Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Now, writing to the president is a subversive activity

Please be advised that the following may be considered subversive.

That's a fancy way of saying some folks might think it is un-American.

I'll let you decide:

As part of a civics lesson in an after-school program at Pasco County elementary schools, fourth-graders were asked to write a letter to President Barack Obama.

They were not asked to praise the president. They were not told to offer support or encouragement. The assignment was to ask the president a question or offer a suggestion that might benefit others.

Dear Sir,

I have got 4 brothers and part of them will vote for you any way and if you will let your whiskers grow I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you, you would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers …

The letter was from an 11-year-old girl from New York in 1860. It has been cited by some historians as the impetus for Abraham Lincoln's decision to grow a beard.

• • •

The parents of one Pasco fourth-grader were outraged by the assignment.

They did not, however, immediately take their complaint to school leaders. Instead, according to a school official, they sent an email to the Republican Party. Somehow, the story made its way to a Fox News blog and generated hundreds of comments.

The student's mother was quoted as saying the school was attempting to use children to get to the parents.

Dear President Eisenhower,

We think it's bad enough to send Elvis Presley in the Army … but we beg you please please don't give him a G.I. hair cut, oh please please don't. If you do we will just about die!

The letter was written in 1958 and signed by three girls from Montana.

• • •

The idea of schoolchildren writing to the president has long been embraced by educators across the country.

A learning center for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation has an entire lesson plan based around the idea of elementary students writing to the White House.

The foundation says the exercise will help students learn to be "informed and engaged" and "advocate for an issue" as well as increase their persuasive writing, research and analytical skills.

Or, I suppose, it could be a sinister plot.

Dear President Nixon,

I heard you were sick with pneumonia. I just got out of the hospital yesterday with pneumonia and I hope you did not catch it from me.

The letter was written by an 8-year-old California boy after Richard Nixon was admitted to Bethesda Naval Hospital in 1973.

• • •

After an investigation, Pasco officials determined the lesson was harmless.

No word yet on how it has impacted undecided fourth-graders.

Dear Barack Obama,

Something happened to me: I went out to lunch at Starbucks and I wanted to buy a cup of whipped cream and normally it's 43 cents but now it's 74 cents! The price raised 31 cents for no reason. So you should probably try to change things like that from happening.

The letter was written by a 9-year-old girl from Brooklyn in 2008.

Now, writing to the president is a subversive activity 10/17/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 9:31pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Cannon Fodder podcast: Considering Gerald McCoy's comments


    Greg Auman talks about Gerald McCoy's comments — both about fan criticism online and Donald Trump — in the latest episode of our Bucs Cannon Fodder podcast.

    Gerald McCoy, front, said Monday that he would love to have a conversation with any of the fans who take to social media to criticize him and his Bucs teammates. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  2. Massive crocodile seen roaming the streets, and there was only 1 thing a cop could do


    Name one thing you really don't want to see around 4 a.m. walking around your neighborhood.

    Watch out for that croc.

    A crocodile was seen roaming a street in Miami-Dade.
  3. Pinellas County Sheriff's employee resigns under investigation related to domestic violence arrest


    LARGO — A civilian Pinellas County Sheriff's Office employee resigned Tuesday while under an internal investigation that began after he was arrested on domestic battery charges.

    Joshua Volz resigned Tuesday from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. He had been under investigation after he was arrested for domestic battery, according to police. [Pinellas County Jail]
  4. Mom accused of burying guns after fatal teen shooting declines plea deal


    TAMPA — The Valrico mother accused of hiding the guns after her teenage son shot and killed another boy in their garage told a judge Tuesday that she wants a trial, not a plea deal.

    Heidi Quinn is accused of hiding two guns after her son, Cody, fatally shot 17-year-old Jayquon Johnson in their garage. She faces charges of tampering with evidence. Her son was not charged in Johnson's death because authorities ruled it self-defense. He does face related drug charges. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  5. Stone says no coordination between Trump campaign and Russia

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Longtime Donald Trump associate Roger Stone said Tuesday he's "aware of no evidence whatsoever" that Trump's campaign coordinated with Russians during the 2016 election.