BATH — Zoe Ruff never expected her letter to catch the eye of President Barack Obama.

Not only did they catch his eye, her words will be preserved as part of a new book, “To Obama: With Love, Joy, Anger, and Hope” by Jeanne Marie Laskas, a collection of correspondence sent to the president over his two terms in office, along with his responses.

During the 2016 campaign, Ruff was 13 years old. Living in Bath, she’d always been interested in politics, but in 2016 she became very invested.

“Especially with this most recent presidential election, I got very involved,” said Ruff.

In particular, Ruff said she was inspired by a desire to continue Obama’s legacy.

“For the previous eight years we’d had a leader who was so much about love and hope,” she said.


But when the campaigning came to an end and the votes were tallied, Ruff wasn’t thrilled with the results.

“That was something that was really hard for me, just because of how passionate I was about the current state of our country. In that moment, I felt like the only person who would really get me would be Obama,” said Ruff. “So I just wrote it and sent it out.”

“You taught love and kindness to this country, and that’s not something our future president can take away from us,” wrote Ruff to Obama. “We can make it through the next four years if we keep our heads up and not let anyone tell us we should act one way, believe in a certain god, or be threatened because of color. Because if we do, he’s really won.”

Ruff didn’t really expect a response. After all, the president reportedly received thousands of letters a day while in office.

“I sent it in not expecting really anything,” said Ruff. “It just helps me be able to move through that, knowing that at least I tried.”

Months passed. But then in May, Ruff came home to a strange voicemail.


“I had just gotten home from Model UN, and there was a message on our landline answering machine from Obama’s personal assistant,” said Ruff.

The assistant said that Obama had read her letter, liked it, and would be writing her back. She didn’t belief it at first, but shortly after, she got a letter from the president.

“I know it sometimes feel like for every two steps forward, we take one step back,” wrote the former president. “But remember the course our country takes from here will be charted by engaged citizens like you who step forward and speak out for what they believe in.”

“It took me a little bit to grasp it and understand it,” said Ruff. “I just couldn’t believe that I had been able to do something like that, like be able to use my words and my thoughts to affect someone as important to me as President Obama.”

“I kind of got self-assured in a way, that my words are influential and what my opinions are does matter and I am able to use that in a way to create change,” she added.

Ruff said the president’s letter had inspired her to stay involved. It even gave her courage to travel to Kenya with Students Shoulder-to-Shoulder, where she helped build a gazebo and do other things as part of a service learning trip.


Ruff said she felt honored to be included in the book along so many other fantastic letters.

“That was really humbling,” said Ruff. “Because out of the thousands upon thousands of letters Obama ended up reading in the eight years of his presidency, mine was one of 150 that was chosen.”

Now a sophomore at Waynflete, Ruff said she continues to write, but not to presidents..

“I write a lot. I write at least an hour and a half every day just for myself,” said Ruff. “Right now I’m writing just a little bit of short stories … and I always write a poem before I go to bed.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.