Students send `Mail to the Chief'; Youngsters have many suggestions for Obama.


Byline: Ellie Oleson

OXFORD - Shortly before the presidential election last fall, a mock election was held for students at the Alfred M. Chaffee Elementary School. Barack Obama defeated John McCain, 286 votes to 171 votes.

After the inauguration, as part of the nationwide program "Handwriting Without Tears," more than 400 students in kindergarten though Grade 4 at the school wrote "Mail to the Chief" letters to President Obama, said Kathy Regele, occupational therapist. "All handwritten letters were delivered to the White House on Jan. 23."

So far, no response has come back from Mr. Obama.

"It's history. It's exciting. I want them to remember it. They had interesting points of view," said teacher Mary L. Freudenthal, whose fourth-grade class offered suggestions and expressed their concerns to the new president.

Tyler Provencher, 9, said, "There are some issues, such as Wall Street, the job market and pets being abandoned. Nasdaq and Dow Jones are tumbling down 100 to 700 points. Wall Street is losing millions of dollars."

Future financier Riley Brady, 10, suggested, "Lower the cost of mortgage. Some people might lose their homes, then the mortgage isn't being paid, so the mortgage company might close."

Many of the students wrote about the war in Iraq.

"Bring home the soldiers. Some of our soldiers are dying. Soldiers might have wives, husbands and children that miss them," said Brooke Storey, 10, and Tiara Johnson, 9, said, "Our soldiers miss their families, friends and pets."

"Kids will feel scared if their parents are in Iraq," said Ethan Smith, 9, and Kelsi Mitchell, 9, wrote, "I think we should take the soldiers back little by little, so we don't cause destruction or another war."

"We shouldn't be fighting wars in other countries while we are having our own problems," Dalton Bodreau, 9, said, and Colin J. Bent, 9, wrote, "We could use the money being spent on war to increase welfare and health care at home."

Luke Matthew Myhaver, 10, wrote, "Some poor people get money from government and buy things they want instead of what they need. Good luck, and try to be the best president you can be."

Literacy teacher Susan F. Peltier, who organized the mock election, said interest in national politics came from home and from school, where the Telegram & Gazette's Newspapers in Education program allowed students to follow daily news.

"It's a wonderful program that keeps our students connected. We love it," Ms. Peltier said.

Valerie J. Zuidema...

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