In 1984, a seventh-grader named Andy Smith wrote to then-President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, with a request:
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.
Reagan replied with the following letter.
Irmo, South Carolina
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 3,000 already underway in our nation—congratulations.
Give my best regards to your mother.