For a few days in late May, a St. Andrews University alumna was creating a stir nationally with her grammatical critique of a White House letter. Yvonne Mason, class of 1978, and similar to what she had done for 17 years as a high school English teacher, took purple pen to paper, circled mistakes, wrote notes, highlighted redundancies and generally “graded” the letter for its syntax and rhetorical style.
And then, she mailed it back to the White House. It went viral, and Ms. Mason began to be interviewed by the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN and more.
The real story began when Ms. Mason wrote President Trump in February after the Parkland, FL, high school shooting. She was quoted, according to the Washington Post: “I wrote urging the president to meet with every single family of a victim individually. And to hear what they had to say and to assure them that something was going to be done about gun control in this country. I didn’t expect to hear back. After I mailed it, it was over for me. I had expressed my opinion.” She insists that whoever wrote the letter didn’t need a new job, maybe just a new stylebook.
However, the White House letter that sparked the editing did not refer to any of the content or requests in Ms. Mason’s letter and was probably written by someone at the White House, “who was trained to mimic the president’s writing style such as a speechwriter.”
Regardless, her teaching and composition skills took over, the letter was scrutinized and sent back with a photo taken of the letter that would end up on her Facebook page.
Without repeating the various media reporting, St. Andrews director of communications contacted Ms. Mason (now retired from teaching and living in Atlanta) and asked her to respond to questions. These are her answers.
- Now that you are "in the news," any changes or how you have to deal with people/media?
I've had to change my Facebook privacy settings to make them more narrow, but I didn’t block anyone until over the past weekend. It was getting a little scary. Someone called for Atlantans to protest in front of our house.
- Any follow up from the WH, etc.?
Nope! LOL, I don’t expect any follow up.
- Is there a learning experience evolving from this--once you did it ... results ... ?
Several people would ask me if I’d do it again, and I would. The learning experience is that people will attack you personally while calling you down for attacking someone they admire.
And I’d do it to more than just the president. The point is that it was a formal letter from a nationally important figure.
- Was it intended to be political?
I just joked about it constantly. It was most certainly political, but I’d do it for a Democrat, too. South Carolina (where I am still registered to vote) has no major politicians to correct.
- Are you still in the media drama?
I am not. I did an interview with a South American international television station two weeks after the media storm, but I think people are now rushing to trash the Eagles for not loving America as much as a man who doesn’t know the words to “God Bless America,” or have enough sense to just not start singing.
- Threats? Love letters?
No direct threats, but implications of what “should” happen to me if I were this disrespectful. Lots of people shared and complimented me, but no proposals of marriage! My favorite epithet was “old hippie hag.” A woman from New Delhi messaged to tell me I was a badass. I loved it!
- Most surprising aspect of the entire story?
The most surprising aspect was that it was a story at all. I posted it on my FB page knowing that my friends would get a kick out of it. Someone asked to share it and the rest is media history.
- Any role that St. Andrews played?
St. Andrews made me brave and confident in my intellectual capabilities and thinking skills. I am forever grateful for my experience there. My daughter Margaret Tate is also a St. Andrews alum, class of 2008.
- Additional ideas/thoughts/points you would like to contribute?
Not really. It was fun being on CNN and everyone was very nice. I was surprised at how passionate people were about how awful I am. And to all of them, I WOULD have done the same with a letter from Barack Obama had the occasion arisen.—30—