In the Fall of 2016, there were Trump supporters. And then there was Samantha Schaedler who made a bold pledge to her three sons Nathan, Luke and Jack.
“I said "boys don’t worry. If Donald Trump gets elected we will write him a letter every day in office. And highlight the people who make this country great.’”
“It just never crossed my mind that it was a possibility,” she added.
Schaedler, who also happens to be a history teacher, may have come up with the greatest lesson of all. It was not the outcome she and her family expected. But perhaps she could teach her boys that we all have a hand in making this country great again?
So on November 9th, 2016 with election results in hand, the Schaedler family did a quick crunch of the numbers.
“One-thousand-four-hundred-and-sixty letters,” announced son, Nate. That’s how many letters the Schaedlers promised they would write over the next four years.
“I thought she was just trying to make us feel better. Not like we’re going to write them all and like he’s really going to get elected,” said Jack, the youngest of the Schaedler siblings.
Donald Trump did get elected which meant they had to get going.
And before long, the Schaedler family project spread. Friends like Ryan Pollack were inspired to share stories of good stuff Americans they love.
“Andrea Pollock is my grandmother. She volunteers in a church to feed homeless people, “ Pollock read aloud from his letter to the President.
Another friend Parker wrote President Trump about his brother, who is in the service and stationed in Germany. “He inspires me because he helps the whole country by serving in the Army,” Parker read.
Word of the Schaedler family effort soon grew and took on a name: The American Stories Project. It now has its own Facebook page too.
The only rules: the letters must be positive, kind and the stories true.
Each letter sent to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has the same header, same introductory letter and a picture of the Schaedler boys at the bottom. Even the type of envelope used never changes.
Strength in uniformity. “I wanted everything to look the same, so that whoever is opening the letter says, “Ah, here’s that letter again.” It’s just a statement about good people and how we as Americans do good things,” she said.
Especially, when it seems, the news is filled with stories about gun deaths, mass killings and acts of terrorism on foreign and American soil.
“The Boston bombing, people were helping people. It’s not about being a Democrat. It’s not about being a Republican. It’s just simply about being American,” said Samantha.
“I’m writing about my grandpa who was an immigrant from Taiwan. He inspires me to be a great person every day and I hope I can be like him one day,” said friend Nicholas.
As Facebook followers have grown, the Schaedlers have gotten more letters for their American Stories Project from across the country.
“You find that everyone has a story,” Samantha said.
Sometimes they come straight to Samantha, served up table side.
“I stopped our waitress and I said, “What’s your story?” A single mom, working two jobs, going to school so that she can have a better life for her and her son. That’s what makes this country great.”
That story went to President Trump too.
Since January 20th, 280 letters on the day we visited the Schaedlers in October.
All those letters to the White House.
And have they ever gotten a response?
“This is one of the letters from Donald Trump,” the Schaedler boys showed us.
“Thank you for your kind and generous words of support. With very best wishes, Donald Trump,” they read. The boys believe the letters are making it to the nation’s leader, they’re less certain that he’s reading every one. But that’s okay. Their stories will reach someone.
Stories about great Americans like the man who broke baseball’s color barrier.
“Jackie Robinson made America great. And he loved his country,” said Jack.
And the valuable lesson Robinson taught us all?
“Stay strong and don’t back down,” said Luke.
So many teachable moments born out of a knee-jerk reaction to write the President, including this lesson:
“We have to respect the office. And an understanding that this job is not easy,” Samantha said.
So how is the President doing?
Friend Nicholas said, “I think he does a pretty good job. But I feel like it can get better. There’s still more room to improve and I hope we can do that.”
Optimism and hope from a generation looking forward.
And a history lesson that we can all learn from.
“By far the United States of America is still the greatest place to live. And we should be proud of that,” Samantha said.
The letters from Nathan, Luke, Jack and others outside the Schaedler family will be mailed daily. Samantha Schaedler hopes one day she can publish a book of all the letters and stories.
Want to submit your own letter for them to forward to the White House? Email firstname.lastname@example.org