The Block Island Times

Island seventh grader exchanges letters with Obama

'Make the best decisions for our country. I believe in you.'
By Gloria S. Redlich | Feb 02, 2013
Artwork by: Anthony Almonte The portrait of Obama by Anthony Almonte that earned the seventh grader a letter from the president.

Little did Block Island School seventh grader Anthony Almonte think when he wrote a letter to President Barack Obama last month that he would ever receive a reply. He was very surprised when he did.

In his December 12, 2012, letter, Anthony sent holiday greetings to the president, adding the following:

“My name is Anthony Almonte, and I live on Block Island, Rhode Island. I am twelve years old, and I love to draw. I thought you would like the portrait that I painted of you in my art class. Do you like it? I think that all schools should have art classes because it is the best thing about school. All kids should have a chance to have art classes in their schools. I heard that many schools are getting rid of art. I feel it is important to tell you that. Do your children like to draw?

“I hope you make the best decisions for our country these next four years. I believe in you.

“Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

“P.S. Our class has six students and we are writing letters to veterans this holiday.”

During art class last term, Anthony and his fellow students were working on portraits. “Our assignment was to draw a portrait of any person,” he explains. To help the students select subjects, art teacher Teri McCombe suggested they might choose from well-known figures of the sports world or movies.

As Anthony says, “When I couldn’t figure out who I wanted, Mrs. McCombe thought President Obama would be a good choice.” Asked about why he chose to share his feelings about art and art classes with the president, he said, “Because I was thinking about other kids not having the same kind of classes as we have here. School without art would be very uninteresting for other kids.”

He also wanted to express his hope that the president would “make the best decisions for our country these next four years,” and to tell him, “I believe in you.”

As for writing to the president, Anthony again credits Mrs. McCombe with the idea. “She encouraged me to write, and then I decided, ‘Go for the chance. It’s a great opportunity. Don’t lose the opportunity because you may never get it again,’” he said. On December 12, 2012, Anthony went for it and wrote to the president.

A month later, when the response from Obama arrived at the island school, Anthony, who by then had turned 13, was at recess playing a card game. He confides, “When the teachers [McCombe and seventh grade teacher Shannon Cotter] walked in, I was worried I must have done something bad. But then I saw that Mrs. Cotter had a camera in her hand and I thought it was OK.”

Anthony's first reaction on being handed a letter from the president was, “I thought that was very impressive. I was shocked!” In the White House packet, in addition to the president’s letter, was an official holiday card, a portrait of the First Dog Beau, and information on art in the White House throughout history, as well as a photograph of the president.

Anthony is now quite pleased he wrote his letter to the president, and now finds himself wanting to visit the White House some day. Though unsure when he might have the chance to visit, Anthony says it is something he’s looking quite forward to.

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