Letters to Obama

Sending our community’s message(s) to our country’s new leader

Jan. 20, 2009—a day which will live in history. That’s when Barack Obama takes the oath of office and assumes the presidency. It’s a momentous occasion for more than ethnic diversity; he’s a once-in-a-generation leader who’s rallied the country in a way few politicians have. Rays of hope have penetrated dark times.

Inspiring people is one thing; serving them is another. Where he goes from here is critical.

With that in mind, CN&R readers and local officials answered our call for Letters to Obama: messages they want to send the president-elect (and share with their neighbors). We’ve sent these off electronically, and we’re sending the White House some crisp copies of the paper.

Scroll down and read some of the hopes, concerns and suggestions flowing from Chico to D.C.

Try this on: ‘Sustainability President’
Dear President Obama,

Greetings and congratulations from Chico! I often speak about our community values in terms of our economy, environment, and community and believe the best decisions should benefit all three elements of sustainability. May I suggest you adopt this decision-making approach and become known as America’s Sustainability President?

As you craft our economic-stimulus package, look at creating green-collar jobs: retooling factories to produce alternative-fuel vehicles and solar panels, creating energy and water retrofits to increase efficiency, or building hybrid cars. These new jobs would replace those lost to overseas manufacturing and offer Americans living wages for the special skills required for research and development, and to perform them.

At the turn of the 20th century, America created its first national park, taking the lead to protect our county’s wild and natural spaces. At the turn of the 21st century another step in preserving our planet’s environment was taken without us: endorsing the Kyoto Protocol. When the document’s framework is updated by 2012, our country should once again lead the world and make a commitment to reducing emissions.

Your message of inspiration, hope and pride will lead us through the difficult days ahead. We can’t expect you to do it alone; each of us must contribute to once again become a proud community of Americans. As Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”

The values of a strong economy, a healthy environment and a vibrant community are the values our country was built on. As we rebuild our nation, we look to you to sustain America’s values.


Ann Schwab
The Sustainability Mayor

The three H’s
Dear President Obama:

As much as you have emphasized that the 2008 presidential election was not about you, in so many critical respects it was about you.

You offer this country the promise of leadership based on personal qualities that are most needed in the American presidency and on the world’s stages. These are three, in particular:

First, humility. Never forget that you serve the people of this country and that you cannot get caught up in your own hubris. No electoral mandate is so large as to permit you to forget why folks voted for you and the hopes that they have in you. I hope that your decision to invite to give your inauguration invocation a minister who has launched savage attacks against our gay and lesbian fellow citizens is simply a lapse in judgment, and nothing more cynical.

Second, humanity. You often quote Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Lincoln, for it appears that you admire their singular ability to uplift the human spirit and appeal, in Lincoln’s words, to “the better angels of our nature.” Our country needs a president who will display genuine compassion, who will always seek to understand issues and needs from the perspectives of others who struggle to find the promise of the American dream, and who recognizes that might of arms will not prevail in a moral vacuum.

Third, humor. Yes, there is graveness in the office you now hold, and none of our problems lack seriousness. But people need to feel that you are tuned to what moves us, through the emotions we all have, and humor is among them. The humor you displayed at the Washington press corps dinner in October should not simply be staged. Let folks see you laugh, genuinely. And cry, genuinely.

The 2008 election has been seen by so many as the most important in this country since 1932. We need now, as then, eloquence of action to match the soaring appeal of your words.

Yours sincerely,

Paul J. Zingg
President, Chico State University

‘Real change, not just lip service’
Dear Barack,

The fact that you got elected should indicate to you just how much “the common folks” want real change and not just lip service.

Since WWII, we as a nation have been involved in more adventures in other lands than any other country in the world. It’s time to take care of our infrastructure by making a timeline to leave Iraq and sticking to it.

The next task should be to balance the federal budget and formulate a plan to get rid of our current deficit and become solvent again. Next, find an alternative renewable fuel source, since we all know oil is a limited commodity no matter how much oil exploration and gathering we do.

In our country, we should put an emphasis on enlarging our open-space parks and funding their budget so the land and facilities can stay open for the general public. Lastly, we need to work as equals with the rest of the world to solve some of the common problems afflicting all of us.


Ron Jones
Butte Valley

P.S. I would be thrilled if you could make progress on any of my suggestions!

Deputize DAs to ‘follow the money’
Dear President-elect Obama,

As a small-town prosecutor, let me speak to a different kind of “change” …

“Spare change.”

The public is slowly learning what a number of prosecutors have known for months: The mortgage “meltdown” is in fact the largest criminal rip-off in the nation’s history. Greedy and cunning criminals used crooked developers, appraisers, lenders and financial institutions to construct schemes that drained billions from an overheated real-estate market.

Prosecutors have a saying about “following the money” to track the criminal element. We have done so locally, but the width and breadth of this rip-off is beyond the resources and confined jurisdictions of local law enforcement. We had to look to our federal law enforcement partners and prosecutors. Yet they have the same constraints and resource concerns in taking on a new mega-class of crime and criminal.

Congress authorized $700 billion to help refill the coffers of those who lost the billions. But, amazingly, not one cent of the “bailout” money has been earmarked to “follow the money” and either to recover it or arrest those responsible for the rip-off.

Your promise of “change” has inspired millions to hope for a resurgence of American innovation and energy. Yet you come into office with a huge challenge as a result of the economic rip-off. Can we get a small portion of the bailout, perhaps just some spare change, to track down those responsible for this crisis?

Mike Ramsey
Butte County District Attorney

Advocate for economic truth
Dear Mr. Obama,

1. Make it clear to the American people that the Federal Reserve is not a government agency. It is a consortium of private banks from which the elected government can raise paper money. Interest accrues and money is printed based on these private bank loans! Beware of Paulson and his Wall Street cronies.

2. Advise the American people that all of the “make work” and government intervention during the Great Depression had no effect on the persistent 16 percent unemployment rate. Unemployment and recovery from the Great Depression occurred with the advent of WWII. Not everybody knows this!

3. Bailouts reward poor economic decisions and will prolong the recession/depression. Stop all bailouts! Make efforts to recover present handouts at the banks. Such foolish bailouts by Congress and the Bush administration deserve serious rebuke and oversight review by a nonpartisan committee of educated statesmen. Do it now!


Hugh Rhodes
retired professional,

No one can do it alone
Dear Mr. Obama,

I can only imagine the weight of responsibility you feel right now given the enormity of your task and the challenges we face as a nation. You may have already called to mind the words one of your heroes, Abraham Lincoln, spoke while boarding the train for his inaugural trip to Washington to assume “a task . . . greater than that which rested upon [President] Washington.” He said: “Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail.”

And so it has always been. God establishes nations and sets kings on their thrones. The calculus of divine grace teaches that those who humbly seek his will and strength and wisdom find them; those who don’t are left to make do with their own inadequate resources. No man or woman—however gifted—possesses the smarts to run this country without God’s help.

Don’t put your faith in your considerable natural talents, your advisers, least of all the opinion polls. Trust instead in the One who orchestrated your ascent to power and promises to provide grace and empowerment to all who call on Him in Christ.

And as you do so, know that you have tens of millions of Americans ready to follow your lead, supporting you with prayer, hoping that America will once again be known for the industry, honesty and good-heartedness of its people and a source of blessing to the world.


Tom Mount
Executive Pastor, Neighborhood Church

Focus on alternatives
President Obama,

I am writing to congratulate you on a hard-fought electoral win, and the subsequent sense of optimism and capability that now infuses the White House.

While I recognize that you will be immediately confronted by a horde of difficult and important issues to solve, I would like to strongly recommend that you give special focus to this country’s alternative-energy infrastructure.

We have an opportunity to develop sustainable alternative-energy technology that will help wean the world off of its current dependency on finite, dirty petroleum-based energy sources. In the process, we will be front and center in the fight to stave off global warming, and we will be developing an industry that will jumpstart the next cycle of job growth and wealth creation.

Given the collapse of energy prices and the horrific string of economic losses that have cascaded upon the country over the past six months, it might be easy to pause or delay our commitment to funding alternative-energy research and passing critical supportive alternative-energy policies. This would be a giant mistake, and I am confident it is one that you will not make.

The next time you are in Northern California, I cordially invite you to visit us at Springboard Biodiesel, where we are doing all we can to promote sustainable, renewable biodiesel solutions that work today.

Best regards,

Mark J. Roberts
CEO, Springboard Biodiesel

Promote our greatest assets
Mr. Obama,

On top of the mortgage meltdown, the banking crisis, the automotive-industry disaster, rising unemployment, and an unpopular war, could you consider a cabinet position to protect the multi-faceted national heritage of our country, promote cultural expression and develop the all-important economic engine of tourism?

Consider this: In many countries, this cabinet position examines and recommends cultural policies and activities, helps to manage national museums and monuments; promotes and protects the arts (visual, folk, theatrical, musical, dance, architectural, literary, television and film) and looks out for a country’s image around the world; not to mention the management of national archives and the creation of regional culture centers.

Why? Because of tourism and because of national pride. While it’s true the National Park Service handles some of this activity, we have no overriding resource, no connectivity among states to assure the safety and preservation of historic buildings or cultural assets or an overarching tourism campaign for our 50-plus states. It’s done individually.

Since 9/11, we’ve lost $100 billion, 200,000 jobs and $16 billion in tax revenue. We have no worldwide cheerleader. Will we continue to leave this to Britney Spears? Or Dick Cheney? Or Michael Jackson?

It’s time to reposition America. Rebuilding America’s infrastructure is a start. It offers educational opportunity on crafts that have been forgotten—from masonry and welding to wood-carving to the creation of frescoes and murals and even public gardens.

We can have a renaissance, Mr. President. We just need the word from you.

Debra Lucero
Executive Director, Friends of the Arts;
Butte County Cultural Tourism

Heal our health care
Mr. Obama,

America is sick—not only the economy, but also the system that fights sickness for profit is terminally ill due to greed and beggar-thy-neighbor cost shifting. Yes, you have much screaming out for your attention, but consider this: Fixing health care is integral to fixing the economy and making America competitive for the 21st century.

We spend twice as much on health care as any other country but languish at No. 31 in global league tables for outcomes. Would we tolerate being No. 31 in the Olympics? I think not.

The culprits? I suggest “follow the money”—insurers, drug companies and lawyers make money; physicians, hospitals and patients are sinking.

Tinkering is a waste of political effort. Go for full-scale reform. Offer Medicare or FEHBP [Federal Employees Health Benefit Plan] to all; let private companies compete with that. Employers should “pay or play”—a variation on the Chicago norm, but they’ll understand.

Strengthen primary care. We need more family physicians—subsidize medical education for primary-care physicians and equalize their pay with specialists, and it will happen. Ensure access to a medical home for all.

With rights come responsibilities. Tell the American people they will get the health care they need, not always what they want, and they will not be able to run to the lawyers if the care meets evidence-based standards.

Universal care can be paid for by removing the insurance companies’ 20 percent take, adding drug-price controls, ending frivolous litigation and the expensive, failing Medicaid program, which would be superfluous with universal coverage.

Roy L. Bishop, MD
CEO, Argyll Medical Group,

‘Excellent education for all’
Dear Mr. President-elect,

I hope you feel the nation’s confidence and anticipation as you prepare to assume office. A lifelong educator, I am optimistic about the future—even as we face great challenges. I also believe access to an excellent education for all is essential to planning for a transformed future. Our best hope for our citizenry is that we develop the values, the skills, and the knowledge to make wise choices.

Public education at all levels is the foundation for developing human potential that benefits both present and future generations. The increasing role of universities and schools in promoting civic engagement is significant—providing volunteer assistance to numerous outreach, educational, health and social-service agencies; modeling sustainable practices in the community; and involving students and community members in responsible dialogue and activism.

As you develop your plan of action, please know that we in public education support the ideals of our democracy, social justice, and responsible economic development that benefit our communities, nation and world. We know that education is a major contributing factor in creating a solid future for our children and grandchildren, but that it alone will not suffice unless we also address poverty and health care.

Despite these great challenges, I believe in the lasting impact of inspired democratic leadership. You have my best wishes as you assume and carry out your responsibilities to our nation, both here and abroad.

Sandra Flake
Provost, Chico State University

Promise of peace in Promised Land
Mr. Obama,

The Middle East conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis has been dragging for a long time. Its continuation is not good for the Israelis, the Palestinians, the United States, or world peace. Our country, the U.S., is the only country in the world that can bring a lasting peace between the parties of the conflict.

The foreign policy of the U.S. in that part of the world has to be based on fairness and justice to both peoples, the Palestinians and the Israelis. Our government does not have to support or reward Israel with all sorts of economic, political, or military help even when Israel is wrong. That is going to worsen the situation, make it last longer, and bring more death and destruction in that region. Putting pressure on Israel to allow a viable Palestinian state to exist next to Israel would bring back respect to America in the Middle East and peace.

Peoples of that troubled region are sick and tired of wars imposed on them by foreign powers. Please don’t wait till your last year in office to get involved in that serious conflict. Peoples of the region are losing precious lives and running out of patience. They need your special attention now.

Fawzi Morrar

U.S. priorities need an overhaul
Mr. Obama,

I am a third-generation Japanese-American whose parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles were all interned during WWII. The hardships they endured have led me to be against all wars. I believe ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan must be a high priority in the Obama administration.

The billions of dollars being spent to occupy these two nations is a huge travesty ethically and economically. I am so ashamed as an American that we have not been able to stop this behavior, beginning with the near genocide of the Native People on this continent. Our nation must shift from a war economy to a peace-based one.

Once we free up the money that is being drained by war and destruction, we could reallocate funding for health care for all in the form of a single-payer system; rebuild our schools; reorganize the prison system into one of rehabilitation; and promote sustainability in transportation, farming and energy production.

My 23-year-old son would love to be employed with a “green” job rather than be approached by military recruiters.

Organizations that protect our precious resources should be fully funded. My husband works often through volunteer service to protect our local groundwater. My small nonprofit (Beyond Violence Alliance, through Community Collaborative for Youth) relies on grants that recently have been decreasing. Diverting money from our military budget and re-channeling these funds to social programs would benefit the youth who are our future leaders.

Our country’s priorities are in dire need of an overhaul. We must start with ending the wars and truly being a democracy that promotes peace and justice in the world.

Thank you for listening.

Diane Suzuki
violence-prevention educator,

‘You have given me hope’
Dear President Obama,

On Election Day, my wife and I awoke very early in the morning to join other Democratic supporters in a tradition that goes back many years. We all met at the Democratic headquarters downtown to pick up door-hangers in support of candidates and issues important to us.

Your name was at the top, of course, but I felt very honored to be on that list as a candidate for City Council. I remember you saying that we should all do what we can in service to our country, and this was something I could do.

It was dark and cold that early November morning as we walked door to door. At one point, a light rain started to fall, but it did not dampen our spirits. Fellow volunteers we met remained enthusiastic and cautiously optimistic about the day.

As the sun came up, the clouds dissipated, and this new day began with sunshine and blue skies and the fresh smell after a rain. It truly felt like a new day, fresh with promise. When I voted, I got to vote for both of us, and we both won!

I don’t expect you to fix everything in America, but you have given me hope and confidence that we can make substantial progress by adhering to the key principles upon which our country is founded. You have called us to action and inspired us.

Can we make America better? Can we restore constitutional rights, build a sustainable, eco-friendly economy, and improve our health-care system? Can we extricate ourselves from ill-advised conflicts? Yes we can! Of course we can!

Jim Walker
Chico City Councilman

Sing along (literally)
Mr. Obama,

I am an unemployed 59-year-old paralegal with excellent references, and I have been looking for work for over a year. Do you have a job for me? I wrote a song about you called “O O O O Obama,” much admired here in Chico.

O O O O O Obama
You’ve got that winnin’ smile
O O O O O Obama
You’ve got that winnin’ style

We all heard you confess
America is still in such a mess
Since those crazy nuts crashed those planes
And you know we just have to make a change
We all saw the evil and we cheered its destruction
But what we all need now is some redemption
You convinced us that you’re the best man
To lead us to the promised land

Now you’ll stop feedin’ our children to War So Cruel
Stop chokin’ Mama Earth in all Her Oil
Make the Big Machine
Run on Somethin’ Clean
‘fore Mama Nature just up and dies
and we won’t have to hear no more lies

O O O O O Obama
You’ve got that winnin’ smile
O O O O O Obama
You’ve got that winnin’ style

You gave us the choice of hope over fears
You rose above the snarling evil sneers
You know Mohammed’s not the enemy
And it’s possible to live in harmony

O O O O O Obama
You’ve got that winnin’ smile
O O O O O Obama
You’ve got that winnin’ style

J.W. Moss

Remember who we cast votes for—and didn’t
Congratulations, President Barack Obama.

I remind you that the American people rejected Bush Jr.’s candidate, Sen. John McCain, and [both] their economic policies. So, Mr. Obama, yes, listen to the Republican leaders in Congress, but ignore most of their advice—they’re the team (Bush Jr., Congressional Republicans, Schwarzenegger, etc.) that has ruined the U.S. economy and diminished both our military capacity and our standing in the world.

The Republicans failed Americans domestically and internationally and now more than 10 million Americans are unemployed, our troops are tied down in two “Vietnam” wars, and we’re more than $11 trillion in debt.

President Obama, work on rebuilding our economy (people with jobs pay taxes), rebuilding our military and getting political solutions for both wars. Rebuild our relations around the world, fix our health-care system (the best in the world, but with the largest overhead in accounting paperwork and staff) and start getting America out of the sinkhole of so much dependence on fossil fuel.

Finally, my best hope is you keep having, on a regular basis, conversations with the American people, so we all understand how long it will take for America to get out of the messes we are in. And thank you for running the best campaign ever, one that connected with everyday Americans in their needs, hopes and dreams.

Bob Mulholland
DNC member,

Please leave NCLB behind
Dear President-elect Obama,

Please reverse the destruction of No Child Left Behind and preserve public schooling for all children. Restore faith in the ability of teachers to know and learn what is best for their students. And help to provide resources to do both of those things.

Ann Schulte
Professor of Education,

‘Reinvest in our most important infrastructure’
Mr. Obama,

Let’s take bravery, courage and patriotism to new levels and dismantle the war machine and use the resulting available resources, both human and natural, to reinvest in our most important infrastructure, our children.

Let’s give signing bonuses to a service corps to flood the schools with tutors, mentors, elders, counselors, musicians, artists, philosophers, visionaries of all kinds to help our children with just what are the possibilities, as well as responsibilities, of being a conscious human being—helping them to help us all get around to that pesky question we’ve been a little busy to get to: just what could or should our role here be as co-inhabitants of this unquestionably rare and spectacular form known to us now as Planet Earth.

Robert Speer

We don’t always agree, ‘but I trust you’
Dear President Obama:

I have never missed voting in a presidential primary or general election since my first primary in 1976 when I was 18 years old. Seventeen times I have gone to the voting booth and voted for the lesser of two evils, or against someone. On Nov. 4, 2008, for the first time, I voted for a presidential candidate.

When I took a pen and filled in the bubble next to your and Joe Biden’s names, I knew it was the right decision. That said, I don’t agree with everything you say, and frankly some things you say scare me, but I trust you.

Please be good to the Earth. Treat all people with respect, compassion and understanding. Restore our national dignity to once again be the beacon of light. Have a strong national defense (not offense), and provide the means for development of energy independence.

Good luck,

Larry T. Buckle
civil engineer,

Prayers for the new president
Dear Sen. Obama:

Although I did not vote for you, I will keep you in my prayers.

I will pray that you have a presidency free from the horrors of war and terrorism.

I will pray that you will bring our country together and reach out to our young people. Reach out and tell them there is no shame in bringing in a crop from the fields; there is no shame in keeping a school or hospital clean; there is no shame in serving others—whether it be in a fast-food restaurant or elsewhere. The only shame is being able, but not willing, to work.

I will pray that our young seek out the opportunities for education available to them and stay the course.

I will pray that you and your family remain safe from harm and that you keep our country safe from those who wish us harm.

And I will pray that the example you set as president of this country will go down in history as one of the greatest eras of our times.


Claudette P. Schwartz
retired school employee,