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Tharptown student receives letter from President Obama


Carson Petree poses with the autographed photo of President Barack Obama that he received this week. | Jonathan Willis/FCT


One Tharptown Elementary School student got the surprise of a lifetime this week.

Carson Petree, who will be entering the fourth grade next month, never expected to hear from President Barack Obama when he sent him a letter and questionnaire as part of a  school project in May.

But when Petree’s mother opened the family’s mailbox last Saturday, his wildest dreams came true.

“I didn’t think he would send me anything back,” Petree said, as he displayed an autographed photo of the president.

Obama even sent Petree a photograph of the first family’s puppy, a Portuguese water dog named Bo, who became a hot media topic after Obama’s historic election.

Petree chose to send Obama a letter as part of a Flat Stanley project just before school ended this spring.

Flat Stanley is a children’s book character that is, like the title says – flat, and can be mailed to friends around the world.

The Flat Stanley Project was started in 1995 by Dale Hubert, a third grade schoolteacher in London, Ontario, Canada. It is meant to facilitate letter writing by schoolchildren to each other as they document where Flat Stanley has gone with them. The project provides an opportunity for students to make connections with students of other schools who’ve signed up with the project.

Students begin by reading the book and becoming acquainted with the story. Then they make paper Flat Stanleys and keep a journal for a few days, documenting the places and activities in which Flat Stanley is involved. The Flat Stanley and the journal are mailed to other people who are asked to treat the figure as a visiting guest and add to his journal, then return them both after a period of time.

In a letter to Petree from the White House, Obama said that he was “pleased to report that he worked hard, listened carefully and a had a lot of fun!”

The letter describes to Petree how Obama carried Flat Stanley throughout the White House and into staff meetings.

Petree said he chose to send his Flat Stanley to Obama for a number of reasons.

“He is the first African-American president and I thought he would be a neat person to send it to,” he said.

“I asked him what it was like being the president and if it was hard being the president.”

Though he never expected a response from the president, Petree said it was the best trip to the mailbox that his mother ever made.