Petitions come in all sizes and on all topics. The right to petition the government holds an elite status in the American political system. After all, it’s one of the few methods that the average citizen has to capture the attention of, say, the White House administration when he wants something.
These petitions also say an awful lot about our priorities.
The White House takes on the Death Star
Take for example, the now-famous death star petition that was filed last year on the White House We the People website. The petition not only met the government’s requirements of 25,000 signatures within 30 days, it exceeded it. In so doing, the petition forced the administration to come up with a formal answer as to when – if ever – it would finally build a real death star. For some readers, this exchange was better than watching old reruns.
Not surprisingly, the administration turned down its unenviable new role.
“Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?” Paul Shawcross, Chief of the Science and Space Branch queried in his response to the petition.
Ale to the Chief
Or, the petition that called for the administration to release the time-honored recipe for the White House Ale.
“Following in the footsteps of great men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin, Barack Obama has reportedly been enjoying the rewards of home brewed beer,” the petition notes. “In keeping with the brewing traditions of the founding fathers, homebrewers across America call on the Obama Administration to release the recipe for the White House home brew so that it may be enjoyed by all.”
Indeed, homebrewers were delighted when the Obama administration released not only a recipe for the White House Honey Ale, but one for the White House Honey Porter, along with a four-minute video on tips and how-to’s.
The petition was submitted last August before the Obama administration had raised the minimum threshold for signatures from 5,000 to 25,000. Still, the Ale to the Chief petition, as the White House giddily referred to it in the response, had met the requirement by more than double that number, clocking in with 12,240 signatures.
Don’t hold your breath
And while the petition to impeach Obama was submitted in a somewhat lighter vein last November, the White House still managed to find a spark of humor in the topic.
The petition “We Request that Obama be Impeached for the Following Reasons,” probably didn’t need all of its 49,980 signatures to grab the attention of the Obama administration. But as it had met the newly minted requirement of 25,000 signatures, the White House was keen to reply.
“(The) short answer is that we won’t be calling for the President’s impeachment – and given the fact that you made your appeal to the White House itself, we doubt you were holding your breath waiting for our support.
“The key is that we can disagree without being disagreeable. That’s the kind of public dialogue Americans deserve.”
White House: The new threshold
In January, the White House announced its decision to raise the minimum signature requirement again – this time to 100,000. Its reason?
“(It’s) exceeded our wildest expectations. Through the past year, interest in We the People exploded and we’re closing in on 10 million signatures,” explains Macon Phillips, director of digital security for the White House. Petitioners will still be held to the same time frame of 30 days in order to meet the requirement for a formal White House reply.
But even if the new threshold sounds steep, Americans don’t appear to be daunted.
The touching and long-sought-after, request to provide military service animals the dignity of a soldier’s burial, (the current petition was created less than a week ago) already stands at 1,519 signatures, while a another equally moving petition to recognize the health needs of veterans who were exposed to toxic substances at Fort MacClellan has less than 500 signatures, but is growing. So is one requesting that paid maternity leave be federally mandated.
And, of course, in keeping with Americans’ passion for the stars, there’s also a petition to the White House to award Kennedy honors to William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, George Takei, Walter Koenig and Nichelle Nichols. With an expiration date of February 23, and only another 99,915 signatures needed, anything is possible.