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Hundreds Take the Mighty Pen in Hand to Share Concerns With Those at the Top

February 05, 1989|JEFF MITCHELL | Times Staff Writer

Political novices or old pros, hundreds of people joined the Great American Write-In on Saturday, expressing concerns about problems ranging from acid rain to Medicare cuts.

The event, which organizers said generated about 1,500 letters, is designed to encourage correspondence to local, state, national and even international politicians by ordinary citizens.

About 400 people, some teen-agers and some seniors, some conservatives and some liberals, were packed elbow to elbow at the UC Irvine University Club, feverishly handwriting two, sometimes three letters apiece. Event organizers provided paper, pens, envelopes, stamps and addresses.

Foggy on the Details

And, for those who were foggy on the details of acid rain or reductions in Medicare, representatives of 33 advocacy groups stood in the wings, ready to offer information should anyone inquire.

The sponsor of the fourth annual event was a group called Women For: Orange County.

"This event stimulates activism," said Molly Lyon, event co-chair. "It cuts right across political lines; it's not just an event for Republicans or Democrats. By having them express themselves in writing to their representatives, they are exercising their democracy."

Helping inspire the crowd of mostly women was Anne Summers, editor of Ms. magazine. She flew from New York to deliver the event's keynote address.

"I think that one of the great by-products of events like this is the sense of empowerment that people experience when they write the representatives and let them know how they feel on an issue," Summers said. "Once they have written a letter or two, that feeling of futility often vanishes."

For Rachael Jones, 75, of Mission Viejo, the event was her inspiration to write about Medicare cutbacks and other issues facing the elderly.

"It's the only way to do it. We all say that we are going to write a letter when we hear about something, but we seldom do, despite all the good intentions," Jones said.

Becky Toy, 27, a geology student at Cal State Fullerton, said: "The letters that I am sending today are all going to state legislators on the subject of family planning.

"If you don't stand up for what you believe in, then you don't have a lot of room" to complain.

Chris Hansen, 17, a Corona del Mar High School senior, focused his letters on human rights and preservation of the environment. "It's our right to voice our opinion," he said. "This event lets people transcend politics and get to the heart of the issue."

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