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"Dear Ralph, ... "

Touching Letters From Barack Obama

by RALPH NADER

I’ve been getting a variety of letters from President Barack Obama. The salutation is often: “Dear Ralph.” One of them asks me for $25, adding “Ralph, this is that moment. This is the time to be in with me.” He writes that “I need your voice,” that America needs the “dreams and the energy and the determination of people like you.”

Mr. Obama acknowledged that, “We may have differences in policy, but we all believe in the rights enshrined in our Constitution.” He concludes one letter by saying “Ralph, I need you to be part of that movement. Now I need you to be in…. Your dreams, your determination will drive this campaign.”

Wow!

Wait, it gets better. Another letter starts: “Dear Ralph, each night, I get the chance to read about 10 letters from people across the country. Some are inspiring. Some are heartbreaking. But each one compels me to keep moving forward on this journey we started together…. People like you have been giving it your all.”

He even includes a comment card for me to offer my suggestions, thoughts and ideas. He wants this feedback, he writes, “from citizens in the District of Columbia and across the country” to help him “stay connected to [my] priorities.”

This is exciting. I get to tell the President directly what we can do together to abolish poverty, including full Medicare for all, put law and order to the corporate crooks, dramatically shift from fossil and nuclear fuels to solar, wind, geothermal and efficient technologies to lower the risk of climate change, and keep more dollars in family pocketbooks. I can remind him about his forgotten 2008 promise to raise the minimum wage to $9.50 in 2011 and urge his support for Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.’s bill “Catching Up To 1968 Act of 2012” (H.R.5901; see: timeforaraise.org).

Since he mentioned the District of Columbia, I can remind him, as many here already have, about his forgotten promise in 2008 to end the colonial status of the nation’s capital and fight for voting representation in Congress for its disenfranchised people.

His expressed desire to repair America and help students and patients made me wonder why he did not mention cutting the vastly bloated and wasteful military budget, ending the spreading Afghan quagmire and putting all those saved dollars toward such “hope and change” here in America. He has space left over in his four-paged letters to discuss such things.

Oh well, being President is more than any one person can really handle these days. Which is why I welcome another of his letters which opened: “Dear Ralph, when you sent me to the White House, I pledged that I would always keep the lines of communication open – and I meant it…. my ability to lead the country depends on listening to you.” He then advised me to “Stay engaged. Listen, learn and use your voice to speak out for the issues that matter most to you.” He said America needs me.

It is touching to see his regular letters. Who would have thought, after my sending him many substantive letters since December 2008 and not receiving a single reply, nary even an acknowledgement from one of his assistants in the vast Executive Branch over which he presides that he was interested in my suggestions?

Appealing once to Michelle, the nice organic gardener and fellow Princetonian, I tried to enlist her help in getting a reply from her husband about his meeting with a large gathering of national civic organizations in D.C., which have millions of members nationwide. (President-elect Jimmy Carter held such a meeting in 1976.)  That request too went without a reply. I even asked her and the President simply to explain their non-response policy guidelines.

Again, no response.

Hark! There is still hope. I just received another missive from President Obama, with an enclosed postcard featuring his signed picture. The letter starts with “Dear Ralph,” and builds to a crescendo with these boldly underlined words, “I’d like to hear from you.”

Quickly, before he changes his mind, I rush to my changeless Underwood typewriter and start, hopefully, with “Dear Barack, I am so pleased that you’d like to hear from me….”

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition.