My crotchety Uncle Charlie was oddly jubilant the day I called to wish him a Happy 85th Birthday.
"You'll never guess who I got a card from," he gloated.
As it happened, I knew.
I had arranged for the president of the United States to send Charlie a personal birthday card. But I wasn't about to spoil Charlie's fun by telling him that I was responsible for his sudden burst of importance.
(At the end of this column, learn how you can have President Obama send your uncle, mom, wife, sister or dad a presidential birthday card. All past presidents send cards, too.)
Up until this birthday card from then-President Clinton, Charlie's only claim to political fame was shaking hands once with a Florida Congressman who later was indicted for taking bribes. To Charlie, the guy was and always would be the "Misunderstood Patriot of the Twentieth Century" all because of a quick, forgetable handshake.
In this day of celebrity and circus, we're all susceptible to the wiles of the rich and famous.
My buddy, JC Spitznagel, once caught sight of Bing Crosby while dining at a Hollywood restaurant saw him, mind you, never spoke to the singer, never got within 40 feet of him and to this day, JC refers to the crooner as "my good buddy, Der Bingle."
Harmless enough, I suppose.
Unfortunately, Uncle Charlie's presidential birthday card dramatically shifted the balance of power in Charlie and Rose's household.
Before the card came, Aunt Rose ruled the roost. If Charlie wanted to be Charlie, he had to retreat to a small workshop in the garage where he could fart and belch and do any number of manly things.
While in the house, he was expected to be on his best behavior. Once, Rose locked Charlie in the bathroom, letting him out only after he promised never to smoke in the house unless they had guests who smoked.
Even then, he was limited to one small cigar.
Clinton's birthday card changed everything.
Suddenly, a defiant Charlie stopped drying the dishes, wouldn't take out the garbage, and after Sunday dinner of corned beef and cabbage, even lit up a fat stogie.
In the living room!
To his astonished, red-faced wife, he explained, "The President smokes Cubans.. Consider yourself lucky I smoke only domestics."
After 57 years of marriage, the president of the United States was coming between my aunt and uncle.
By the time Rose called me, Charlie was belching, farting, scratching his unmentionables, and now intentionally tracking mud in through the kitchen. It was only a matter of time, Rose feared, before he used the front door, sullying Rose's precious white carpet.
"That card you sent will be the death of me," Rose cried out. "If he were 20 years younger, he'd be out philandering and blaming it on his pal and soul mate, the leader of the free world."
With that, we hatched a plan that now has Charlie back in his place, his head still spinning in astonishment.
It happened that Rose had her 80th birthday coming up in six weeks.
For 40 agonizing days she grinned and bore the humility and embarrassment of an ever sillier and more full-of-himself husband.
Even the morning of Rose's 80th birthday began with a snide comment from Charlie about how he'd gotten a birthday card from the president. And she hadn't.
But the day was young.
Rose made certain it was Charlie who picked up the mail that day. Sheepishly, and without comment, he placed Rose's mail on the dining room table. Right there on top was a personal birthday card from Clinton. And just below, one from ex-president George Bush. There were personal birthday greetings, too, from Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, even Gerald Ford. And more.
“My God,“ Charlie mumbled under his breath, “even the governor.“
Charlie silently withdrew to the garage, never again to smoke, belch or fart in Rose's house.
To receive a greeting from President Obama, send your request to the White House Greetings Office, Room 39, Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Washington, DC 20502. Fax 202-456-2461. Or go to http://usgovinfo.about.com/blgreetings.htm
You can arrange to have President Barack Obama send signed greetings and congratulations to US citizens for many of life's milestones. The White House will send signed greeting cards and recognition to US citizens to commemorate special events and accomplishments. Requests need to be received six weeks prior to the event, in most cases. Greetings will be mailed from the White House about ten days before the event.
All Greeting requests must be submitted in writing (no emails) to:
The White House
Attn: Greetings Office
Washington, DC 20502-0039
Include the full name(s), address and title (Miss, Mrs., Ms., Mr.) of the recipient, plus the date and event being celebrated. Also, include your full name and phone number in case there are any questions.
The White House Greetings Office will honor citizens with special presidential greetings and acknowledgments for 80th and subsequent birthdays, 50th and subsequent anniversaries, the birth of a child, Eagle Scout or Girl Scout Gold awards, weddings, bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs, and it will send sympathy cards for a death.
Requests should be sent at least six weeks before the event.
The hand-addressed greeting will be mailed one week before the event.
Here are the addresses to request greetings from past presidents:
- George W Bush, Office of George W Bush, PO Box 259000, Dallas, TX 75225-9000
- Bill Clinton, 55 W. 125th Street, New York NY 10027
- George Bush, P.O. Box 79798, Houston, TX 77279
- Jimmy Carter, Carter Center, 1 Copenhill, 453 Freedom Pkwy. Atlanta, GA 30307
YOUR MOM IS GOING TO BE 100, YOU SAY? Send all the information to Willard Scott, Today, NBC News, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, Room 352, New York, NY 10112. Although Scott has retired, he still returns to wish centenarians a happy birthday.
Copyright © 2009 Frank Kaiser
WILL THEY RESPOND?
HERE'S A SAMPLING OF ANSWERS,
THE LATEST AS OF SEPTEMBER 19 , 2007...
Five years ago I made 4 requests for greetings for my in-laws for their 50th anniversary - Bush never responded.
Several months ago a request was made to the White House for a similar greeting for our Church's 100th anniversary - no response AGAIN.
Other Presidents have responded on past occasions.
My governor, congressman and senator sent wishes for my Church within weeks.
So..I will be preparing the Anniversary Book and it will be absent of White House Greetings.
Pretty ironic - since this is the man who claims to be FOR marriage and religion. What a loser. Carol Jean Hirt
I just wanted to let you know that I notified the president of the birth of my son, they responded in a timely manner with a very nice welcome card mailed to my son, it is such a nice piece for his baby book. I also received one from our governor without requesting it. Tara Wilcox
I have requested birthday greetings from the president since my mother was 80. Previously, all arrived before her birthday. Because my mother, Theresa Eccles, was celebrating her 100th birthday on Jan. 26, 2007, I sent my request by US mail on Dec. 1, 2006. The greeting was mailed Feb. 9, 2007 and postmarked Southern MD and was received in central PA on Feb. 16. I guess their motto is better late than never. I still haven't received greeting from Gov. Rendell or Sen. Casey. Our other Sen. (Specter) and our Rep. Shuster promptly sent their greeting before her birthday. I sent a picture and brief notice about my mother's life to Willard Scott by US mail on Dec. 21, 2006. His birthday letter was mailed Feb. 5, 2007. Next year,I think I will send my requests in Oct. and hope that my mother is still alive by Jan. Nancy Eccles Cox
I've saved your column on birthday greetings in "my favorites" on my computer. I just wanted to relate that Pres. Bush DID send a card to my Dad on his 80th (Sept. 10, 2004), and I will request one for my Mom's 80th (Sept. 20, 2006).
Tell your readers they can ALSO request cards from their state governor (Dad got one from Pennsylvania's Ed Rendell), their Senator, Congresspersons, and their state reps. If they live in a large city, they may get one from the mayor, too.
By the way...... My grandmom was tickled pink when, while in office, Clinton's CAT, Socks, sent her a postcard of himself with the White House in the background!
My wife and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary in August of 2004. Our #3 son and his wife had sent the information to the white house and we received our greetings from President Bush in a very timely manner.
Alan & Helen Rouzei Frank
White House late on greetings
Cox News Service March 15, 2004
WASHINGTON - Despite your pleadings, President Bush hasn't written "Happy Birthday" to your 100-year-old grandpa? Even though you asked politely and promptly, your baby's birth was not acknowledged by the White House?
Blame Osama bin Laden.
Even the mannerly tradition of presidential tidings has been frustrated by threats of terrorism.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, and subsequent mailings of anthrax-laced letters to government offices, even routine White House mail has been routed to off-site locations to be screened and irradiated. The precautions apply to the thousands of requests for baby announcements, 50th wedding anniversaries, 100th birthdays and other such greetings that are sent to every president
The result has been a backlog of Americans awaiting a congratulatory note from President Bush.
A handler in the White House Greetings Office said, proud parents might have to wait six to eight months after their baby is born to receive the customary presidential announcement. In some cases, she cautioned, the baby might celebrate a first birthday before the note arrives. She had seen 17 crates of backed-up baby announcements carried into the office as workers struggled to catch up.
Last month, South Bend (Ind.) Tribune columnist Carol Elliott wrote about a woman's request for a 100th birthday greeting for her grandmother.
'We never received the card,' the grieving woman even though she sent in the request with the wrote, e required lead-time of six to eight weeks. Her grandmother turned 100 and died the next month, never receiving the card. With the columnist's help, the White House promised to send the tardy card to the granddaughter as a memento.
The best way to have a request handled in a timely manner is to fax it to (202) 395-1232, said Taylor Gross of the White House.
He would not say how many requests the Greetings Office sends out in a year, only that it accommodates as many as it can handle.
The Greetings Office employee said an Internet spam filter on the computer system has caused some e-mail delays.
For American citizens, the White House sends out greetings to newborns, couples celebrating their 50th and subsequent wedding anniversaries, birthday wishes to folks 80 and older, wedding congratulations, Eagle Scout Awards, Girl Scout Gold Awards and bar/bat mitzvah or equivalent occasions.
12/14/02...This was the first I received about the current President's lack of response to seniors wanting greetings. Since then, I've heard from dozens of ignored citizens. Only in the last two months, has the White House been granting cards again. Frank Kaiser, October 5, 2003.
HI, my name is Frank Duval and several months ago I read in your suddenly senior information column about living presidents retired and presiding congratulating senior citizens on their eightieth birthday. I sent my wifes info to all of them and a note to our governor pataki. About 2 weeks back my wife received congratulations from presidents Carter and Ford and a very nice letter from gov. Pataki. Have heard nothing from the pres. Bushes, Ronald Reagan nor Clinton. After the first letters arrived, I explained the presidential policly to her and see her disappoint every day that the expected letters do not arrive.
I thought you should be informed in order that you might pass the information on in your column that circumstances might negate reception of some of the birthday congratulations.
Thank you,and thanks for your column.
And, as of April 2004 ...
I had found part of this service as early as 1979, when I began having cards from the then-current President sent to my over-80 grandmother. In 2003 I found your website and wrote for cards from all the living Presidents for my father's 80th birthday in January, which was just after they announced that former President Reagan's health had worsened significantly and his Alzheimer's had robbed him of recognition of anyone, and at that point I guess his staff discontinued the practice altogether, because his was the only one that wasn't received. Dad was thrilled. Thanks for having this information available for us. By the way, I always include the recipient's full birth date AND birthplace in case there might be any doubt as to the validity of the request, and I have never failed to get a response.
I requested a presidential birthday card for my 95-yearold aunt. Never came. She has since passed so I can not request one for next year. I also requested cards for another aunt and uncle who fortunately are still living. The president didn't sent them either. I may get a chance to try again in '05. I have now prepared a request for my mother who's birthday is in late March. Lets see how that turns out.
After viewing your site, I sent requests to President Bush and to Willard Scott to send congratulations to my mother-in-law - Perl Ackley - who turned 100 years old on February 4, 2004. These requests were sent in October. The card from President and Mrs. Bush was received, however, nothing was received from Willard Scott. I sent e-mails to the Today Show and received no response. Finally today I called Willard Scott's office (212-664-3924). The information I received was a recording that stated that if the birthday was during the week, it would be "considered" for announcement on the Today Show either Tuesday or Thursday, however, if the birthday was on the weekend, no announcement would be made on the Today Show, but that Willard Scott would send a congratulatory card to the birthday person. Neither one of these was received by me or my mother-in-law.
I thought you should know this information and perhaps prevent someone else from being disappointed as we were. All-in-all, the party for Mom was enjoyed by 9 of her 12 children and several grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren.
My Dad was 91 last Sunday May 2,2004, here received two more cards, one from Jimmy Carter and another one from Bill Clinton. They both came on the day we had his birthday party so that was so neat . He had got one from Gerald Ford before that. Thanks to your nice web page I was able to write to all of them and he is so proud. Those cards he carries in his pocket so show off.
Thank you very much , this is really great .
Blessings, Marge Geddes
Readers, please let me know of your experience with this service. Write me at email@example.com