West Valley City • Dear President Obama: You are cordially invited to visit Utah, where you can see the sights and maybe do a little skiing.
And meet students at Endeavor Hall Charter School, who want Barack Obama to continue a tradition of presidential visits to the Beehive State, which has been host to every sitting president since the early 1930s. The last leader of the free world who failed to come to Utah while serving in office was Calvin Coolidge, who succeeded to the presidency in 1923 after the death of Warren Harding and was elected to a full term the next year.
"If he doesn't come, it would be like breaking a tradition," said 11-year-old Ravin Johnson as he composed a letter to Obama on Thursday. "People here feel left out."
Reagan Tolley, 11, also said tradition is important, adding, "It's like he's forgetting to come to our state."
Ravin, Reagan and their fellow sixth-graders in Emily Daugherty's class were composing letters as part of a lesson on persuasive writing. The inspiration for the assignment was "When the White House Comes to Zion," a book by Ron Fox and West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder, who is part of the school's Writer in Residence program.
Winder, a historian and author of a dozen books, has been holding sessions with sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade classes at Endeavor Hall, 2614 Decker Lake Lane. In addition to writing the letters, students in the three grades have assumed the roles of different presidents and discussed what they thought their impressions of Utah would have been.
Ulysses S. Grant was the first sitting president to visit Utah, which was then a territory. Obama was in Utah in 2007 during his presidential campaign but has not returned since taking the oath of office.
The White House will be receiving nearly 200 letters crafted by the students. Darlynn Tovar, 11, is hopeful that they will have an effect.
"I'd really like him to come to this school," she said. "I would really like to meet him."
Adriana Lopez, 12, and Benjamin Wright, 11, agreed an Obama visit to the school would be nice. In her letter, Adriana also said the president might enjoy time on the slopes.
With guidance from Daugherty and Winder, the students discussed how to make an argument and compiled a list of reasons that the president should come to Utah. While continuing his 13 most recent predecessors' unbroken string of visits, Obama could visit national parks, take in a Jazz game, tour Temple Square and enjoy the snow, the students said.
Ravin had an additional idea to motivate Obama to visit the state.
"I know most Utah citizens didn't vote for you," he said, "but if you come, they might like you better."