(The Daily) They didn’t call him the Great Communicator for nothing. In response to a deadpan request for federal cleanup funds from a California middle-schooler — whose mother had just declared his room a “disaster area” — President Ronald Reagan calmly (and with his tongue firmly in his cheek) counseled self-reliance in the letter reproduced here (via Letters of Note).
Irmo, South Carolina
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
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.
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.
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 3,000 already underway in our
Give my best regards to your