Letters to Leaders
January 5, 2007 12:56 PM   Subscribe

How do I go about writing a letter to the leader of another country in hopes of getting a signed letter or photograph back? There is

A few months ago I tried getting signed photographs of various internet personae, with very little success. Those behind BoingBoing flat out ignored my emails, while John Hodgman was willing to sign one if I could find one and send it to him (which I’ve yet to do. Damn procrastination).

Upon finding an old signed photo of Lyndon B Johnson in my basement, I thought I’d try and write Bush to see if I could get one from him. “Hell,” I thought, “Why stop there?” I decided I would try and write as many foreign dignitaries as I could in attempts to get signed photos (or at the very least, responses) from them.

What is the best way for me to go about this? Email? Snailmail? Preaddressed stamped envelopes (The one from LBJ came in a sizeable envelope with cardboard so I’m not sure I could provide one of those for every state leader I contact)? How do I figure out how much postage would be required to get there, or for one to be sent back (As sad as it is to say, I don’t think I’ve mailed more than ten letters in my life…)? Brown nosing or no? If so, to what degree? Should my letters have a point to them aside from asking for a signed picture or letter? How do I personalize each letter to correspond with each leader? What do I call them? If at first I don’t succeed, how many times do I try again? How do I just come out and say “I want a signed picture of you, could you send one?” anyway, without sounding rather demanding?
posted by CitrusFreak12 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My guess with Latin American countries is that you'd have better results if you contact the embassies in the U.S. instead of sending the letters to the actual presidents.
posted by micayetoca at 1:00 PM on January 5, 2007

You could follow the example of Don Novello who has published 3 books of responses to letters he has written to world leaders.

His approach seems to be to write real paper letters, and come off as sincere, admiring, and slightly simple. Pretending to being a worshipful 15 year old might help.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 1:44 PM on January 5, 2007

Snail mail all the way. No world leader will ever see your letter, but you'll probably get a response. Pretty much any letter to an elected official in the US will get a response, I'd imagine any reputable country would act in a similar manner. They've got piles of pictures waiting for an address to be sent to, heck send a holiday card to the president and he'll (his staff will) send you one back. Making up a quick and simple story probably wouldn't hurt either. I write snail mail and emails to my elected officials often and I always get a reply, if I'm specific in my letters they're specific in the responses. However, the number of these requests an official gets must be staggering. They either send them out or they don't, I would make it easier on the staff and come right out with the request. Then the overworked staffer can just toss it in the "headshot request" bin instead of reading a multipage sob story that's really just a cover for your request. If I got an annoyingly long letter that was just a veiled request for a photo I'd toss it in the trash.

USPS.com will give you all the information you need for mailing a letter overseas. Or you can just buy a bunch of prepaid overseas aerogrammes/aerograms if they're still available. I can't find them on USPS.com, but it is a piece of stationary you write a letter on and fold up and it becomes a prepaid international letter. 75 cents a piece I think. I wouldn't worry about return postage.

can give you a little help in how to address a letter, browse through their samples and past and current appeals for ideas and what's common.
posted by Science! at 1:44 PM on January 5, 2007

Here is an Address Directory For The Governmental Leaders Of The World... I think a brief letter politely asking for a signed picture is sufficient, something along the lines of "I'm collecting pictures and autographs of world leaders, and I would be honored to receive one from you (insert honorary title of individual world leader here, i.e. Mr. President, Madame Chancellor, Your Excellency, etc.)"...

A self-addressed return envelope couldn't hurt, but I wouldn't worry about figuring out return postage for each country, they can do that themselves (and I don't think a lack of return postage would prevent them from being willing to comply with your request, since they send out their own official correspondence all the time)...

Good luck, it sounds like an interesting project!
posted by amyms at 1:45 PM on January 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

Snail mail sounds right, but I don't know why you'd need to send the mail abroad; contact the countries' embassies in the United States instead. You didn't want a signed photo of Kim Jong Il did you?
posted by B-squared at 2:28 PM on January 5, 2007

You didn't want a signed photo of Kim Jong Il did you?

I doubt he'd give me one.

But Ahmedenijad was a candidate for a letter... He's always trying to get good press, it seems (remember his christmas greetings, as posted on the blue?), so I think maybe I'll stand a chance.

Thanks for all the answers, guys, these are all really useful! If anyone else has anything else to add, of course, feel free to do so.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 2:35 PM on January 5, 2007

You could see if the story of Sarah York and Manuel Noriega yields any useful techniques. She eventually was invited to visit Panama to meet him. (It's Act One of the program.)
posted by jeanmari at 4:01 PM on January 5, 2007

As a fourth grader, I mailed a simple get well letter to (then) President Nixon. I received a nice, personal note from the White House, thanking me for my well wishes. It was signed by President Nixon.

I was over the moon! A number of my friends did the same thing, all they received was a press kit...

Good Luck!
posted by JujuB at 7:58 PM on January 5, 2007

I had a friend who worked in the White House mail room for a summer, so of course one day I received a large envelope filled with probably 100 "signed" (=printed) official portraits of Clinton.

(The point being that there were evidently gajillions of those things sitting around the mailroom waiting to be sent in response to letters like yours, and any other world leader likely has the same)
posted by misterbrandt at 11:21 AM on January 6, 2007

Look up the interview of Jeffrey Vallance in ReSearch Pranks! for some inspiration. There was one prank were he wrote to all the senators in the USA and asked them if they would draw him a picture, he received 33 replies. For another prank he sent neck ties (that he had purchased from goodwill) to world leaders, he received letters and ties back from people like Anwar Sadat, the Shah of Iran, a pin from the Pope ... I'd have some fun with it like Jeffrey did.
posted by squeak at 12:47 AM on January 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

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