By ALLISON DAVIS
President Barack Obama received a new round of advice, warnings and questions from the Mission District:
“Tell car companies to produce more hybrid cars!”
“We most definitely, will not” stay silent if our leaders do things to benefit themselves.
“How would you avoid having shoes thrown at you?”
The missives come from Kalden Richel Aulestang, Giorgia Peckman and Edgar Laczano—all among the pint-sized (10, 13 and 11 years old, respectively) presidential wonks who published their letters in a book produced by 826 Valencia and five of its other tutoring centers across the country.
These budding political advisers and full-blown Obama supporters read their letters to an audience Wednesday night. All the letters have been reproduced in Thanks and Have Fun Running the Country: Kids’ Letters to President Obama.
“Lower taxes on people who earn less than $200,000 a year,” read Aulestang.
Marco Ponce asked Obama to end the war in Iraq.
Giuseppe Pacheco, 7, equated the powers of the presidency with the powers of Santa Claus, and lobbied for a Nintendo DS and tree preservation. Mireya Perez, 8, had a book list for the President to read in his free time that included works by Caroline Hayward.
As diverse as the letters were, the message was clear as students took the microphone during the book release party: Obama draws the support and intellectual curiosity of the 18 local children who contributed.
“After the election, the children were asking so many questions,” said Jory John, program director of 826 Valencia.
Hoping the children’s excitement surrounding the event could continue, John asked students to write letters to Obama that he would then send to the White House. He called the other tutoring centers and asked them to do the same. The concept and content of the book was conceived.
One-third of students who take part in the program were able to contribute letters, and each letter was published. Their letters and illustrations were featured in an article in The New York Times, and children from around the country read their letters on NPR’s This American Life.
When John asked any audience member who had been published in The New York Times to raise their hand, nobody over the age of 10 could.
“I feel famous,” said Pacheco, beaming through his absent front teeth.
John, who also served as editor, worked to preserve the unique voice of each contributor. Editing only for punctuation, spelling and some clarification, John didn’t change a word—though some spelling errors were up for debate.
“We considered keeping ‘nerve wrecking’ instead of ‘nerve wracking’ right up until we went to print,” said John.
In the end, ‘nerve wracking’ won.
Rosie Barranates, 10, an animal lover who recommended President Obama name his new dog Max, was happy and sounded as confident as any adviser.
“I’m happy that I get to share my letter,” said Barrentes as she signed a copy of her book for an audience member. “I like Mr. Obama. I think he’s going to be a good president because he has our letters and they will help make him better.”
“I think he will be a better president than Bush,” said Ponce, an enthusiastic boy with large glasses, and then suggested the president might also consider a less diplomatic strategy with the former president. “He should get a pit bull so he can beat Bush up.”