When I was 9 years old, like many children my age, I started writing letters to famous people.
My judgment of who should be considered a famous person, however, was questionable.
I wrote to the Dr Pepper company, which is not even a person, although Dr Pepper was and is my favorite soft drink. Someone in the corporate communications department sent me back a very nice letter and a brochure about the history of Dr Pepper, but they did not send me any free Dr Peppers, which is what I was angling for.
I set my sights higher.
I wrote a letter to President Richard Nixon. This was in the fall of 1972, during his re-election campaign, and I told him that he had the full support of my fifth-grade class, as evidenced by the fact that at recess we used to chant, “Nixon, Nixon, he’s our man! McGovern belongs in the garbage can!”
The president wrote back!
I got a letter dated Jan. 11, 1973, and a brochure about the history of the White House.
“Dear Lisa: During a busy day it is delightful to hear from young friends and it was thoughtful of you to send me your poem! Your kindness brightened my day, and because you shared something with me, I thought perhaps you would enjoy having the enclosed booklet. With my gratitude and best wishes for the years ahead. Sincerely, Richard Nixon”
That inspired me to write a letter to Vice President Spiro Agnew, to see what I could get out of his office.
The vice president wrote back! Except by then he wasn’t vice president anymore.
I got a letter dated Nov. 13, 1973, a month after Agnew had resigned.
“Dear Miss Kestler: Your support and encouragement meant a great deal to me. I can only reaffirm my innocence to you and hope, in this complex and confusing situation, that you will try to understand that I believe the actions I have taken are in the best interest of the Nation.”
My greatest success during this letter-writing campaign came after I wrote a poem to the local newspaper.
They printed my poem as a letter to the editor! And then an editor called my mother and said they wanted to turn my poem into an advertisement for the newspaper, and could I come down to the office to get my photo taken?
Which I did, and then I got a grand tour of the newspaper — including the production room.
This was back in the days when newspapers were printed using big metal plates for each page. The men who worked in the production room put together the pages one metal letter at a time.
The backshop was noisy and kind of smelly and I instinctively knew that these were men who were Not To Be Messed With. I just stood quietly and stared at it all.
One of those tough-looking men bent down and asked me my name, and then he made my name out of metal letters and gave it to me, and I have kept it to this very day.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I went into journalism and not politics.
Lisa Davis is Features Editor of The Anniston Star. Contact her at 256-235-3555 or firstname.lastname@example.org.