September 19, 2014
Ahead of elections, Obama dines with penpals
Valerie, a single mom from Kansas City, Missouri, who owns a small business, wrote to President Barack Obama last week "in the middle of the night," describing just how hard she works.
Today, she will get the chance to tell Obama in person as one of four people the president dines with in a visit to the midwestern city - part of a summertime White House campaign to rouse Democratic voters ahead of November midterm elections.
"Are you serious?" said Valerie - whose last name was not provided - to Josh Earnest, Obama's press secretary, who phoned her to invite her to the dinner.
"Oh my God! I would love it!" she told Earnest in a video made by the White House.
Obama has crisscrossed the country for the past month dining with ordinary Americans who have written him with their concerns about the economy.
The visits are designed to motivate Democrats to vote in the November elections, when Republicans stand a good chance of taking control of the Senate and are expected to keep control of the House of Representatives.
If that happens, Obama will have a hard time advancing his legislative goals during his last two years in office.
Obama reads 10 letters a night selected by his staff from the tens of thousands received by the White House each day.
"In these letters, people tell me their stories," Obama said in a speech earlier this month in Austin, Texas, after meeting another group of penpals.
"They talk about the hardships they're going through, successes they've had, things they hope for, things that they're afraid of when it comes to the future and their lives," he said.
In Kansas City, Obama and Valerie will be joined by Becky, who wrote about her neighborhood association; Mark, who teaches people who have dropped out of high school; and Victor, who was helped by a student loan repayment plan.
The White House did not provide their surnames or ages.
But the snippets of phone calls provided revealed their delight in being invited to meet the president.
"I am just amazed that little bitty old me is going to get this chance," said Becky.