On January 20th, 2009 I wrote a letter to the new First Daughters, Malia and Sasha. I went through exclusive channels available to previous members of the First Family to ensure that my letter made it to the new members of this exclusive club. I never got any response. The other day I happened to see an interview with President Obama in which he referenced the letter the Bush girls wrote to his daughters, and the fact that Chelsea once took Malia to dinner. I was aware that I was sort of holding my breath — would he say something about the letter I wrote? He didn’t. I decided to publish it here because I’m proud of it. I think it’s a good letter, and I hope someone gave it to the Obama girls in 2009, although it looks like I will never know.

Dear Malia and Sasha,

When my father became President, I was asked several times if any of the former First Children had written to me. They never did and I must admit, at the end of eight years, I never wrote to the new First Children either. I’ve decided this is a pattern that needs to change.

We are a small group of daughters and sons who have watched our fathers become America’s father. We are shepherded into history because our parents had the courage and the commitment to step onto its huge stage. History is not always an easy place to call home. It can take years to fully absorb and even understand the experience…it’s taken many years for me. It’s both glaringly public and, at moments, strangely lonely. So many people around, so many looking in, yet so few who can relate. There will be times when you long for the more normal life you once had — before millions were watching. But here’s what I’ve learned: There are also times when all those millions of people, most of whom you will never meet, seem to wrap themselves around you like a big extended family and you’ll realize how lucky you are to feel so much love. Just don’t let them tell you how to dress, or do your hair, or live your life. They mean well but they usually don’t give very good advice.

I was much older than both of you when my father was elected president, so I didn’t live at the White House, but I visited. If no one offers you stories about Lincoln’s ghost, ask around — you’ll hear them. My father swore their dog Rex saw the ghost in the hallway — he was barking at something no one else could see.  If you go into Lincoln’s bedroom and stand at just the right angle in front of his portrait, you can believe his eyes are looking at you. It’s not as good as seeing his ghost, but it’s pretty cool.

There are secret stairways in the White House (okay, not so secret — people know about them — but they aren’t used often so they feel like a secret.) One of them is in the Great Hall near the Queen’s bedroom. Push on the wall and you’ll find a passage open up, a stairway that will take you either up to the third floor or down to the first. It’s always good to have private passageways.

Have fun, keep smiling, duck into the secret stairways whenever you need to hide, talk to Lincoln’s portrait, look for his ghost, play the piano in the living quarters — the White House needs more music — and make sure there’s plenty of food in the upstairs kitchen. I still have no idea where the big downstairs kitchen is.

All my best,   Patti Davis


  1. Jimmy Hall says:

    Really enjoyed the read, sharing private moments in a very private space. Good for You for writing it. The fact you did write it is the experience of the Moment, trusting your Life what or who comes to it and act on It.
    ‘Finally sister, forgive language for taunting you
    and your tribes
    Know nothing else
    But codes.’

  2. Mick Bysshe says:

    Patti–I am wondering if you have ever reached out to other first daughters or had other first daughters reach out to you.

    Think one of LBJ’s daughter might have done something in the past year to clarify views about LBJ’s legacy.

    On a side note, I think I read many years ago that Johnny Carson was hard to get close to. I think that often happens to individuals in the public spotlight. My dad was a little hard to get close to and this past spring, 14 years after his death I dreamed he was constructing a modest home on the Chattahoochie River in Atlanta. I was reading *Gone with the Wind* at the time.////Mick

  3. Mick Bysshe says:

    One letter missing in url for my blog. This should fix it.

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