So you’ve decided you want to write a letter to the President? Then you must have a good reason for doing so. In which case, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about writing this kind of letter - from what to write to how to format it and where to send it.
Let's start with the basics. If you haven't already, you need to consider your reasons for writing to the President. What do you intend on saying? What is the outcome you hope to get from writing this letter? Are you certain the President is the most appropriate recipient for this letter? We'll go over all this in the first section.
Let's dig in.
There are many reasons why one might write a letter to the President; as such it would be impossible to list them all. However, we can certainly enumerate the most common ones. Here goes.
Congratulate them on their recent win
You might want to congratulate the President on their recent win, which is a perfectly good reason to want to write a letter to the President, and you certainly won't be alone in doing so.
Sometimes you might think that the President is the best recipient of your letter when in fact, this is not necessarily the case. Sure, taking drastic action such as writing to the country's most powerful person can often feel like the best course of action to get things moving, however, considering how many letters the President receives, and the sheer amount of responsibilities they have, you may save valuable time and effort by writing directly to the person in charge of your particular request.
It can be helpful to think of other possible recipients to see if another one might be better suited. Read on for a list of other potential recipients, and what they can help with:
Certain issues are best spoken about on the news, so they attract attention from the relevant person.
Say, for example, you want to get guns prohibited in schools, before you write to the President, you might want to try directly addressing your school's board and asking them to implement such a rule. Send them research-based evidence of the benefits of banning firearms in school.
If your issue is concerning a specific policy, consider writing directly to your representative congressional office. Mention which bill or specific area your concern is around, and the action you suggest taking.
Identified a particular problem in your city? This might be an issue better suited to your city or town's mayor. Ask yourself whether the rest of the country is affected by this problem. If not, then the mayor is your guy (or gal).
Before you begin writing your email to the President, it can be helpful to know that there are alternative ways to contact the President. These might be preferable to you, depending on the reason for you contacting them.
Why not email the President? An email is a great way to keep legislators honest about campaign promises, thereby encouraging them to do what they said they would do. Plus, it leaves an electronic record that cannot be deleted, in case that is something you need.
You could elect to place a phone call to the White Office instead of writing to them. You should know that the President themself will not be answering the phone however; this is manned by professional White House operators. If you do want to call, use one of the following phone numbers:
You could choose to send a gift to the President. Note, however, that the White House is unable to accept any monetary gifts. They also ask that you consider making a donation to a charity instead of sending them a gift. If you really must, though, you're welcome to send them a gift.
You could also use a combination of two methods - i.e. write an email and a letter. Or a letter, and a follow-up email a few months later.
Now, moving on to the actual writing of your letter. There are certain practices you'll want to follow to ensure that your letter is read, taken seriously, and if you're lucky, answered. Read on to find out what those are.
The White House asks that you take the following precautions when writing your letter:
There are a few that we'd like to add.
The first thing you need to do is address your letter correctly, and appropriately. We suggest "Dear President [last name]" or "Dear [Mr./Mrs.] President".
If there ever was a time to make your writing formal, this is it. Writing your letter to the President in a formal manner will ensure you come across as respectful, but also that you'll be taken seriously. If you want your letter to eventually reach the President, and/or have an impact, using formal language will get you well on your way.
Addressing the letter to the correct address is pretty crucial. Here's what to write on the envelope:
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
You'll want to follow a structure when writing your letter to the President so that you get your point across efficiently. You should include a clear introduction that explains the intentions of the letter; the main body that goes into detail about the request or concerns; and a conclusion that summarizes the desired actions you would like to see taken.
Be purposeful about how long your letter is. It doesn't need to be a specific length, but you'll want to keep the reader engaged as well as ensure you're not going off-topic. If you write your letter with these elements in mind, it naturally shouldn't exceed three or four pages.
The tone of your letter will depend on the message you're trying to get across. If you're looking for a pardon, the overwhelming tone will likely be remorseful. If your letter has the purpose of asking for change, you'll want to use convincing arguments and use a confident tone of voice. If you're complaining, your tone might be serious and matter-of-fact.
No matter what, the tone of your letter must remain gracious, even if you're writing to express your dissatisfaction. Diplomacy is key here, so make sure you're using respectful language.
Using respect and professionalism will help your letter have an impact. After all, you have a specific outcome in mind for your letter, right? You're hoping to get something out of it. The best way to make this happen is to be strategic around your choice of language and tone of voice.
Another important consideration is when to send your letter. If sending a letter of congratulations, we recommend sending this soon after the President takes office, as there is a significant delay in letters being read due to the screening process that is undertaken - for security purposes - before any letter is given to the President.
If it's a request for a pardon, it might be useful to know that pardons tend to be given towards the end of their time in office, so you'll do well addressing this letter to them, say, at the beginning of their final year.
If you're lobbying for change about a specific issue, then writing at a time when a scandal has recently broken out in another area might not be the best time, since that will be the current focus at the White House.
To make your letter to the President a success, we recommend you follow a specific writing process. Most people only write a letter to the President once in a lifetime, so you'll want to get it right. We'll outline below our suggested process, but this isn't the only way, and you might want to tweak it slightly according to your preference.
Start by brainstorming. Brainstorming what? Everything! Your reasons for writing to the President, what you hope to get from the letter, the best tone of voice to use, what you want to include, and so on. In other words, everything we've presented in this article so far presents great brainstorming material.
It's a good idea to create a checklist during this process, adding ideas to it as you go. This will ensure you don't forget anything during the first draft process, and will also be useful during the editing process.
Write the first draft of your letter. The secret to first drafts is to write without holding back. In fact, in the writer's world, it's often said that you should write a "sh##ty first draft". This concept gives you the freedom to write without worrying about making it good, which serves to unleash our creativity which is invaluable when it comes to writing good content. You'll find you go places you didn't even know you would.
This is where you polish, edit, shift, replace words and move things around. The editing process is where you refine your letter, basically, and get it ready for sending. It's your opportunity to make sure you've included everything you wanted to include. Use the checklist you created during the brainstorming part of the process. Did you omit anything? If so, is there a reason you did?
Don't sweat it if it's the case. Sometimes, as we're writing, we realize certain details aren't as important as we thought they were, or perhaps they need reframing.
Your letter will be addressed to the President, but it might not be the President themselves who read it. This is worth bearing in mind.
Firstly, anything entering the White House must undergo rigorous security checks, as anyone might expect. Therefore, you should expect a considerable delay in anyone reading your letter at all. The larger your letter, the more security it will need to undergo. This is useful to know if you're sending a gift.
Secondly, your letter will initially be read by staff members of the White House Office of Presidential Correspondence. The staff body is composed of paid full-time members, as well as interns and volunteers. The good news is that such a large office means they can reply to many letters. Here, "many" is subjective, since they received thousands of letters every day, so they couldn't possibly respond to more than a small fraction of those.
So how can you know whether the President themselves will read your letter? It's difficult to say. Obama during his presidency asked to be presented with a representative sample of ten letters per day. This will vary depending on who's currently in office. Rumor has it President Biden reads letters from citizens in the evening before bed.
Now that we've covered essential ground to assist you in writing your letter to the president, we thought it might be helpful for you to see an example. Interested? Read on. Following is an example of a letter to the president advocating for change.
Dear President [Last name]
I am writing to bring a particular area of concern to your attention. A growing concern of the public is [insert area of concern you want to bring the President's awareness to]. The reason this issue is pressing is [explain reasons why the President should take this seriously - include mention of how widespread it is and how it is impacting society].
Please consider lending your support to this cause by [specify exactly what kind of action or support you are requesting]. Your support could have an incredibly beneficial impact, such as [insert expected impact of the action requested].
[Add additional key points as relevant; perhaps some research-based evidence to support your claim].
Thank you for the attention you will be giving this important [cause/issue]. I do not doubt that together we can counter the negative impact of [insert issue at hand], as your support in this endeavor will greatly help advance our cause and bring about long-lasting solutions.
If you need to reach me, you’ll find my return address at the top of this letter, or on the back of the envelope. Meanwhile, I would like to thank you for taking the time to read this letter, and for your consideration.
I wish you all the best in your presidency of the United States of America.
You may of course tweak the above example to serve your purposes. If you are writing a different type of letter, you might want to include certain additional details or remove some of the points the above example makes. We're confident that you know best what needs to be included or not, and the example given is to be used more as a guideline.
We hope that this article has helped you feel more confident about writing your letter to the President - not only in knowing what to write and how to structure it, but also how to organize a writing process that helps you get all your thoughts on paper, and make a strong point, coming across confidently.
So whichever type of letter you have decided to send, we're sure you're going to do just great.