A young girl in Marine City, Mich. overheard her parents talking about Soviet aggression in the Arctic. She didn’t entirely understand what they were talking about, but her parents saying the Russians might test nuclear bombs at the North Pole was cause for concern.
What could she do, except warn the President of the United States?
It was 1961, the height of the Cold War. The very next year would prove to be the biggest test of then-President John F. Kennedy’s mettle against his Soviet adversaries — the Cuban Missile Crisis, but that was months away.
At that moment, however, 8-year-old Michelle Rochon was worried about Santa Claus and his workshop. And she wanted to make certain President Kennedy would do something about the Soviet aggression toward the world’s jolliest elf.
“I knew nuclear bombs were bad. And if they were testing them at the North Pole, what was Santa going to do?” said Michelle in a phone interview with CBC News. “I just automatically thought I have to write [the President] and maybe he can do something about it.”
Her letter read:
Dear Mr. Kennedy,
Please stop the Russians from bombing the North Pole because they will kill Santa Claus.
I am 8 years old. I am in the third grade at Holy Cross School.
She put the letter in the mailbox, addressed only to “President Kennedy, Washington, D.C.”
To her surprise, the President not only received the letter, but published a photo of him reading it. Her letter became nationwide news. And then, a few weeks later, a letter on White House stationery came in the mail for young Michelle.(JFK Library | YouTube)
In case you don’t want to watch the video, this was the President’s reply:
I was glad to get your letter about trying to stop the Russians from bombing the North Pole and risking the life of Santa Claus.
I share your concern about the atmospheric testing of the Soviet Union, not only for the North Pole but for countries throughout the world; not only for Santa Claus but for people throughout the world.
However, you must not worry about Santa Claus. I talked with him yesterday and he is fine. He will be making his rounds again this Christmas.
Little Michelle was elated.
“All I understood was that he talked to Santa Claus and he was fine and he’d be coming around this Christmas,” she said. “President Kennedy said so. So, everything was good.”