World leaders keep trickling in...

Published on Thu, Aug 22, 2002 by Meg Olson

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World leaders keep trickling in...

By Meg Olson

The Morales family watches the news together. For Christian, 8, and Jacob, 9, the world and the news coming out of it is a little closer to home since a family project started bringing world leaders into their mailbox.

“After September 11 they were talking everywhere about different people and cultures, in parts of the world we didn’t know anything about,” said mother Michelle Morales. Michelle and her husband John got together with the boys and found as many countries’ national headquarters as they could on the internet, asking by email for an autographed picture of that country’s leader. Their first response came three weeks later – German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

The Morales family has sent out over 150 requests and has received 22 responses. “Every one we get we find on our map and put a star on that country,” Michelle explained. “The kids have something tangible now, something personal they can relate to. When they see someone on TV, they can say “I know him. He wrote to me.”

“We have enjoyed spending the summer learning about the presidents, the different languages they speak, where they live,” Jacob said. “And how far from each other they are,” Christian added.

Some countries, like Jamaica, Ireland and Finland, send more than the photo. The packets contain maps and books about history and spots to visit. On the other hand it took the Morales family awhile to figure out where one envelope with only initials on the outside came from. It contained only a photograph and the cryptic signature of Austrian chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel.

Michelle said they were surprised at how many responses had a personal note included with them. “Mr. President thinks you have a very practical way of learning and teaching,” wrote a secretary on behalf of Romanian president Ion Iliescu.

Some responses came as a surprise, such as the hand addressed envelope from Tehran with an autographed photo of Ayatollah Ali Hoseini-Khamenei. “They’ve been in the news so much lately, now the boys have a real connection,” Michelle said.

Other world leaders were most notable by their absence - like U.S. President George W. Bush. Vice-president Dick Cheney’s office sent autographed pictures of Cheney and wife Laura, but after two requests they have yet to get a response from Bush’s office, which remains the biggest disappointment for the boys, “because he’s our president,” Jacob said. The family has pictures of Bill and Hilary Clinton and George and Barbara Bush.
Most of their responses are from Europe. A response from countries they see on the news is especially interesting, Michelle said, but she can understand why many of those countries aren’t taking the time to send out pictures. “I wasn’t really surprised at not hearing from Afghanistan, and that’s O.K. because we haven’t heard from George Bush either,” she said.

Michelle said they will continue to send out requests every three or four months and hopes the photos keep trickling in. “It’s fun to go out to the mailbox and find we’ve got a new one,” she said..

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