The first time Alanna Kane wrote to a US president, she was 10 years old. It was Ronald Reagan.
She was too young to really understand the dynamics of government. And she didn’t get a response.
Kane is in her 40s now. And when Donald Trump assumed office, she wrote again to the President. This time six days a week. For an entire year.
If you’re counting — and she was — that’s 313 letters, all of them put on paper in tidy handwriting.
The Sharpsville, Pennsylvania, woman is a registered independent and didn’t vote for Trump. She says she began writing because she doesn’t see eye to eye with the President on many issues and wanted him to understand the viewpoints of people like herself. She tried to keep her tone friendly.
“I wrote it kind of like a pen pal,” Kane, 47, told CNN. “The kind of friend that will always give you honest advice.”
She sent her first letter the day Trump was inaugurated:
What she wrote
Kane wrote about whatever interested her, including immigration, the Russia investigation, and Trump’s Twitter habit. She infused some letters with sarcasm, and took some digs at the President.
But she also complimented Trump when she felt he did something right, such as his dignified reaction to Roy Moore’s defeat and his swift reaction to the April 2017 chemical attacks in Syria.
Kane, who works the graveyard shift as a 911 dispatcher, said she spent extra time reading the news and researching issues so she would feel better informed in her letters.
“I’d try and tie it in with something going on in my own life, something with relevance, or maybe a past experience,” she said. She wrote Trump about her first and only granddaughter and asked him what activities he enjoys doing with his grandchildren.
She took special interest in healthcare. One of her daughters is a cancer survivor. Another has Marfan syndrome — a genetic disorder that affects the body’s connective tissue — making Kane’s granddaughter a risky pregnancy.
Her daily routine consisted of making coffee, reading up on the news and then writing Trump a letter in the afternoon.
She took a break on Saturdays. It’s the only day both she and her husband have off, so she saved these days for quality time with him.
What she got back
Six months after she sent her first letter, the White House wrote back.
“At first they were like little postcards saying ‘Thanks for your support,'” she said with a laugh. “I kind of got a chuckle out of them.”
By the end of the year, the White House had sent her nine letters, she said.
The initial postcards contained a generic response. “Thank you for your thoughtful suggestions on how to address important issues facing our Nation,” they began.
Later, the responses became a little more personalized, citing specific issues that she had mentioned in her letters. All bore Trump’s signature at the bottom, although the replies still read like form letters.
Kane didn’t feel like a real person was responding to what she had written. And she says she felt disappointment at putting so much effort into a one-sided relationship.
But doing research and writing the letters helped her to better express her views on current events.
“If you want to know the truth you got to spend the time looking for it,” she said. “You have to educate yourself if no one else is going to do it for you.”
What she learned
Kane sent her final letter on last month’s anniversary of Trump’s first year in office.
Now that her year of letter-writing is over, Kane is taking a break and hoping to get her collected Trump letters published in a book.
She believes the experience helped make her more understanding and respectful of differing political views.
“I learned how important it is to truly take the time to listen to what people from opposing points of view have to say and to figure out where they’re coming from,” she said, “… so I can have a civil conversation with them.”
The whole process was exhausting for her, and she wouldn’t do it again.
But she’s proud that she stuck with the project.
“I went into it pretty depressed and I came out of it a little bit more encouraged,” she said.
Kane’s advice for others is simple: Speak out.
“Sometimes we feel like our voices are so insignificant,” she said. “Everybody counts. Don’t think that you don’t.”