Beloit alumna Krista Eichhorst ’09, is going back to writing handwritten letters to get attention on the issues she finds important. After her experiences in the Women’s March, she is writing letters to the White House every week for the rest of Trump’s presidency. Fueled by the passion from the march and sharpened by her Creative Writing major, she finds letters to be an important tool, restoring dignity and diplomacy to dissent and direct political action.
In an era where social media and the internet dominate the political discourse, one brave soul is venturing back to a conventional form of communication. Beloit alumna Krista Eichhorst, ’09, began writing letters to President Trump every week and plans to do so for the duration of his presidency.
At her time in Beloit, Krista was a Creative Writing major and wrote weekly letters home to friends. She pointed to how her major taught her the power of storytelling. She says that “there is an intimacy in writing letters, which emails lack. Letters by their very nature reveal an investment in time and energy via the handwritten address, the postage stamp, the narrative composed on paper, the delay in delivery.”
Today, Krista works as a Services and Operations Manager for the Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration. She says that during the Women’s March in Washington D.C. on January 21, she “felt visible, loud, and powerful” while marching with the crowd. Once she returned to Minnesota, she “could no longer stay silent publicly when issues that matter to [her] are attacked,” and she “knew that [she] needed to build sustainable civic actions into [her] daily routine.”
Relying on her Creative Writing major, she decided to draw upon the power of storytelling and write letters to the newly inaugurated President about issues she cares about. These letters would be specific to each issue, connected to her own experiences, and raise her particular concerns about these issues.
There are so many different, quick, and easy outlets one could use to get a message across, so what is so special about writing letters? Krista says that “letters communicate commitment,” and, since this is a long term project, commitment is the key. She sees this as a way to convey both the importance of these issues and the seriousness of her commitment. Ironically, she points to how “In the era of the weekly e-blast, a physical letter is hard to ignore.” It’s easy for people to ignore mass communication, via email in particular; however, putting something physical in someone’s hand has a much greater impact.
In the era which is typically seen as rhetorically/politically volatile, Krista also stays on the side of positive political discourse. She says she “strive[s] for approachable disagreement in [these] letters.” Her format weaves recent statements and policy decisions by the administration, her own personal opinions, and relevant facts pertaining to an issue. This is designed to encourage or enable debate to occur, while also showing her own support for an issue.
The final question I asked her focused on what she hoped to accomplish with these letters. To be completely honest, her own words are too good to explain, so I’ll let her speak:
“I would love these weekly letters to change hearts and minds but a more realistic goal is to simply remind our elected officials that they represent all Americans, not just the ones who voted for them, and that our lived experiences are real and valid even if they don’t reflect the lived experiences of the people representing us. The right to dissent is at the foundation of our democracy and the role of a democratic citizen is to participate in governance. These letters are just one way to amplify my voice as a citizen and engage in our democracy.”
Though it may seem like an ode to the past, these letters truly get at the heart of positive political discourse. While the weekly email would be so much easier, having something one could hold, arguably, will have a greater impact than a quick email one will ignore. Having a letter to hold in their hands will definitely cause staff members of the White House to at least take notice of her.