long way to go, and a new leader who just might be willing to listen.

Or, in the words of young Juan from 826 Valencia:

Dear President Obama, I'm glad you're cool. Good luck.

PS: Take a look at the letter above: even the President-Elect can't avoid "eat a cheeseburger!" Yikes!

Dear Sir Obama: Presidential Advice [NYTimes]