He could show you, for instance, any one of the 110,000 letters he has drafted since 2008, because he keeps them scanned and alphabetized in a folder on his computer. He could tell you that Clinton’s personal stationery was once cream-colored, with her name at the top in blue, but that now the paper is white with a blue border. He could tell you that for most of her life, she signed her name without looping the “y” in “Hillary,” but that after her first presidential campaign eight years ago, a small almond-shaped sliver suddenly appeared at the base of the “y.” (He would also note, however, that in letters from the ’70s and ’80s, “every once and awhile she does loop the ‘y.’”) And he could tell you that, for about nine years, every letter has been written in Poor Richard, a squat typeface with tiny curled serifs, originally used in Poor Richard’s Almanac, because at some point in 2008, a letter from a friend arrived and Clinton exclaimed, “I love that font,” sending her executive assistant on a hunt to identify it.
Since Election Day, about 100,000 letters have arrived — two times the amount that Clinton received during the 18-month campaign, according to Russo. People send art. Kids send drawings. One person sent a Thanksgiving turkey, which was thrown away upon discovery. (“I don’t know if it was cooked,” Russo notes.) About a month after the election, Russo had to rent a U-Haul to pick up 50 boxes from the post office. “We’re still digging through stuff from December and January.”
“And then there are other people who say ‘I miss you.’ That’s pretty common. ‘I miss you. You were a part of my life for two years, and now you’re gone. You were on my TV every night. You were in my news every day. And I miss you, and I want you to be back.’ You know?” Those letters take two forms. The first, infused with the same shock that sent Russo to the floor on the night of Nov. 8, demand that Clinton come back. “Where are you?” they ask. “You need to be giving speeches. You need to be standing up to Donald Trump. You need to be in the news every day. You need to be out there.” The second form: “We’re here for you whenever your time is ready…” “You’ve earned the right to do whatever you want.” If there is a third strain, it’s the people who simply encourage her: “Don’t think that it wasn’t worth it, that it didn’t mean anything to people.”
Russo, meanwhile, describes his work as a practice in “the discipline of gratitude.” The phrase is one of Clinton’s favorites from the early ’90s, borrowed from the Jesuit priest Henri Nouwen. It’s the idea that gratitude should be practiced almost like an exercise or academic pursuit, something you commit to and work at. “That’s sort of her whole mantra in terms of her correspondence,” he says.
One afternoon in the fall of 2014, on the cusp of his second presidential campaign with his boss, Russo described the project in straightforward terms, saying that Clinton wanted to (a) take the time to thank the people who helped her campaign and (b) give them something to remember it by — a letter to keep or frame or pass down in the family. “A piece of history,” he said back then. “It was about creating something tangible. A campaign is intangible. It’s a memory, it’s fleeting, it’s ephemeral.” When it ends, “you don’t have anything to latch onto.”
I almost always deride Buzzfeed. However, amidst the crap they produce are gems like this. Putting aside political preferences, there are things to appreciate here
- The ability to relate and connect with people
- The ability to encourage and drive passions
These are qualities that I personally admire in a leader and America really did miss out on this.
Well narrated profile of Hillary Clinton's letter writer. That people still write letters (even if most are printed), still boggles my mind and in a way puts a smile on my face.