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Man reading war news aboard streetcar. San Francisco, California

[Detail] Reading war news aboard streetcar. San Francisco, California

Writing Letters Responding to Constituents

Responding to letters from constituents is one of the jobs that staff members working for public officials do. The staff member must make each person feel that his/her opinion has been heard (after all, the official may be running for office again and may hope to win that person's vote), even though the official may not agree with the constituent's view.

Imagine that you worked for President Roosevelt in 1942. The following comments from the "Dear Mr. President" recordings have been sent to the White House. How would you respond? What tone would you take in your answers? To what extent would you respond to the person's specific questions or observations?

"Sam Rife: President Roosevelt, I'm an independent ice dealer here in Austin. And most of the folks I know around here are one hundred percent behind you. We are ready to go to any lengths to help win this war, and I know that you've got our welfare in mind. We are interested, however, in helping keeping the home fires burning here and it seems like the prices are just getting up a little when they really don't have to. We hope you are able to do something about that, and whether you do or don't though, I know this that Austin folks and my friends are going to be behind you one hundred percent."

From "Dear Mr. President", Austin, Texas, January or February 1942 (AFS 6402A)

"Margaret Patterson: I, Margaret Patterson, am a social worker in child welfare services with the State Department of Public Welfare at Middlebury, Vermont. Daily in the routine of my job I visit the homes of suffering and deprived rural children. Children from broken homes, from homes where there is discord between father and mother, where there is suffering from lack of food, clothing, proper housing, and health measures . . .

With the outbreak of war we have known we would have to expect the postponement of many welfare plans and programs. We have seen also a greater need for social work because of the increase in delinquency, the tendency to exploit the child in industry, the further breakdown of families because of parents' absence from home either in the armed forces or in industry. The security of the children with whom we have worked and indeed of all children has been threatened.

We realize that an all out program for a national defense is necessary, but we hope that with the more dramatic needs of the armed forces, the needs of children will not be forgotten. I do not feel that it is something that can wait until the war has been won. The children who are with us now are the men and women who will have to help reconstruct the world when we have peace."

From "Dear Mr. President", Middlebury, Vermont, January or February 1942 (AFS 6420A)

"Alexander Luvey: It is generally recognized that the Negroes of the South are not contributing as much as they can contribute to his national defense. Nor are they receiving the benefits which the federal government desires them to receive. This is due to the fact that the federal government is working through constituted local authorities. It is true that local served government is a theory of democratic government, but Mr. President, this is a condition and not a theory which confronts us Negroes in the South. When the head of our government publically announces that this is a white man's country, when the head of our local Department of Education fights vigorously to maintain a duo educational system paying different salary schedules, how can we expect that the local authorities will function fairly and efficiently for the Negro?"

From "Dear Mr. President", Nashville, Tennessee, January or February 1942 (AFS 6439A)