Unread at Any Speed, by Ralph Nader

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By Ralph Nader, from Return to Sender, a collection of 115 unanswered letters Nader sent to George W. Bush and Barack Obama between 2000 and 2015, out this month from Seven Stories Press.

Dear President Obama,

In previous correspondence I have taken note of the remarkably consistent practice by the White House of neither responding (whether by you or your staff) to substantive letters on pending or proposed public policies nor even providing the courtesy of acknowledging receipt. In 2009 I had a telephone conversation with Mr. Mike Kelleher, who was in charge of handling letters to the president. He recognized that you did not have any policy about when and if you or White House staff would respond or even acknowledge the receipt of substantive letters. He said that he would get back to me were such a policy established. He never did.

This official discourtesy by the White House was not always the case. President Carter and his staff were often responsive. But as the years wore on, presidents became less and less responsive, until George W. Bush and you closed the door. I know of no person sending you a policy letter, either critical or suggestive, who has received either a response or an acknowledgment.

By contrast, I am enclosing two letters sent to me by A. Opalick and M. Bourque, the executive correspondence officers of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. My letters raised factual concerns about the prime minister’s urging of Verizon to enter the Canadian telecommunications market. Note both the acknowledgment and the referrals to the proper minister. Isn’t this something you can emulate — making citizens at least know that their substantive letters were received and were sent to the proper government department after possibly being read by White House staff?

I look forward to your response or that of your staff.

Sincerely yours,

Ralph Nader

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