As one would expect, Ronald Reagan was the recipient of thousands of letters each month during his presidency–a mailbag so voluminous, in fact, that a gang of patient volunteers were tasked with opening them all on his behalf and passing him approximately 30 each week to read and respond to. This is just one example, sent by a 13-year-old South Carolina boy called Andy Smith. Reagan’s reply follows.
(This letter, and many other fascinating pieces of correspondence, can be found in the bestselling book, More Letters of Note.)
400 London Pride Road
Irmo, South Carolina 29063
April 18, 1984
Dear Mr. President,
My name is Andy Smith. I am a seventh grade student at Irmo Middle School, in Irmo, South Carolina.
Today my mother declared my bedroom a disaster area. I would like to request federal funds to hire a crew to clean up my room. I am prepared to provide the initial funds if you will provide matching funds for this project.
I know you will be fair when you consider my request. I will be awaiting your reply.
May 11, 1984
I’m sorry to be so late in answering your letter but, as you know, I’ve been in China and found your letter here upon my return.
Your application for disaster relief has been duly noted but I must point out one technical problem: the authority declaring the disaster is supposed to make the request. In this case, your mother.
However, setting that aside, I’ll have to point out the larger problem of available funds. This has been a year of disasters: 539 hurricanes as of May 4th and several more since, numerous floods, forest fires, drought in Texas and a number of earthquakes. What I’m getting at is that funds are dangerously low.
May I make a suggestion? This Administration, believing that government has done many things that could better be done by volunteers at the local level, has sponsored a Private Sector Initiative Program, calling upon people to practice voluntarism in the solving of a number of local problems.
Your situation appears to be a natural. I’m sure your mother was fully justified in proclaiming your room a disaster. Therefore, you are in an excellent position to launch another volunteer program to go along with the more than 3000 already underway in our nation. Congratulations.
Give my best regards to your mother.