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10-year-old writes to Barack Obama

By Staff | Mar 12, 2010

Celine Wilson, 10, of Middleway, holds up the letter she received from the White House in response to her letter to the President. Photo by Daniel Friend/Chronicle

MIDDLEWAY – In many respects Celine Wilson is a typical 10-year-old girl. She likes art, soccer and reading and helps take care of the family dogs.

But this South Jefferson Elementary School student has shown a level of maturity and empathy that sometimes surprises even her parents. Celine has raised money for polar bears. Social studies is one of her favorite subjects. And she has read widely about the Holocaust and civil rights.

After President Barack Obama addressed the nation’s school children last September in a television statement encouraging them to do well, Celine, then 9, responded. She wrote the President a letter.

“I am writing this letter because I want to thank you for the speech you gave on Sept. 8th, 2009,” Celine wrote. “It inspired me to work hard in school and get good grades. . . . Thank you for being an awesome president. I hope you write back soon.”

Last week -five months after she had mailed the letter from her home in Middleway – Celine received a reply addressed by hand to “Miss Celine Wilson.”

The return address read simply “The White House, Washington D.C., 20500.” (The White House has it own zip code because of the high volume of mail it receives.)

“Dear Student, Thank you for your letter,” President Barack Obama wrote in reply. “Your education is important to me because the knowledge and skills you gain in school will open doors for you and help you build a brighter tomorrow for our Nation.”

Celine said when she received the letter, she was “excited.” She plans to have it framed, and will hang the memento in her bedroom.

Her mother Elizabeth Wilson said Celine had sealed the envelope and was ready to mail out her letter before anyone in the family knew of her plans. When Mom and Dad, Jesse Wilson, saw the president’s name and the address for the White House on the envelope, they decided they’d better have a look inside. Mom took a photograph of the letter and later retyped it on the family’s computer.

“It’s impressive because she did it all on her own,” Elizabeth Wilson said. “She’s got a lot of depth to her, but she’s very modest. She’s very passionate about things.”

About a year ago, Celine was so concerned about the plight of polar bears that she organized an art show and sale in the family’s basement.

The polar bear was listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act on May 14, 2008. This move officially recognizes that polar bears are threatened with extinction from global warming, which is melting the Arctic sea ice where polar bears hunt for ringed and bearded seals, their primary food source.

By selling her own work – she loves to draw and paint, and favors Metisse – Celine raised $113 and sent it out to the Defenders of Wildlife organization.

As Celine wrote in her letter to the President, “I like to do things to help. At school I like to be a good friend and help others.”

Celine has taken to heart the President’s message to all school children.

“I encourage you to reach for your highest aspirations, because your school can only help you when you are putting your best effort into everything you do. Through academic achievement and service, you can accomplish great things.

“Young people like you inspire me and give me great hope for the future. I wish you all the best. Sincerely, Barack Obama.”