I'd like to begin by thanking you for your efforts to improve life for the greater majority of us who often find ourselves at a socioeconomic and political disadvantage in this country. I'll be frank - beyond thanking you for your hard work, I had difficulty deciding what to say, share or address. In the interest of being concise, I'll say the following:
Please remember artists. We are keepers of culture and ambassadors of change. With so much arts funding being cut, so many children are adversely affected by reduced access to creative, constructive self-expression and discovery.
Please remember CeCe McDonald, a young transwoman from Minneapolis who has been imprisoned and unjustly, dangerously faces jail time in a men's facility. Her crime? Defending herself against transphobic, racist attackers, one of whom broke glass against her cheek. For more information on her case, please visit supportcece.wordpress.com. Please also remember countless other trans and gender variant/gender non-conforming people who face violence, discrimination, and imprisonment at disproportionately higher rates than their cisgender counterparts.
Please remember college students, graduates, and their parents who are riddled with crippling student loan debt and often have to choose between eating and making student loan payments.
In closing, thank you for dedication to the people, both before your presidency and now. I look forward to another four years with you and your beautiful family in the White House.
P.S. I'd be honored if you and the First Lady could check out facebook.com/aliahatch. You'll be able to learn more about me and my work there.
(phone and email included)
Dear President Obama,
Philadelphia was once known for its brotherly love and Independence Mall. Now, it is more known as for its violent people and poor elementary education. The people of Philadelphia have been plagued by the high crime and murder rate and the failing schools stretching citywide.
I was one of the lucky ones.
I attended Webster Elementary School until fourth grade, when my mother realized how unfulfilling and unsuccessful the Philadelphia public school system was, and still is. I was moved to Ascension of Our Lord School, where I received the education the youth of this city needs, although it was still a very poor school. Once I graduated with honors, I attended Girard College. I graduated with a 3.5 GPA on June 7, 2012. I cannot stress how much Girard College has influenced and turned my life completely around. It has shaped me into a better young man than I would have ever been. I realized this during my freshmen year.
On October 11, 2008, I was at home on Jasper Street in Kensington standing near my room waiting to use the bathroom, when my mother told me that my cousin Polla has been shot.
Then my grandmother called me and told me that the shots were fatal, and that he drew his last breath near A Street in the North side of Philadelphia. As it turns out, he was shot for placing a beer bottle on the neighbor’s steps, not knowing the fatal consequences he would have to face later on. He was about 34. His birthday was only a few days away. The suspect was just a kid like me, about 18-21 years old. His mother lived in the house where the bottle was placed.
Now people who read this might say that I am just another person complaining about the school system. But no one can deny that if that kid received a quality education and found a passion for learning, like so many whose parents pull them out of the public school system, he would not have been in and out of a jail cell since he was 15 and the life of my cousin Polla would have been spared.
But even the loss of my own blood could not match the loss I faced, and more importantly the whole Hispanic community of North Philadelphia faced, during my senior year at Girard College.
I remember January 11, 2012 as if it was yesterday. I was in my dorm room on my laptop when I began to see Facebook status updates saying, “R.I.P. Javy, Donti, and Fatty.” There were too many status updates to count. People of all ages began to update their statuses. The names sounded familiar so I looked up the news story and that’s when I saw their faces: They were three good friends and three young boys. Sixteen-year-old Javier Orlandi and 14-year-old Joshua Soto, the one I was closest too, were pronounced dead at the scene. Dante Lugo, 14, fought for his life in St. Christopher’s Hospital. Facebook pages to support their family were set up, such as “Pray For Donti.” Everyone in the neighborhood gathered outside the hospital in support, but he eventually drew his last breath in that hospital bed and was taken off life support.
Memorial services were set up throughout all of North Philadelphia. One in particular caught everyone’s attention. A memorial was set up near the crime scene in Juniata Park. People came to pray, to remember, to weep, to place candles and teddy bears, even to shoot music videos in honor and to remember the boys. I attempted to attend the memorial service that Friday but, like everyone else, I was crying and mourning way too much to go anywhere. I drove by and broke down into tears.
I cannot fully blame the boys or the murderer, Axel Barreto. The boys were looking for a fight with Barreto’s stepsons over an argument that began on Facebook--and yes, I do understand that if a group of boys wanted to fight your sons, any father or mother would seek to protect his or her own. But what I do not approve of is that now people are too quick to pick up a gun and begin opening fire to resolve their problems. They were only kids. There is no way to justify that murder, whatsoever, at least in my opinion.
Think of the education both sides had. If the boys were well educated and raised in a neighborhood other than the Badlands, they may have not been so quick to resort to violence during an altercation. They would have had better problem-solving skills. If Barreto received a better education, he might have known that violence is not the way. The Philadelphia School District does not know what effect it has when they have to make cuts on budgets or teachers from their job. These are the long-term effects. Violence, murder, stupidity.
Mayor Nutter, in response to the boys’ deaths, had a speech saying he will make a crackdown on the curfew for minors and on gun violence. I have seen neither. If he is reading this, I urge him to crackdown harder and soon, before another entire community loses their young.
President Obama, I ask you to please, nationwide, at the very least, start putting an emphasis on the urban public school system in America to better themselves, to promote schools such as Girard College, and provide more help to schools such as Girard so that kids, such as the ones stated above, can avoid being on the streets. Also, I ask you to urge the Mayor to truly crackdown on the curfew and the parents of kids in order for tragedies such as this one can be avoided. Please and Thank You, Sir.
Edgar Javier Pagan
(phone number and email included)
Kensington And Allegheny (K and A), Philadelphia
Dear Mr. Obama
My friend Zoe told me that if I wrote you a letter she would try and hand deliver it when she met you. As you can imagine writing a letter to the president can be a very intimidating task. The first thing is to decide what I do write about, the war, the economy, foreign or domestic policy. Then I had to decide the tone of the letter. Should I come across as groveling or demanding? Then there is the 3rd and most intimidating obstacle, using spelling, grammar, and punctuation properly. If you haven't guessed yet I'm not very good at any of those 3. This left me with 2 choices. Either I could wallow in my analysis paralysis and not write you a letter for fear of not being perfect, or I could just go for it, speak from the heart, and make lots of mistakes. I thought I’m never gunna have another chance to have my letter hand delivered to a president. I should just go for it. I want to thank you in advance for taking time out of your busy schedule to read my letter.
I'm a gay man and I have been in a committed relationship for 8 1/2 years. I love living in the United States, and I particularly enjoy living in Pennsylvania. If you looked at my heart it would probably be keystone shaped. Even though I'm very happy with my life I often ask myself why do I continue to live in a state that treats me like a 2nd class citizen. Why can't I marry the man I love? The biggest reason we don't move to another state is cuz we can't afford to, and also because we don't want to let bigotry control our lives. We don't have much money. As a couple we manage to get by, and we're happy in our working class, row home lifestyle. If something were to happen to me, however, my significant other would be in dire straits. Because we cannot legally get married, I can't afford to add him to the deed of the house. The taxes we would have to pay for that are prohibited. If we were married there would be no taxes to add him to the deed. I have left the house to him in my will; but we don't have the money to pay the inheritance tax. If we were married the taxes wouldn't be so high. When something happens to me the love of my life will be homeless.
When I saw that you came out in support of same sex marriage I was overjoyed. I quickly googled your speech to see what you were planning on doing to promote gay marriage. I saw you were planning on doing nothing. When I saw that you supported the states right to discriminate I was crestfallen. The fact that you stated this the day after the North Carolina decision only legitimized their right to discriminate. Why couldn't you have come out the day before the election to announce your support for gay marriage? Did you really have to wait one day? Your statement of personal support feels as if it is nothing but a campaign trick. I feel like you are exploiting my 2nd class standing as a publicity stunt. You are the president. You have the power to put pen to paper and make some significant changes. Please do your job and bring about equality. Not many presidents have enacted change to legally eliminate a groups standing as 2nd class citizens. Don't you want that as part of your legacy?
Thanks again for taking the time to read my letter, and for allowing my to express my Opinion.
A friend in Pennsylvania.
Dear President Obama:
Thank you for being the first president in United States history to make clear the inequity lesbian and gay Americans are facing. You’re very brave.
It’s extraordinary that you would risk your career by coming out in favor of lesbian and gay marriage. As a gay man I want to thank you, as a country’s leadership can make all the difference in stemming violence against LGBTQ people.
Because you are so brave president Obama, let me implore you to please talk openly about the gay genocide underway in Iraq since your inauguration. For several years this extermination program against gay men has been sanctioned by both Sunni and Shiite clerics, and has cost thousands of lives.
No political asylum has been granted to a single gay man in Iraq, and all who seek protection have been turned away from the Green Zone. As an American gay man I am not interested in my rights if they destroy the rights of gay men abroad. The lesbians and gay men who serve in the United States military have helped to destabilize the secular government of Iraq, and have indirectly led the way to this most alarming genocide against gay men.
Gay men and women have no allies in Iraq against this rising religious extremism. It would make all the difference if you would talk about the genocide. In the end gay marriage and military service for LGBTQ Americans is pointless if we endanger the rest of the world without any effort to rescue those LGBTQ people left behind in a country we have torn apart.
Your speaking out against this genocide would lead the way to creating petitions for political asylum and safe homes for these persecuted gay men. As an American I am horrified by this genocide resulting from our invasion and occupation of Iraq. And as an American who voted for you, who has had great confidence in you, I ask you to please speak up for these gay men in Iraq who have no voice and no protection.
Your voice will mean everything. Thank you Mr. President.
and I wrote a letter and my mom wrote a letter. those will come up soon.