Here's some USPS legerdermain. The post office has issued a new stamp, this time with that famous American, Harry Potter pictured on it. Newscaster Nia-Malika Henderson is flummoxed by this USPS decision--her colleagues not so much.
I decided to visit the USPS website (at www.usps.com, by the way, not www.usps.gov) to see what the rules are for putting individuals, real or fictional, on postage. I found this nifty history of the post office, The United States Postal Service, An American History: 1775-2006. According to this authoritative source, a group called the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee, which the Postmaster General thought up in 1957, "provide[s] a breadth of judgment and depth of experience in various areas which influence the subject matter, character, and beauty of postage stamps." The Committee can have up to 15 members and it can meet as many as four times a year to consider various candidate stamps, which shoudl "stand the test of time, be consistent with public opinion, and have broad national appeal."
Here is a list of the current members of the Committee:
Gail Anderson, Partner, Anderson Newton Design; instructor, School of Visual Arts; author
Benjamin Bailar, Former Postmaster General; postal history stamp collector
Caroline Bauman, Associate director, Smithsonian Institution’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
B. J. Bueno, Founder, The Cult Branding Company; partner, Nonbox Consulting
Cary Brick, Retired, U. S. Congressional Staff; Adjunct Professor of Government and History
Donna De Varona, TV Sports Commentator, Olympic Swimming Champion, Select Director of the Board, U.S. Soccer Foundation
Jean Picker Firstenberg, Chair & President Emerita, American Film Institute
Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphone Fletcher University Professor, W.E.B. DuBois Insitute for African and African-American Research, Harvard University
Janet King, Philatelist, Author, Retired
Harry Rinker, Antiques and Collectibles appraiser, Author, Collector, Columnist, educator, and lecturer, host of WHATCHA GOT?
Maruchi Santana, Founder, the Brand Extension Agency
Debra Shriver, Vice President and Chief Communications Officer, Hearst Corporation, Co-Founder, UNICER Snowflake Ball
Katherine C. Tobin, Ph.D., Former Governor, U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors
Got an idea for a postage stamp? Send it to
Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee
c/o Stamp Development
United States Postal Service
475 L'Enfant Plaza SW, Room 3300
Washington, DC 20260-3501
Be prepared to wait at least three years for the Committee to consider your proposal. And no, you can't appear in person to plead your case. Not even on a broomstick.
More coverage of the debate here at CNN, where commentator Dean Obeidallah (himself a lawyer) points out that not only is the Harry Potter stamp likely to make money for a cash-strapped USPS, but he is far from the first non-US citizen to appear on a US stamp (though he might be the first fictional one). Think the iconic Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, or the beloved French singer Edith Piaf. They knew how to create magic, too.