June 2003: Al Franken sends the following satirical letter to then Attorney General John Ashcroft and 27 other Republicans. In the letter, written on Harvard University letterhead, Franken requests abstinence-related stories for a (non-existent) book he’s writing entitled ‘Savin’ It!’ and claims to have already received responses from a selection of prominent figures. Just a month later, Franken would send a written apology to Ashcroft. 6 years later, July 2009, Franken would become a U.S. Senator.
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
Dear Attorney General Ashcroft,
I am currently a Fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where I am working on a book about abstinence programs in our public schools entitled Savin’ It!
In this day of rampant immorality, unwanted pregnancies, and dangerous sexual diseases, Savin’ It! will document how the Bush Administration is championing abstinence programs and setting the right example for America’s youth.
The book’s fourth chapter, “Role Modelin’ It!”, will feature the personal stories of abstinence heroes for our nation’s young people to emulate. Isn’t it about time for our young people to have a chance to look up to leaders who truly walked the walk — instead of just talking the talk — by not having sex until they were married?
I would very much appreciate it if you could share your abstinence story. So far, I have received wonderful testimonies from HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, William J. Bennett, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, Senator Rick Santorum, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. (I’m still hoping to hear back from the President!)
I have found the kids respond best to total honesty. Don’t be afraid to share a moment when you were tempted to have sex, but were able to overcome your urges through willpower and strength of character. Be funny! Did a young woman ever think you were homosexual just because you wouldn’t have sex with her? Be serious! Were you ever taunted and made to feel bad or “uncool” because of your choice? But most of all, be real. Kids can sense a phony a mile away.
I can tell by your passionate advocacy of abstinence education that you will have a lot to offer this book. Thank you for considering my project. I hope you can find time to inspire the next generation of sex-free leaders.
Fellow, Shorenstein Center for Press and Politics
Kennedy School of Government