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My mother declared my bedroom a disaster area, Reagan responded.

My mother declared my bedroom a disaster area

President Reagan responds to a unique request for funding

SHAUN USHER, by permission of the Reagan Library

APR 18, 2024

The following exchange can be found in the second volume of Letters of Note. Reprinted by kind permission of the Reagan Library.

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. Letters arrived from all over the world, written by a diverse group of people: men, women, fans, critics, average Joes, celebrities, world leaders, and, marking a moment in history, a letter from a 13-year-old boy from South Carolina named Andy Smith, written exactly 40 years ago on 18 April 1984.

Andy Smith to U.S. President Ronald Reagan, 18th April 1984

Andy Smith

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.

Sincerely yours,

Andy Smith

May 11, 1984

Dear Andy:

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.


Ronald Reagan

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