This simple note addressed to President Richard Nixon in December 1970 is a very poignant piece of Vietnam War history. Comprised of two simple sentences, it says a lot about society then and now, about families in wartime and about our expectations as citizens from those in positions of political leadership.
Pam Kaplan, a child, wrote to the president of the United States with some requests. We do not know how old Pam was when she wrote this note. However, we can safely assume, judging from her handwriting and the type of paper upon which the note is written, that she was indeed very young. Despite her young years, she expresses herself clearly.
Little Pam has some action items for President Nixon. “Please stop the war in VietNam my cousin is in,” she writes. Her second request is one that might resonate with us today: “And I want the United States to settle down.”
The war might not have been directly affecting Pam herself, but it was clearly a source of worry to members of her family. The safety of her cousin obviously weighed on Pam’s mind. She was clearly also unhappy about the unrest that she observed in her surroundings.
This note tells us that Pam believed that the president was capable of taking action to bring about peace both abroad and at home.
In a past issue of the newsletter we looked at a note addressed by a grieving mother to President Lyndon B. Johnson and analyzed his vague response to it. A similar response occurred in this case.
In response to Pam’s note, one of Nixon’s aides replied to her that “he [the president] and his advisers are doing everything they can to obtain peace in Vietnam and to solve our problems at home.” This answer is interesting because it is impersonal; it shifts responsibility away from the president. Multiple people are said to be doing “everything they can” to obtain peace, as if the basic securities that Pam expects the leader of our country to provide are matters beyond the president’s control.
Looking at documents like this, we can witness and relate to people from years past who, like many of us today, wish for peace abroad and at home.
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