Dear Mr. President,

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Dear Mr. President,

You having a chance to become the first African-American president of the United States has set a great example for many troubled, young African-American men like myself. You did the best of your ability to help our nation’s health, economy and well-being. You have given me hope to strive and become the smartest and strongest human being to ever walk this earth.

—Hiram, Alameda

Dear President Obama,

First off, I just want to say thank you for everything you have done for the country. I wanted to ask you how you kept so calm without giving in to all the naysayers?

Obviously I am writing you from Central Juvenile Hall, yes I have made some mistakes in the past but I am committed to changing for the better. Not for myself, but for my mom. She’s the only reason why I keep going. If it wasn’t for her and the condition she’s in I probably would have called it quits and thrown my life away a long time ago.

But when you stepped into office, it showed me something. Even with all the odds stacked against someone you can still accomplish your goals if you stick to what you put yourself up against.

—Christian, Los Angeles

Dear Barack Obama,

Sir, you have been the best president for everyone I know and right now us Mexicans (Latino) and black people are messed up just because of our color and race.

I don’t know why people are racist. We are humans in the end but we just have different things. But if Trump becomes president I am going to move somewhere else because it feels like history is repeating itself … But we should all should have all types of rights. Black, white, Mexican and Asians. Give Mexicans better jobs and Asians.

We “colored people” should have the same rights like white people do, no matter what. We should work as a team and get everyone the rights to vote, to have freedom of speech and have great jobs, at least $20 an hour. I hope you guys make a difference some day because people from today are still slaves and don’t have that much rights like white people do, so yeah, I just want people to be fair, thanks.

—Juan, Los Angeles

Dear President Obama,

I’m a young man in San Quentin State Prison. I have been in prison since I was 17 years old. Now I’m a 36-year-old man about to be 37 on Dec. 23, 2016.

I never thought I’d be in prison with a life sentence but here I am. I also never thought I see a black president. I know you been through a lot and came a long way and heard a lot.

I want to get a few things off my mind. First I do wish you could of done more with what’s happen in black communities with the police killing blacks and other races. There’s so much that can be done, but it seem like you really don’t care. Do you?

I’m in here for shooting a police officer in the neck and beating him up and taking his gun. Something that never would of happen if the trust was there in the community.

Now, I also want to thank you for passing a law in the federal prison for people that been in prison for drugs (being considered for an early release). My uncle was one of those people who had life and had done 25 years. No matter what you done I have respect for you because without you that would not have happen. And I don’t know if there has ever been a president that has ever done anything for people in prison.

So keep doing good for people even after office and God bless. Tell Michelle I said what up.

—Jason Samuel, San Quentin State Prison

Dear Obama,

Tell your wife to run for president.

—Corye, Alameda

The Beat Within, a publication of writing and art from incarcerated youth, was founded by David Inocencio in San Francisco in 1996. Weekly writing and conversation workshops are held in California, six other states and Washington, D.C. Submissions and new partners are welcomed. Write to him

2 thoughts on “Dear Mr. President,

  1. Congratulations to The Beat Within, David, Lisa and your more than 200 volunteers for working with this forgotten segment of our youth population and for giving them a voice. What a wonderful service you are doing for them and society. Thanks to each and every one of you!!!

  2. I often don’t take the time to read these letters or publications from those people who are incarcerated. I just get busy with my day to day living and take for granted my many freedoms and complain about trivial things and small inconveniences. I’m reminded that there are people who are not free; in jail or not. Thankful to pause for these few minutes and read the thoughts and ideas of these guys. Change can happen when we have compassion for others and take the time to listen to others point of view and experience.