What do letters to three US Presidents and one British Prime Minister have in common? This might sound like the beginning of a bad joke. But it’s not! Check out the valuable, often unconventional tips within these extraordinary four letters.

Be Kind

While Winston Churchill was Prime Minister in 1940, his wife Clementine called him out on his sarcastic and overbearing manner. In a concerned letter addressed to the then Prime Minister, Clementine prescribed kindness and an Olympic level of calm. Easier said than done, Clementine!

It is widely acknowledged that Churchill held one of the most stressful leadership positions in British Parliamentary History. Understandably - this strain of World War II altered Churchill’s ability to exchange polite conversation with colleagues. But what’s this got to do with us? Sometimes - when we’re rushed, under pressure and working to tight deadlines – stress gets the best of us. For kindness to prevail at University or in the office, we’d all do well to remember Clementine’s warning –

“You won’t get the best results by irascibility & rudeness.”

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Learn from Experience


In 1973 President Nixon found himself going through a rough time. Not only was he in the midst of a scandal, he also caught pneumonia. Luckily for Nixon, eight-year-old John W James II had his back.

In his no-nonsense letter to the poorly President, John writes -

“Be a good boy and eat your vegetables… If you take your medicine and your shots you’ll be out in 8 days like I was.”

We stand to learn a lot more than healthy habits from John’s letter. The message here is: learn from experience. And not just your own. If you’re feeling overwhelmed at University or work – share that with someone. Chances are they’ve been in a similar situation. And there’s nothing like getting some friendly pointers to see you through.

Share Resources

In 1960 President Eisenhower received a letter containing a recipe for drop scones. That’s right, drop scones. Who shared their secret recipe, I hear you ask? The much anticipated letter was written by Queen Elizabeth II. The Queen had promised to pass on her drop scone recipe to the Eisenhowers after they visited her at Balmoral Castle – where one can only assume they dined on some delicious drop scones (amongst other food groups, we hope).

The Queen’s gesture was a nod in the direction of sharing and collaboration. But what do drop scones have to do with, well, anything? The point is, a silo mentality can only get you so far. But resource or information sharing between teams can promote innovation, build better practises and open up opportunities.

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Take Good Advice (Or in Other Words, Grow Whiskers)

While Abraham Lincoln was running for President in October 1860, he received some priceless written advice from an 11-year-old girl. Her suggestion for how to win the election? Grow a beard.

In her charming letter, Grace Bedell boldly explained the logic –

“All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President.”

Less than 1 month later, on November 6th 1860, Lincoln was elected as the 16th President of the United States. When the victorious Lincoln travelled by train to Washington DC a few months later, he had the good fortune of meeting young Grace. Much to her satisfaction, President Lincoln was indeed sporting facial hair.


Ellen Smyth writes graduate careers advice for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency. Check out their website to see which internships and graduate jobs are currently available. Or, if you’re looking to hire an intern, have a look at their innovative Video CVs.

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