To Obama ― With Love, Joy, Anger, and Hope
To Obama ― With Love, Joy, Anger, and Hope
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  • Every day, President Obama received ten thousand letters from constituents. Every night, he read ten of them before going to bed. This is the story of the profound ways in which they shaped his presidency.

    Every evening for 8 years, at his request, President Obama received a binder containing ten handpicked letters from ordinary American citizens -- the unfiltered voice of a nation -- from his Office of Presidential Correspondence. He was the first to President to save constituent mail, and this is the story of how those letters affected not only the President and his policies, but also the deeply committed people who were tasked with opening the millions of pleas, rants, thank yous, and apologies that landed in the White House mailroom.

    Based on the popular New York Times article, "To Obama," Laskas now interviews the letter writers themselves and the White House staff who sifted through the powerful, moving, and incredibly intimate narrative of America during the Obama years emerges: There is Kelli, who saw her grandfathers finally marry -- legally -- after 35 years together; Bill, a lifelong Republican whose attitude toward immigration reform was transformed when he met a boy escaping M-16 gang leaders in El Salvador; Heba, a Syrian refugee who wants to forget the day the tanks rolled into her village; Marjorie, who grappled with disturbing feelings of racial bias lurking within her during the George Zimmerman trial; and Vicki, whose family was torn apart by those who voted for Trump and those who did not.

    They wrote to Obama out of gratitude and desperation, in their darkest times of need, in search of connection. They wrote with anger and respect. And together, this chorus of voices achieves a kind of beautiful harmony: here is a diary of a nation. To Obama is an intimate look at one man's relationship to the American people, and the the intersection of politics and empathy in the White House.
  • JEANNE MARIE LASKAS is the author of seven books, including Concussion, Hidden America and The Exact Same Moon. Her writing has appeared in the New Yorker, GQ, Esquire, the New York Times Magazine, and many other publications. She is a professor at the University of Pittsburgh, where she teaches creative writing, and she lives on a farm in Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.
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