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5 famous letters from U.S. presidents
While we here at Fiction Letters love creating great stories that we send as series of physical letters from a fictional friend through the mail, we love letters of all kinds!
Today, we’re diving into some famous letters written by U.S. presidents.
General Eisenhower's Order of the Day on June 5, 1944
General Eisenhower’s Order of the Day on June 5, 1944, was a message he issued to all troops who were about to participate in D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy, France. He called it “the Great Crusade” and urged them to fight for freedom and democracy. He also took full responsibility for any failure of the operation.
The order was distributed as a printed copy to each member of the Allied Expeditionary Force. It was also broadcasted by radio on June 6, 1944.
The historical significance of General Eisenhower’s Order of the Day is that it marked the beginning of Operation Overlord, the largest amphibious assault in history and a turning point in World War II.
It also demonstrated Eisenhower’s leadership, courage, and vision as he rallied millions of troops for a common cause. His order is considered one of the most inspiring speeches in military history.
The reaction of troops to General Eisenhower’s Order of the Day letter was mostly positive and inspiring. Many soldiers felt motivated by his words and confident in his leadership. Some also appreciated his personal visit to their units before they departed for their missions.
However, some troops also felt nervous, anxious, or doubtful about the success of the invasion. They knew they were facing a formidable enemy and a risky operation. Some also felt resentful that Eisenhower took full responsibility for any failure, as they felt it implied that they were expendable.
John F. Kennedy's letter to Mrs. Anderson during the Cuban Missile Crisis
JFK wrote it to Mrs. Rudolf Anderson Jr., whose husband was a pilot and an officer in the US Air Force. He was shot down by a Soviet missile over Cuba on October 27, 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He was the only person killed by enemy fire during that crisis.
JFK expressed his condolences and admiration for Mr. Anderson’s courage and sacrifice. He also said that he hoped his son John Jr., who was almost two years old at that time, would grow up to be like his father.
The letter has a typed portion and a handwritten note at the bottom. The handwritten note says:
Mrs. Kennedy & I will always feel a special bond with you & your son - for you have suffered what we most fear - & we hope John will grow up to be like his father - With every good wish - Jack Kennedy
Abraham Lincoln's letter to Horace Greeley on August 22, 1862
Abraham Lincoln’s letter to Horace Greeley was a public response to an editorial by Greeley, who criticized Lincoln for his slowness in acting on emancipation. Lincoln wrote that his main goal was to save the Union and that he would free or not free slaves as he thought best for that purpose.
The main message of Lincoln’s letter was that he was not fighting the war to free the slaes, but to save the Union. He said that he would do whatever was necessary to preserve the Union, whether that meant freeing some, all, or none of the slaves.
Greeley was disappointed by Lincoln’s letter, as he wanted him to take a stronger stance on emancipation. He also felt that Lincoln had misunderstood his editorial, which was not a personal attack but a plea for action. Greeley continued to press Lincoln on the issue of slavery until he issued the Emancipation Proclamation.
Thomas Jefferson's letter to John Adams on October 28, 1813
This is one of the many letters exchanged between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, two former US presidents and friends, after their retirement from public life.
In this letter, Jefferson discusses his views on natural aristocracy, which he defines as "the grounds of this are virtue and talents". He contrasts this with artificial aristocracy, which he says is "founded on wealth and birth, without either virtues or talents". He also expresses his hope for a system of education that would identify and nurture the natural aristoi among men.
Jefferson wrote this letter as part of his ongoing correspondence with Adams, who had written to him about his views on aristocracy. Jefferson wanted to share his own perspective on this topic, which was different from Adams’. Jefferson believed that natural aristocracy was based on merit and should be encouraged by education and republican government. Adams, on the other hand, thought that natural aristocracy was inevitable and dangerous and should be restrained by a mixed regime with a senate.
Adams responded to Jefferson’s letter on November 15, 1813. He disagreed with Jefferson’s distinction between natural and artificial aristocracy, because he thought that natural aristocracy would always degrade into artificial aristocracy over time. He also challenged Jefferson’s claim that education could identify and promote the natural aristoi, arguing that people have always preferred wealth, birth, and even looks over virtue and talents.
Jefferson replied to Adams’s letter on November 18, 1813. He defended his distinction between natural and artificial aristocracy, saying that he did not mean to imply that natural aristoi were perfect or incorruptible but rather that they were preferable to artificial aristoi who had no merit at all. He also reiterated his belief that education was essential for discovering and improving the natural aristoi, as well as for preventing ignorance and tyranny.
Ronald Reagan’s letter to the American people on November 5, 1994
Ronald Reagan’s letter to the American people was published on November 5, 1994. He announced that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive brain disorder that affects memory and thinking.
Reagan expressed his gratitude for the honor of serving as president, his love for his wife, Nancy, and his hope for a cure for Alzheimer’s. He also acknowledged that his condition would impose a heavy burden on his family and asked for their prayers and understanding.
The American people reacted to Ronald Reagan’s letter with a mix of sadness, respect, and admiration. Many praised his courage, honesty, and dignity in facing his disease. Some also expressed their sympathy for Nancy Reagan, who would have to care for him as his condition worsened. The letter also raised public awareness and interest in Alzheimer’s research and treatment.
Ronald Reagan died on June 5, 2004, almost 10 years after his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. He was 93 years old, making him the longest-lived U.S. president at that time.
Read more letters by U.S. presidents
There are literally thousands of letters penned by presidents, so the five above are just a taste of letters that tell the story of America through its history. Check out these other articles that give great examples of famous letters by presidents:
Mental Floss: 10 Amazing Letters by Presidents
The Atlantic: Letters From Presidents to Their Successors
And if you’re into poetry, check out Mental Floss’ 9 Poems Penned by Presidents
And if you love letters as much as we do, we'd love for you to take a look at Fiction Letters! While they are not as history-changing as these famous letters by presidents, they are a fun way to read great fiction! Learn more about Fiction Letters here.