Monday, November 14, 2016

Ten Letters for the President [99pi and GMD]

This is what I'm sharing in this week's Global Math Department newsletter:

Ten Letters for the President

I’ve mentioned my favorite podcast before. Recently 99% Invisible released Episode 235, Ten Letters for the President. It’s definitely worth listening to in light of recent events in U.S. politics.

The podcast does a thorough job explaining the process of President Obama receiving tens of thousands of letters a day from people across the country. In reality, he only reads 10 letters each day which turns out to be less than 0.1% of the letters received. Those 10 letters are a small sample of the pulse, emotions, heartaches, and thoughts of thousands across the country. The president says, “These letters, I think, do more to keep me in touch with what’s going on around the country than just about anything else.”

I share this podcast episode for three reasons:

  1. It’s a reminder of the impact our current events can have on all of us; teachers, students, family, strangers, friends, enemies, cities, states, countries, and all humans. No matter how large the impact, I believe we as individuals can have a far greater impact with how we treat those we have contact with each day. Our students need to see us be good humans. We are in their daily world. Be good humans.
  2. These letters to the president are super important. If less than 0.1% of the daily letters received can positively inform and impact the president, then these letters could very well be more valuable than any tweet, blog post, or Facebook comment one might dispense into their social media bubble.
  3. I hope these letters continue to pour into the president, especially after January 20, 2017. I hope 10 letters continue to be read by the president each day. I hope those letters keep the president in touch with what’s going on. I hope that if something is on your heart, you write the president. I hope that if something is on your students’ hearts, they write the president. Be good humans when doing so. That 0.1% might be the most important percentage we ever teach in math.


  1. Great post Andrew. I haven't heard this episode yet. Any idea on who selects the 10 (are they randomly picked or curated?) or whether this precedent existed prior to Obama?

    1. Thanks Robert!
      Great episode. Definitely check it out as your questions should be answered. The workers narrow the letters down to group of letters that represents different parts of the country, a range of concerns, and often two sides to each concern, if possible. Eventually, one person chooses 10 of these letters for the president to read. I would assume there was a process for the preceding presidents, but this episode focused on the Obama administration.

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