Acknowledgements: A special thanks to Kevin Smith and Dr. Nancy B. Johnson for making this article possible.
During the second semester of my sophomore year at Big Sandy Community College, I enrolled in a leadership course required for our Honors Program. Dr. Nancy Johnson and Melinda Justice were the professors that taught the course. One of the leadership skills they taught us was the importance of a handwritten letter. Each week they would invite a guest speaker to talk with us about their experience in leadership. After the guest speakers deliver their speech and finish the workshop, each one of us would write them a “thank-you” letter. In the letter, we thanked them for their time and effort on visiting our campus to teach us about leadership. In addition, we wrote the things that we learned from them, and we mentioned how their advice will benefit us in the future. We learn that we add more value to family members and friends by taking time out of our lives to write them a letter rather than sending an e-mail or a tweet. The recipients will remember you in the long run because of their appreciation for your sincere investment.
Kevin Smith, one of our guest speakers that semester, shared an interesting personal story on the importance of a hand-written letter. Kevin is the founder of the nonprofit organization Young Professionals of East Kentucky. His advice has stuck on the forefront of my mind all these years and it's one I hope you find as encouraging to you as it was to me.
"A well thought out hand-written letter goes a very long way," Kevin stated as he started his talk. In 2006, while Kevin was a student at Union College (Barbourville, KY), he set out to cover the President's State of the Union Address in Washington, DC for his college's local paper The Mountain Advocate. He had no idea how hard this task would be as the speech is only open to Members of Congress guests and to a limited number of press.
After researching and finding out who the media contact would be on disbursing media credentials, Kevin created a plan of selling his story of why they should choose him. Unfortunately, he was told that the credentialing process was for only for the largest daily papers in the country because of limited seating and that Barbourville's weekly paper would not qualify. Despite this saddening news, Kevin persevered. After continuing to follow up to share his desire to cover the event, he sparked some goodwill. Three days before the State of the Union, he received a call from Washington that a media credential had opened up and that he was the first person to come to mind. Kevin had gotten his hands on one of the toughest tickets in America.
If the story of perseverance isn't enough, the story continues. Upon returning back to the Commonwealth, Kevin wrote a hand-written letter thanking the gentleman for the once in a lifetime opportunity. As the months afterward rolled on, he thought little about the potential effect of his letter. However, as media credentials were being issued for the next State of the Union Address, Kevin received a call and invitation to attend once again. When Kevin asked how this was possible, he was told it was because of his thoughtful letter they'd received earlier. If individuals are fortunate, then they are able to attend one State of the Union Address in their lifetime; Kevin attended two in a row. As Kevin concluded his talk, he shared, "going twice to the State of the Union Address would not have been possible without the my sending a hand-written thank you card."
When was the last time you wrote a letter?