Wanna chat with Obama? Me, too.
Thankfully, it just got a lot easier for both of us.
On Wednesday, the White House announced a brand-new way to get in touch with the President of the United States. And in keeping with Barack Obama’s reputation as the most tech-savvy U.S. leader to date, it’s no surprise that this latest method is none other than a Facebook Messenger bot.
It’s a new, digital way of keeping up a tradition that Obama has maintained since 2009. “Every night, President Obama reads 10 letters that were sent to him by citizens,” wrote Chief Digital Officer Jason Goldman in a Medium blog post announcing the bot. “These 10 letters a day — or 10 LADs, as they’re known to staff — do more to keep the President in touch with what’s happening around the country than just about anything else.”
Obama says these communications serve as a “powerful motivator,” and he’s not the only president to have said so. In fact, Goldman noted, “Reading letters from the public is a presidential tradition going back to Thomas Jefferson.”
And while this tradition may be centuries old, Facebook’s technology most certainly isn’t. So now, the White House is taking advantage of a few improvements we’ve made since the days of our Founding Fathers. “Today, for the first time ever,” said Goldman, “you will be able to send a note to President Obama simply by messaging the White House on Facebook, the same way you message your friends.”
To chat with Obama, simply open the Messenger app on your smartphone or a chat window in Facebook.com, and type in the name of your new best friend — “The White House.” You could also go straight to the White House’s Facebook page and click the “Message” button there, but no matter which road you take, you’ll ultimately find yourself interacting with a bot that lets you fill out a message to be delivered to the president himself. Once you hit “send,” your correspondence makes its way to the Office of Presidential Correspondence, responsible for collecting and processing all citizen communication.
“To make sure that in all the hustle and bustle that’s taken place here, we don’t lose sight of why we’re here — which is a bunch of citizens all across the country, needing our help, seeking advice, more than occasionally being angry, wanting to be heard,” Obama said. “And what’s interesting is not only do these letters help me to stay in touch with the people who sent me here, or the people who voted against me, but a lot of times they identify problems that might not have percolated up through the various agencies and bureaucracies. And more than once there have been occasions where these letters inspired action on real problems that are out there.”
So if you’re looking to up your efficacy, this just may be one form of clicktivism that makes you feel a bit more fulfilled.