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No Federal Funds for Bedroom Cleanup

Flickr user steve_cx

I'm a big fan of Letters of Note, a blog that collects interesting correspondence from throughout history. Today, the blog focuses on a great letter Andy Smith, a seventh-grader, sent to President Reagan in 1984.

"Today my mother declared my bedroom a disaster area," Smith wrote. "I would like to request federal funds to hire a crew to clean up my room."

Reagan responded first by informing young Andy that any formal request for assistance must come from the authority who declared the disaster -- in this case, his mother. And even setting that aside, the president stuck to his limited government guns in assessing the request. From his response:

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. 

Tom Shoop is vice president and editor in chief at Government Executive Media Group, where he oversees both print and online editorial operations. He started as associate editor of Government Executive magazine in 1989; launched the company’s flagship website, GovExec.com, in 1996; and was named editor in chief in 2007.

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