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Share Your Ideas with the President's Advisors

by Katherine Noyes
The Challenge

When you write a letter to the president of the United States, you could influence the federal government's policies and legislation on issues that affect people across the nation. Whether it's a topic that will positively impact the lives of every American or one that will advance the goals of an underserved minority or program, your voice could be the key to getting legislation passed that will serve others and our country as a whole.

The United States government is designed to represent the will of the people, but it can be difficult for officials to fully understand that will when there are more than 317 million people involved. For that reason, government leaders welcome correspondence from citizens, and well-written letters to the president or other officials can have a real impact on policy-making.

While the president may not personally initiate legislation, he may veto any legislation passed by Congress. Your comments may be what it takes to steer his opinion toward one side or the other.

Letters to the president can be e-mailed or sent via traditional mail. Since thousands of letters to the president arrive at the White House every day, the president cannot personally review each message. However, he does receive samples of his incoming correspondence.

And even if your letter to the president is not among the ones he reads himself, sufficiently original and insightful messages are forwarded to content experts and advisors who influence the president and his policies.

So don't feel your letter to the president has no chance of making a difference. Take a few minutes to share your ideas with the White House on topics such as agriculture, the budget, civil rights, commerce, defense, education, energy, environment, foreign affairs, the Constitution, health care, housing, human rights, international trade, jobs, justice and crime, legislation, science and technology, social issues, social welfare, taxes or transportation.

The result will be a better-informed, more representative leadership—and a better-served population.

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  • write the letter in your own words
  • offer original insight
  • get to the point quickly
  • be concise
  • include an attention-grabbing example or "soundbyte" (remember: you are competing for the attention of the busiest person in the world)
  • mention any credentials you have that might lend weight to your arguments
  • make it personal, describing why the issue matters to you and how it affects you
  • ask for a reply, making sure to include your name and address
  • be polite and take a firm position
  • be confident in your understanding of the issue and remember that the president (or his staff) may know less than you do about the topic
  • if you are part of a civic group or organization, be sure to make that clear so the president understands you are involved in your community
  • if you're sending an e-mail, put your letter in the body of the e-mail rather than sending it as an attachment (which could carry viruses)
  • make sure you spell-check before sending!
  • If you prefer, you can also e-mail the Vice President or First Lady to share your thoughts.
  • Alternatively, you can contact members of Congress or the House of Representatives. Contact information is available in a lookup directory at USA.gov. The ACLU offers a variety of useful tips on writing letters to elected officials.

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