Category Archives: letters

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Chatting with the president

As many of our readers and clients know, I met our current president when he was a second-year law student at Harvard University and represented his first book, DREAMS FROM MY FATHER.  I remember saying to him when he first came to my office to meet me (I believe he was twenty-five years old) that if there was ever to be a black president during my lifetime, I believed it would be he.  I had the distinct impression that this wasn’t the first time he had heard someone say that.

When it came to the sale of the second book, THE AUDACITY OF HOPE, Obama chose to work with a D.C. agent more appropriate to represent someone who was running for office (at the time, the U.S. Senate). We continued to communicate, though, directly or through a close staffer named Reggie Love .

Fast forward to last July when, during the Democratic National Convention, the controversy involving the Khan (Gold Star) family arose and, thinking about my son, who is now an officer in the Marines, I wrote a note to Reggie asking him to convey a message to the president telling him how strongly I felt about his support of military families.  Reggie told me that he would convey my message to the President.

img_2976In response to my note, I received a handwritten letter from Barack telling me how proud he was of Zachary and inviting me to come to the White House to meet with him before he left office.

And so, on Wednesday December 7th my husband and I journeyed to Washington where we met with the President in the Oval Office and talked for about fifteen minutes – about our past, about our children, and about our future.  And as we left, he thanked me for the work I had done for him so long ago and asked that we stay in touch.

This experience was, to say the least, one of the highlights of my career.  To have been a part of this man’s professional life and career is something I am very proud of and I will remember his words always.

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An almost-lost art

One of the more unlikely new literary stars who has emerged in recent weeks is actress Mary Louise Parker (“Weeds”) who has been receiving wide acclaim for her first book, Dear Mr. You, published last month by Scribner.   A kind of epistolary memoir, it comprises a collection of imaginary letters she has written to the various male figures who have influenced the course of her life. Last week she was interviewed on Leonard Lopate’s WNYC radio show, during which she professed that in this age of texting, Twitter, and e-mail, she remains a very dedicated letter-writer. “I LOVE my stationery,” she said, and mentioned how much more metaphorical weight a physical letter carries for its recipient when it arrives in the mail.

How true that is, and thank God there are still people left like her. I’m not thinking of switching back to letters myself anytime soon—my handwriting is so godawful it looks like the scrawl of a three-year-old—but I completely understand her point. And yes, there is something special about receiving a real letter these days, be it a handwritten note of thanks, a friendly cover letter serving to explain an enclosure, or the latest musings and news from that elderly relative who won’t go near a computer.

My client Tracey Goessel’s new biography of silent star Douglas Fairbanks, The First King of Hollywood (Chicago Review Press), is remarkable for a lot of reasons, one of them being that it contains something unseen till now: Fairbanks’s love letters to his wife, the equally well-known star Mary Pickford. Fairbanks’s letters are bursting with tender and very literate charm, and they explain a great deal about the Fairbanks/Pickford courtship and the ensuing idyllic, ultimately troubled marriage. These letters would never have seen the light of day had Pickford not saved them, and if Tracey had not purchased them at an auction. Historians and biographers today warn that the internet age will leave no such records. E-mails and texts are usually deleted; phone calls evaporate without a trace. Years from now, subsequent generations may have a very hard time putting together the pieces of our history.

Is anyone out there still a letter-writer? Don’t be ashamed—be proud! And let me hear from you. I’d love to know your thoughts on what writing and receiving a physical letter means to you.