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Obama strikes a personal note to Indian American

india Updated: Jul 26, 2009 14:50 IST

Even as US President Barack Obama deals with the opposition to his proposed health care bill, he found time to write to a Chicago-based Indian American about his vision of health care reform. Striking a personal note, the president wrote about how he watched his mother struggle with insurance forms during the last days of her life.

"Since I took office, we have done more to advance the cause of health care reform than we have in the previous decade," the president wrote to Sunita Chopra.

"The rising cost of health care is the most pressing financial challenge for families and for our nation, and controlling this cost is essential to bringing down the federal deficits we inherited," Obama added.

"There are tough choices to be made, and I will bring businesses and workers, health care providers and patients, and Democrats and Republicans together to create a system that delivers better care and puts the nation on a much sounder long-term fiscal path," the letter states.

President Obama struck a personal note in the letter. "I share the sense of urgency that Americans like you have voiced. I watched as my ailing mother struggled with stacks of insurance forms in the last moments of her life. This is not who we are as a nation: together, we will fix it (the health care system)."

Chopra was one of the many Indian Americans in Chicago who volunteered in Obama's presidential campaign. While expressing her support for Obama's efforts at health care reform, she said she had voiced her concern about the high cost of prescription drugs, specially for those with long-term health conditions.

She said she spoke from personal experience. Her mother, who fled to India from Pakistan as a refugee during the riots following India's independence and is now an American citizen, is disabled with severe osteoporosis.

According to a recent article in the New York Times, the president receives over 10,000 letters, e-mails and faxes every day. The task of sifting these letters goes to Mike Kelleher, director of the White House Office of Correspondence.

Kelleher chooses 10 letters which are slipped into a purple folder and put in the daily briefing book that is delivered to President Obama at his White House residence.

"We pick messages that are compelling, things people say that, when you read it, you get a chill," Kelleher told the Times. "I send him letters that are uncomfortable messages."

The ritual offers President Obama a way to move beyond the 'White House bubble', and occasionally leads to moments when his composure cracks, his advisers told the paper.

The White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, said President Obama "believes it's easy in Washington to forget there are real people with real challenges being affected by the debate".

Emanuel added that he had seen the president turn to policy advisers in meetings and say "no, no, no. I want to read you a letter that I got. I want you to understand."