No matter who you are or what your reason for writing is, you absolutely can send a letter to the President.
Will the President actually read your letter? Consider this. President Obama received, on average, 65,000 handwritten letters and more than 100,000 emails each week — and that doesn't even include faxes, which people also still send. Not every President gets the same number of letters from members of the public, but you can bet that the volume of mail he (or maybe she, some day) gets is always overwhelming.
That is why the White House has an entire Office of Presidential Correspondence, which deals with all these letters. White House staff will definitely read your letter to the President, and if it's compelling, important, or interesting enough, they will pass it onto the President.
That's a little intimidating, isn't it? Your odds of achieving your aim — writing a letter that the President will personally read — grow exponentially if your letter is good. Here's how.
Basics of Writing a Letter to the President
The most common reasons to write a letter to the President are:
- Individuals or advocacy groups may write letters that call attention to a policy concern or an ongoing practical concern.
- A letter from an inmate petitioning for a Presidential pardon.
- A congratulatory letter, often sent when a candidate you support takes office.
- A personal letter — maybe the President has inspired you deeply, and you want to offer your gratitude. Letters in which you are petitioning for help from the President may also fall into this category.
- Letters from schoolchildren and students are also quite common. Children may write to ask the President for an autograph, and will often receive one.
Anyone can write a letter to the President, but it goes without saying that if the President were to personally read all the letters the White House receives, nothing else would ever get done. Before you consider writing a letter to the President, it is always prudent to investigate whether another course of action could also address your particular concern. If there is a problem within your city, for instance, it is often a good idea to write to the Mayor first.
How to Write a Letter to the Office of the President of the U.S.A
The White House serves the American public, and has procedures in place to ensure that members of the public can get in touch. They do encourage you to follow their guidelines as you do so, however.
What format should you use? You have several different options:
- You may email the White House. In this case, you simply have to fill the provide contact forms in accurately and then proceed with your letter — which should ideally still follow a typical business letter format.
- You may type and print your letter to the President. In this case, the White House asks that you use an"8 1/2 by 11 inch sheet of paper".
- You may write your letter to the President by hand, and in this case you should offer your very best penmanship and write in black or dark blue ink, with a pen!
It is advisable to follow a standard business letter format when writing a letter to the President. Always include your return address, because it is indeed possible that you will receive a reply!
The tone of your letter will depend on your reason for writing, but regardless of your motivation in writing a letter to the President, you are strongly advised to maintain formal wording. Even if you are writing a letter to the President on behalf of a civil rights group, and you are angry about an injustice, remain polite at all times to increase the chances that the letter will find its way to the President's hands.
The appropriate length of a letter to the President will again vary, but you should always strive to be succinct. A personal anecdote may be helpful in making your point, but you should never ramble. Every word in the letter should serve a purpose, and your letter should be edited and proofread multiple times before you send it.
US Presidents do appreciate hearing from the nation's children, and often welcome autograph requests. Never include any items besides the letter itself in an envelope you send to the White House, though! Maybe you are writing to the President as a class project, and you think it is a nice idea to send an artwork made by the students in your class. The White House discourages this for security reasons.
How To Send A Letter to the White House
Writing your letter to the President is the hardest and most important part of the process — but unless you know where and how to send your letter, it will never reach its ultimate destination.
You essentially have two choices.
You can mail your physical — typed or handwritten — letter to the White House.
The correct address is:
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
Make sure to address your letter to the sitting President. Include your return address on the envelope as well as within the letter itself; this is not only standard practice, but also important for security reasons.
You can send an email to the President, a practice the White House encourages.
Do not attempt to find a dedicated email address to which you can send an email directly. Instead, use the contact form the White House provides. Always double check that you entered all your details correctly before submitting the form.
Sample Letters to the Office of the President (U.S.A)
Your letter to the President should be unique and personal — and unless you are joining an advocacy group in sending a signed copy of the same letter that hundreds of thousands of others are also sending, it is important to put personal thought into the letter.
Never copy sample letters! Although reading letters which people in similar situations have previously sent to the President, perhaps with successful outcomes, can be helpful, those letters should only ever serve as inspiration.
Frankly, posting sample letters would not serve you well, because no fictional sample could ever compare to a sincere letter to the President. We can, however, offer you some pointers.
Clemency Letter or Letter of Pardon
People seeking any form of clemency, including a Presidential pardon, for Federal crimes, have to follow the appropriate procedure to do so. This does not only require writing a letter to the President, but also completing the relevant forms. The Office of the Pardon Attorney handles this process.
The most effective clemency letters and letters of pardon include the following elements, nearly always in the following order:
- Introduce yourself and your situation.
- Be sincere, open, and honest throughout your letter. Describe the crime you committed, the circumstances that led to it, and express sincere remorse. This is best done by showing that you understand the impact that your crime had on the affected people and the wider community.
- Explain how your life and views have changed since you were sentenced, what you have learned since that time, and how you have grown as a person. If you have done exceptional things while incarcerated, such as completing a degree or becoming part of a religious community, you should mention these as well.
- In asking for clemency or a pardon, explain why you are worthy. At the same time, if you are guilty of the crime you were convicted of, take full responsibility.
- Describe what your hopes for the future are, and how you would live your life if you were granted clemency or a full pardon.
- Thank the President for his time in reading the letter.
Most people will advise you to use a formal tone, but it is important to keep in mind that your clemency or pardon letter should also show your sincere feelings.
Congratulatory Letter to the President
To congratulate a President on being elected, you should:
- Write that you are congratulating the President on winning the election and taking office.
- Explain why you feel so touched by this President's election and what specific hopes for the future it represents for you.
- Wish the President well in carrying out the enormous task that lays before them.
- If you wish, you may include a powerful quote or personal anecdote.
Letters From Students
Teachers will sometimes ask students to write a letter to the President as part of a school project. This offers a great opportunity to learn to be part of the democratic process! You can:
- Thank the President for the hard work they do.
- Explain why you are grateful that the sitting Presidents holds the highest office.
- Share your concerns or things you don't like about the policies of this current administration.
- Share your opinion on the things you believe the President should prioritize.
- Thank the President for their time at the end of your letter.
Letters From Advocates
Letters from advocates are polemical by nature, and you are free to criticize the current administration or any political practice, as well as to call for change. Being polite and expressing your hope or confidence that the situation you are writing about can change helps, however. As you write your letter, include:
- Who you are and why you are writing — not just why you are advocating for a particular change, but why you are choosing to write to the President to help you achieve your goal.
- Information or reasons that you believe will catch the President's attention as you hope to influence policy.
- Personal stories that illustrate how the problem in question has impacted you personally, your family, or your community can be very helpful.
- What you are hoping to gain from sending this letter.
- Thank the President for their time and express hope that they will take the desired action.
Tips on How to Have Your Letter Read by the President
The staff within the Office of Presidential Correspondence are the gatekeepers who read the letters sent to the President. If they believe the President should personally read your letter, they will present it to the President. You can make their job easier — and increase your odds of getting your letter into the President's hands — by following best practices.
Formatting Your Letter to the President
The format of your letter should follow that of a standard business letter, and should look something like this:
[Your full name
Your full street address
If desired, include an email address and phone number]
[The date on which you are sending the letter]
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr President,
[Introduce yourself first. Be sure to include relevant details, which will depend on the context. If you are, for example, a teacher writing to call attention to a widespread problem within the school system, this would be the place to talk about your career and experience. If you are writing on behalf of an advocacy group, describe the group's activities here.]
[In your next section, describe your reason for writing and the outcome you are seeking.]
[Thank the President for their time, and end with a call to action or expression that you are hopeful that the President will take your concerns to heart]
[End with your full name.]
The Tone of Your Letter
The tone you choose for your letter depends on your goal in writing. If you are petitioning for a pardon, for instance, the tone will overwhelmingly be remorseful. If you are writing with the goal of influencing policy and calling for change, it may be angry — but should always be respectful. Never write anything that you wouldn't want the whole world to see, and that very much includes inappropriate language of any kind.
Timing Your Letter to the President Strategically
If you want your letter to be seen by the President, it is important to take current affairs and timing into account. Some factors to consider include:
- There is never a bad time for students to write a letter to the President. These letters can be written at any time.
- Pardons are generally issued at the very end of a presidency.
- Advocacy letters can be especially effective if the issue you are writing about has recently gained traction in the news. The President will want to hear from members of the public.
- If a pressing issue unrelated to the subject of your letter has just emerged, the chances that the President will read your letter are reduced. You may want to wait until the current crisis or issue has been resolved or settled slightly. For example, the time immediately following a school shooting may be a good time to write to the President about safety in schools, but not such a good time to address your climate change concerns.