Lawrenceville Elementary fifth-grader Fred Carter II shows a letter and picture he received from President Barack Obama recently. Carter wrote the White House seeking advice after he lost a student council president race last fall. (Staff Photo: Keith Farner)
LAWRENCEVILLE — Fred Carter had everything a winning campaign needs: Stickers, a campaign poster and a slogan of respect, accountability, choices and excellence.
Carter, a fifth-grader at Lawrenceville Elementary, also noted that his fall campaign for student council president included changing homework expectations and touting a longer recess period. Carter said he ran because he wanted to make the school better.
“My friends who were here last year,” Carter said, “they told me when they ran, you have to speak up and don’t be shy.”
But Carter lost the election at the start of the school year.
Undaunted, Carter decided to find someone who could offer tips about winning an election. So he wrote to President Barack Obama at the White House.
“I wanted him to know that I lost, but since he won twice, give me some tips about next year,” said Carter, who has aspirations to run again in middle school. “Should I put my picture on a bulletin board, or (use) buttons?”
Carter’s mother, Charlene Lawrence, said her son took it upon himself to write the letter after she suggested it in passing.
“‘Mommy I lost, but I’m going to run next year, what do you think I should do?,’” she recalled him saying. “He said, ‘You know what, I need some tips.’ I said, ‘Write the president, ask him.’ And we left it at that. And he did.”
Lawrence said she thought Carter would go to his room and move on from the conversation, but actually wrote the letter. Then she looked up the White House address, and proper directions to send a letter.
During the government shut down, Carter feared that he wouldn’t get a return letter. But about two weeks ago, a letter from the White House arrived in the mail.
Signed by Obama, the letter stated, “Always remember that nothing is beyond your reach as long as you are willing to dream big and work hard.”
Carter then read the letter to his classmates on the morning school news, where this week he became an anchor. On Monday, he said receiving the letter hasn’t sunk in yet.
The letter also provides some confidence when Carter runs for school council next year, his mom said.
“It boosts his self-esteem that the most powerful man in the world is writing him and giving him tips on what to do,” Lawrence said. “Going to a new school, big school, different environment, this will help him.”
Principal Lisa Johnson said several teachers congratulated Carter, and especially noted that he took the initiative to do it.
“It wasn’t a class assignment,” Johnson said. “I think that’s the neatest thing, that he took the initiative, and then he got results from it.”
Lawrence said she follows politics, and often watches cable news with Carter. When Obama won his first presidential election, Carter was in the second grade, and told his mom that he would be the third black president.
Mother and son have talked about a summer trip to visit the White House. In the mean time, the letter will sit framed on Carter’s desk at home where he does homework.
“So every time he does his homework, he can glance at it,” Lawrence said.