Herbert Hoover’s Good Idea

September 7, 2008

by Tammy Drennan


Herbert Hoover received thousands of letters from children and young people over his years as president and thereafter. He loved answering them and he never failed to express his honest opinion, usually without ensconcing it in ambivalent or all-purpose language.


He also often included an insert with his letters to children – one of a number of pamphlets he had that shared something of his experiences in life and the lessons he’d learned from them.


For samples of the above, see Hoover’s book “On Growing Up.”


In the meantime… reading this little book has sparked an idea in my mind. What if each of us were to write a short booklet or pamphlet that tells about some important educational influence or experience in our lives, then share this booklet with youngsters we care about?


We might make up a list of children – our own, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, friends’ children, etc. – and write each of them an encouraging letter and include a copy of our pamphlet. We could also offer copies to local private schools or carry some with us to give to store clerks and others we encounter out and about.


A personal story is more interesting to most people than some abstract philosophical treatise (even a short one) and can make a truly lasting impression on a young mind.


You might write about someone who encouraged you to pursue education independently or how you discovered great literature or a love of mathematics or science. I’ll write about the headmaster of the little private school I attended in seventh grade and how she let me shut myself up in a roomful of books for hours a day to read to my heart’s content – and how I discovered the joys of reading about lives well-lived in that messy room.


Why not start on your mini-autobiography today? Make it inspirational. Then share it with friends and strangers. Besides your list of young people to send it to, leave it in waiting rooms and other places.


There are many ways to make a difference, many ways to spread the message of independence. This could be one of the more effective and easy ways. Everyone loves a true, personal story.