Sam Bauman: Americans play out free speech in president’s mailroom
I never got close to covering the White House in my journalistic career; best I could do was the Pentagon miles away at The Associated Press. And I surely never knew of the White House “mailroom” located in the old Executive Building nearby.
I found out about the “mailroom” in the New York Times Sunday magazine of Jan. 22. Of course, there had to be someone someplace handling the more than 10,000 daily letters addressed to the president of the United States. That’s the freedom of speech we hail, writing a letter to the boss. Letters to the president go to the hard-mail room where a group of letter readers sorts them out. At the beginning of his term President Barack Obama said he wanted to read his mail, so every day the large staff of the mailroom would pick 10 letters to forward to him. Not laudatory but important and varied. These were called LADs, and Obama took them nightly to his quarters of the White House to read and scribble comments for the reply.
Picking those letters was an arduous task. Obama’s Office of Presidential Correspondence had 50 staff members, 30 interns and 300 volunteers. And everyone involved read letters, sorting them into categories. The letters were categorized and passed on to be answered with the best response. Any letter that had an element of emergency such as threats of suicide were rushed to the appropriate agency.
Thus far, President Donald Trump has said nothing about the future of this office, obviously an important way to know how the country was thinking. Trump may not feel letters are that important.
The many letters quoted in the Times article show that writers have opinions, problems, sorrow and emotional woes. That they would write them to someone they do not know personally suggests that they care enough about things to want to talk them over with the president.
I’ll cite just one letter, from Ashley DeLeon of Jacksonville, N.C. She writes about trying to save her Marine father from suicide.
“I am writing to ask your help. Not for my family, Mr. President. My family died that night. I’m asking you to help for others. The little girls and boys who have yet to see their mother’s and father’s souls die away. They need help. Get them help. Don’t forget about them. They need you just like Sasha and Malia need you. They do.”
An important letter for her and President Obama.
Too bad that so few Carson citizens can’t read the whole story of the Office of Presidential Correspondence as it appears in the Times. But a new office will emerge and 10,000 citizens daily will exercise their freedom of speech. Not many countries will offer citizens so much.
A movie you can safely miss
“XXX: The Return of Xander Cage” is a vehicle for Vin Diesel to flex his muscles and save the world from Pandora’s Box, a device that can send satellites crashing into specific sites.
He has plenty of help, including sharpshooter Adele (Ruby Rose) who spends much of the film aiming at foes but not doing much shooting. It all starts with Samuel L. Jackson recruiting footballer Neymar Jr. to the team in a neat show of soccer skill, but from there it’s all downhill as Diesel flexes muscles, if not brains. (Diesel is listed as a producer of the film, a neat way to make more money out of inept acting.)
Xander Cage (Diesel) is retired from the XXX program, but he’s asked to come back to help find the Pandora Box.
If watching long periods of computer-generated images amuses you, there is plenty of them here, including a 20-minute gun battle so confused you never know whom you’re supposed to be rooting for.
There’s lots of gunplay and Diesel gets to display his mighty hulk often, which is the major plot device. Sadly, Diesel isn’t enough of an actor to carry the film to its bloody conclusion.
I didn’t really want to see this film last week but the one I wanted to see,”Silence,” a venture into feudal Japan, only plays at 9:40 p.m. which means a past-midnight finish, which is too late for these old eyes. Maybe when it moves to the Stadium second run cinema at a better time, I’ll report on it.
It’s got to be better than watching Vin flex his chest.
Sam Bauman writes about senior affairs, among other things, for the Nevada Appeal.