GEORGETOWN, Texas (Nexstar) — Inside Katie Hayes Luke’s home 30 miles north of Austin, she lovingly edits photos from her travels.
Her project, four years in the making, aims to bring a voice to important issues facing the country. The results— Postcards From Americans.
Luke meets with people with different perspectives on a variety of topics and asks them a simple question: What would individual Americans say to the President?
In turn, she makes a portrait of that person highlighting what that individual wrote about and mails the image with the letter to the White House, addressed to the President of the United States.
“After the 2016 election, I really wanted to know, like, what people thought, and why they went to the voting box,” Luke, a professor at St. Edwards University, said. “What if I put the framework in to like write a letter to the President, and just to see, give people like a chance to say what they really thought and speak directly to him?”
One of her goals is to present varying opinions on relevant subjects to portray people’s priorities.
“I think it gets more towards people who want to be heard, and they feel like they’re not being heard currently in our political discussions,” Luke said. “I think that’s something that across the board, no matter what political ideology you have, is that we, as a people are not being heard by our government leaders, and so I think it’s, for them maybe a chance to finally say, like, ‘I wrote this letter, it’s going to the White House, it’s going to be documented,’ and, you know, that’s at least a chance to be heard.”
One of the participants, Robyn Sandoval of Pflugerville, runs a shooting league established for women.
“I wrote a letter to President Trump and asked him to stand firm against those who want to take our constitutional rights to keep and bear arms,” she said.
Sandoval hoped her participation in the postcard project would promote conversations about responsible gun use.
“Come to the range, learn about firearms, learn about the people who use them, the law abiding citizens that have them the millions of law abiding citizens that have them and learn about why education is really more valuable than legislation,” Sandoval said.
365 miles south, where Texas meets Mexico, Michael Benavides is hard at work as co-founder of a nonprofit aimed at helping asylum-seekers.
I just want [the president] to know that there’s nothing to fear with people seeking asylum,” Benvaides, who has aided between 8,000-10,000 people, said.
“Immigrants are not dangerous people. They’re in danger, they’re fleeing danger,” Benavides, a public school administrator by day, said.
The letters often reflect what is happening at that moment in time, Luke said.
“Depending on what’s happening in the news cycle, I get really different letters from people,” she said. Subject matters range from immigration to the Second Amendment, from social justice to election results. More recently, the letters have centered on education and the coronavirus.
“I have found really inspiring people on, you know, all sides of the political spectrum,” Luke said, “A lot of times I disagree with what, you know, they’re saying, but it’s not my voice that I’m trying to push out there.”
She said a few people received letters back from the White House, but she hasn’t kept in touch with everyone she talked to. Next stop for her journey includes El Paso to focus on the COVID-19 response, then she’ll continue west to California.