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Thanks and Have Fun Running the Country: Kids' Letters to President Obamaby Jory John
Synopses & Reviews
Every day after school, about 65 kids, mostly from Latino homes, come into 826 Valencia — a nonprofit literacy center in San Francisco — to get help with their homework. The place is always vibrant, but on November 5, 2008, the 20 tutors in the room essentially played zone defense to keep things in order. The election of Barack Obama had overturned the students' world.
The kids, mostly middle-schoolers, had been interested in the election all year, but few of them, truth be told, really thought Obama would be elected. They'd only known one president all their lives, and he didn't look like them. But when Obama won, it was like Christmas had been declared a permanent state of being. The students ran around, yelling about where they were when they heard the election results. Some kids brought in celebratory cookies. Two eighth-graders changed our computers' desktop backgrounds to Shepard Fairey's ubiquitous Obama portrait. Kids drew pictures of Obama on their school folders and posted his image all over our center.
In the midst of all this, we had an idea: to ask our students to express their thoughts to Barack Obama in personalized letters. This could be both an engaging writing assignment and a way to start students thinking about the new president's impending challenges and goals. The notion that they would potentially be heard by the president compelled the students to take the task seriously.
Our sister 826 National chapters — located in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Ann Arbor, Boston, and Seattle — all jumped in and asked their students to write letters, too, assembling the collected thoughts of hundreds of kids across the country. The resulting letters contained hilarious advice, unusual questions, or heartfelt pleas for a better life. Almost all of them identified with Sasha and Malia. One student, Ribika Hailemariam, born in Ethopia, even offered advice on moving to a new town.
These kids have a way of getting to the heart of matters quickly, honestly, and bluntly. Sheenie Shannon Yip, a 13-year-old from Seattle, wrote to the new president, "I really hope you put America back together. No pressure, though."
"With John as editor, Thanks and Have Fun Running the Country: A Collection of Kids' Letters to President Obama has become a much-talked about project that, at its core, is really a child's perspective on the notions of hope, ideals and challenges facing the 44th president of the United States."Tahoe Daily Tribune
"A hilarious and touching collection of letters compiled at 826 Valencia in San Francisco and the writing center's half dozen chapters across the country." San Francisco Chronicle
"[Thanks and Have Fun Running the Country]... offers a moving snapshot of children's lives in the waning days of 2008." USA Today
"Preternaturally sagacious youngsters from 826 National's various tutoring centers across the country chimed in to the national dialogue with their advice, concerns and hopes for their new president." LA Times
After the election of President Obama, hundreds of six- to fourteen-year-olds in cities across the country were asked: "What should President Obama do now?" Thanks and Have Fun Running the Country is a collection of more than 70 letters addressed to our new president, containing their young authors' thoughts, hope, and advice, including:
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 its 43 cents, but now its 74 cents! The price raised 31 cents for no reason. So you should probably try to change things like that from happening. You should keep an eye out for things like that.
Alexis Feliciano, age 9, Brooklyn
Dear President Obama,
What is your favorite holiday? My favorite holidays are Christmas and Halloween. I would be a good president and stop bad drugs. What stuff is in the White House? Answer here: _________________________________
You would never say bad words because you would never break the law.
Kevin Cordova, age 7, Los Angeles
Dear President Obama,
I know you want to save the Earth, but people dont want to clean. My life is to clean up all the world and help you to clean. I always dream of cleaning the world for you. Ill do anything for you because you are the president in this world.
Stephanie Gonzalez, age 7, Los Angeles
Dear President Barack Obama,
When I was watching television on November 4th, I started crying because I was so happy. Everyone in my neighborhood kept honking their cars, yelling, and texting their friends about how you had been elected the 44th president.
My friend's dad is going to open a new ice-cream store right in front of my house and they are going to try to open it on January 20th in honor of you. :) My family and I have been talking about when you become president that it is going to be very hard. Don't worry, you have me, my family, my friends, and St. James School to support you. Just remember that you have two wonderful daughters that love you and a wife that loves you too and remember that she is as beautiful as a rose.
Well, thanks, and I hope you have a great time running the country. :) Sincerely, Yoselin Teresa Martinez Xonthe, San Francisco
Dear President Obama,
If I were president, I would tell people to not talk too much. It wastes time. If I were the president, you wouldnt have to pay rent. When you go to the store, you wouldnt have to pay for sure! Id also say to war: no more, no more, no more!
Catherine Galvan, age 6, Chicago
A few days after the election of Barack Obama, kids around the country were asked to provide advice and guidance to their new president. In this collection, there's loads advice for the president, often hilarious, sometimes heartfelt, and occasionally downright practical. Students from all over the country reach out to the 44th president, speaking to the issues closest to their hearts, relating their life stories, and asking for help. Topics include the economy, education, war, global warming, race relations in America and immigration. The book also includes letters about snow cones, puppies, microwavable burritos, dinosaur projects, multiplication and the ghost of Abraham Lincoln, reportedly haunting a White House bedroom.
Proceeds benefit 826 National, a network of nonprofit writing and tutoring centers around the country.
About the Author
Jory John is the programs director at 826 Valencia, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center. He is also the co-author of Pirate's Log, a children's book published by Chronicle Books. Jory has written for The San Francisco Chronicle, The Believer and for the internationally syndicated comic strip "Dennis the Menace."
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