Facebook Didn’t Kill the United States Postal Service
When I first came back to the Philadelphia area to anchor the news, one of my great surprises was the dozens of letters written by my father that I received in the mail. He had passed away the year before my homecoming, and the letters came to me in large envelopes, preserved with care in plastic covers.
My father, who owned the John Robert Mendte advertising agency on South 16th Street, was a prolific letter writer. These letters—sent to me by viewers—were dated as far back as the 1940s. If you met my Dad and made an impression, chances are you would get a letter from him. My father spent time on these letters. They are filled with sincere thanks, flowery compliments and a thorough recap of events. His letters meant so much to the recipients, many of whom my Dad only met once, that they saved them for decades.
My father also sent letters to his grandchildren, especially the ones who lived out of state, like my two oldest children. He would write wonderful short stories about his youth or create new stories with a grandchild as the central character fighting off pirates, winning a football game or becoming the America’s youngest president. He called these letters “Grandfather Stories,” and he would number them. They will be saved forever and passed down through generations. Letters live forever and so do their authors.
I share these stories with you because the United States Postal Service is in some trouble and is contemplating closing thousands of post offices across the country. The Philadelphia area would be especially hard-hit, with 14 post offices in the city and the St. David’s post office in Wayne on notice for possible closure.
Post offices and mail carriers are important to the fabric of every community. As the tactile world slowly slips into the ether, the brick and mortar of the post office, the flesh and blood of its employees, and the words and paper those employees process force us to interact on a more personal level, moving away from the Facebook screen to actually meet people face to face. Post offices have been rightfully romanticized as part of the American experience, since Ben Franklin opened the first one in Philadelphia on Market Street in 1775.
And since that beginning of the post office, it has been self-sustaining, the only government agency to make a profit. You may think it was the Internet that caused the postal decline, but direct mail has actually increased since the Internet boom. More money is spent on direct-mail advertising than on radio, TV or the Internet. The Post office would still be operating in the black if not for the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act signed into law in 2006 that sucks over five billion dollars a year out of the postal coffers. The act had the stench of corporate cronyism and union busting then and smells even worse today with more than 100,000 postal jobs on the line. A weaker post office and fewer union workers help competitors like UPS and FedEx make more profit while bringing down labor costs.
That’s why postal unions across the country are holding rallies on Tuesday, September 27th. You can either attend one of those, or you can just write a letter. I’m not talking about a letter to your congressman; I mean a real heartfelt letter like the ones my Dad used to write. Sit down and take the time to hand-write words that will touch someone’s heart. If you don’t have my Dad’s gift for prose, then just write “I Love You.” Put the letter in an envelope and mail it out. You will not only make a 44-cent donation to the post office and maybe help save some job, but you just created something simply wonderful with pen and paper that will last a long, long time.