Posts Tagged ‘amateur radio’

The Power of a Letter

June 29, 2012

My dialog with the White House regarding the burden of Government on my small business is progressing toward some action. I’ll give a concise summary of this project of mine and a status update in a paragraph or two, but before I do that, I want to recount a story from my childhood – there is power in writing a letter, and there are honorable people in Government who receive letters and act on them. I learned that lesson at a very early age!

As a child of nine years old, I was intensely interested in amateur radio – ham radio. I had built a KnightKit Star Roamer short wave receiver, and it exposed a world of broadcasters such as the Voice of America and the BBC, ships at sea and even a few satellites in space to me and my imagination. And in the garble of the radio waves, I could hear ham radio operators from all over the world talking to each other. This really broadened my horizon, and I would stay up all night listening through headphones so that everyone else in the house could sleep soundly oblivious to my activity.

I wanted a ham radio license – I really wanted to “chime in” and talk to all those people I could hear. I wanted a license, but I was in a legal box unable to get my license – BUMMER. I was in an immigrant family in the United States – a Canadian nine years old. In the US, you had to be a US citizen to get a ham radio license at that time. In Canada, you had to be 15 years old to get a ham radio license – screwed twice with no obvious solution to my problem. I wrote letters – lots of letters. I wrote Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in Canada who was a ham radio operator, and I wrote Senator Barry Goldwater who was also a ham radio operator. I explained my predicament, and I asked them both  for help.

My first letter to Senator Goldwater was written when I was about eleven years old, if I recall – I’ll find that letter and make a more complete post if I have the time. Here are two of the Senator’s letters to me after a few years of wrangling the issue in Congress – an eternity for a child – things took an unanticipated twist, and there was going to be a delay:

Goldwater 721013

Goldwater 730216

Yes, I was learning that Government was complex, and politics was a “rocky road” with land mines of unintended consequences. And I was learning to “mark time” in terms of years. But I was also learning that there are rational people in Government who will right a wrong and fix a problem.

The Senator would write or phone or visit over lunch once every year to give me an update on the progress to resolve my problem. In the seventh grade, I fondly recall lunch with Barry – I “hid out” in the nurses office where I was exposed to fewer challenges and questions than in the Principal’s office waiting for the Senator – I was within earshot and heard, “I am Senator Goldwater’s chauffeur.  The Senator requests Master Crowe’s presence for lunch.” Can you imagine my grin from ear to ear as I stepped around the corner to present myself for lunch with a white shirt and red tie! Lunch was at McDonalds (my choice). I was told that my problem would take a few years to resolve (and it did). The Senator was friendly and genuinely interested in me.

Stepping out of the limo after lunch in front of the elementary school, the Senator reminded me that Government was complex and not always rational. He assured me he would do everything possible to help me, and he was clear to warn me that I would have to be patient for a number of years. “You will understand what I am up against when you are older, but for now, you need to continue to be patient – very patient, because this may take a few more years.”  Senator Goldwater solved my problem in time. Today, any legal resident in the United States can get an Amateur Radio license, and there is no age restriction – thanks to Senator Goldwater’s effort on my behalf. Senator Goldwater was an honorable man who took interest in me for no better reason than “it was a good thing to do”.

An aside, one year during the annual status report, Senator Goldwater asked if I knew who Alice Cooper was? Yes, I did. “Cooper lives next door to me, and I don’t like it. He’s weird – I don’t think I like him.” The next year, Barry said, “Remember I asked if you knew Alice Cooper? Well, he’s not such a bad guy. He throws good parties, and sometimes I am invited! He is friendly, and he has some interesting buddies.” Who would think that Goldwater and Cooper would mix socially?

And another aside, Canada lowered the age for licensing amateur radio operators to six years of age thanks to Pierre acting on my behalf.

So, the status with the White House today… A recap of my project…  My initial letter to President Obama:

President Obama 120125

The response from the White House – a Presidential Executive Order responding to some of my concerns and doubtless the concerns and letters of many, many others:

2012-11798 Executive Order 13610

At the end of May, I had a brief phone call with Mr. Sunstein, the Administrator of the Office of Management and Budget followed by an e-mail exchange.  In response to the President’s Executive Order with my concerns prominently highlighted, Mr. Sunstein issued a Memorandum to the heads of the executive agencies of the Federal government:

120622 reducing-reporting-and-paperwork-burdens

And I corresponded once more with Mr. Sunstein with a comprehensive document and my license to use my document for any constructive purpose (I have made several very minor corrections to a few embarrassing mistakes…):

Burden Summary and Proposals

So, this is analogous to being at the end of the “second inning”. We are beginning the “middle game” to progress to solutions. And I know full well that this will take some time – I learned that lesson more than forty years ago. And the end is highly unpredictable…

There is power in a letter written to an honorable person – that is a lesson that many citizens in the United States need to learn.

Stay tuned for news – be patient!