The President of the United States may seem out of reach to everyday constituents who do not hold any government office. Fortunately, the U.S. democracy is such that essentially anyone can reach the White House. The official website of the president, whitehouse.gov, makes information for contacting the nation’s highest office readily available. Web visitors can find phone numbers, with telecommunications options available for the deaf or mute, online. Furthermore, there is a form built into the site for easy email correspondence.
Though calling and emailing are fast and convenient communication methods, there may be a circumstance that calls for a letter. While the website provides basic information about how to write the president, there are a few other things a potential correspondent may want to consider:
The White House recommends that correspondents compose their letter on 8.5 by 11-inch paper, which is the standard size for most ruled and printer paper. There are no guidelines about weight, color or fiber; communicators are free to choose whatever paper they feel is appropriate. That being said, the letter is going to pass through many hands once it arrives at the White House, so durability is an important consideration.
Choosing between a typed letter and a handwritten letter is an important decision about how to write the president. While handwritten letters tend to come across as more personal, they may be illegible. Should a correspondent choose to send a handwritten letter, use a dark ink pen and write neatly. Avoid using cursive or writing small. For typed letters, stick to a 10 to 12-point font size and avoid flowery, cursive-looking fonts.
Threats aside, correspondents can write the president about any number of topics. Whether someone wishes to voice their support or frustration, advocate for policy, give their opinion or share a personal anecdote, the White House is receptive to correspondence from the public. Letter writers should keep in mind that the president holds the highest office in the nation, and that alone garners some level of deference. Regardless of personal political opinion, it is wise to use a respectful tone when addressing the president, even if the purpose of the letter is to express discontent.
The White House cannot accept monetary contributions in any form. If a correspondent chooses to enclose any additional documents or photographs, it is likely that they may not be returned. Furthermore, these items may be damaged during the security screening process.
The White House receives tens of thousands of letters and packages on a daily basis. The Office of Presidential Correspondence is the government body that receives all of these letters. Within this office, staffers, interns and volunteers are tasked with the responsibility of reading all of these letters. Generally, correspondents should not expect that their letter will actually be read by the president, although there is a chance that it may. Former President Obama made it his policy to read ten letters every night, chosen by the Director of Presidential Correspondence. President Trump may hold his own letter-reading regimen.
Though there is no real way to ensure that any particular letter makes it to the president’s desk, Fiona Reeves, who served as the Director of Presidential Correspondence during the Obama administration, provided a few insights in an interview with 99% Invisible. Reeves explained that her team sought out mail “that is geographically diverse . . . [with] different writing styles . . . and ways of communicating.” The point of passing letters on to the president is to give him a sense of what really matters to the American people. A pointed letter that helps the president feel the country’s pulse may very well find its way to the Oval Office.
The final consideration for how to write the president has to do with the mailing. Correspondents should address their letters to:
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC, 20500
Ensure to include a return address on the letter. Place a stamp in the upper right corner and mail as usual or visit a local post office for expedited mailing options. Choosing to write to the White House is an empowering civic opportunity available to anyone. Sending mail to the president is an opportunity to advocate for policies that alleviate global poverty.
– Chantel Baul