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Jake Mangas -- Redding Chamber of Commerce

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The Day My Grandma Wrote to President Reagan

As was shared at her celebration of life a couple weeks ago, Beverly Ruth Cartwright, aka “Grandma Ruby” was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma in 1931 – the same year as our family’s favorite baseball player – Wille Mays. She came from very humble beginnings in the Dust Bowl, and yet found her husband, Marv, their four children, and 65 grandchildren (including great-grandchildren and those that married into the family), and her best friend, Joyce, to more than sustain and solidify her life as one representative of an American dream.

lettersIn the days following grandma’s passing, my Aunt Cindy had the honor of looking through grandma’s cedar chest , which contained many nostalgic treasures of her life – from her wedding dress, to every greeting card any of us ever sent to her. Yet it was a letter she composed that caught my aunt’s eye and I am so grateful that she thought to share it with me. When I read grandma’s words, written in cursive with edits in the margins, I could tell this was  important to her, as it should be when writing a letter to the President of the United States.
Dated January 12, 1982, the US was in the grips of a severe recession, unemployment rate peaked at 10.8%, at the time higher than at any point following World War II, and President Ronald Reagan was facing much criticism as a result. Grandma Ruby decided she needed to do her part to encourage the “Great Communicator” by putting pen to paper and sending the following letter to our 40th President:
 
Dear Mr. President,
 
I first want to tell you that I think you are doing a great job. You have brought self respect and dignity to the office of President of Our United States. Your Nancy is a Great Lady and one that we can all use as an example in our lives as women.
 
I am a 50-year-old wife and mother of four beautiful children, which in turn have given my husband of 32 years, seven beautiful grandchildren. 
 
Over these last 32 years we have worked hard for everything we have, never getting help from parents or government. We started, 32 years ago, our married life in Killeen, Texas at Fort Hood in the Army (my husband was in the Army) living in very bad conditions, but we made it. We had our children one after the other. With the help of God on our side and working two jobs at a time we raised our children. Sometimes we only had 10 cents apiece on payday after paying our bills. That was not that long ago. No help! It wasn’t easy, but today it is so satisfying to say “we did it by ourselves”.
 
Today our children are doing it alone. Our oldest boy works for International Paper Co. in Weed, CA and could very well lose his job because the plant may close, but he has faith that everything will be alright. He has a wife and two baby girls. He graduated from Chico State College and has been in his position since that day. What they have they earned it by themselves. Our #2 son is in Clayton, MO, studying to be a Lutheran Pastor. He has a wife and one small daughter. Both of our sons have worked very hard to be where they are today. They have never been out of work because they know how to work. Our oldest daughter is married to a fine young man who worked his way through pharmacy school in Utah and is now a graduate pharmacist. They have three small children and have never asked for help. Our youngest daughter is married to a sports announcer on our local TV. They have one son. They also never ask for help. 
 
Everyone loves one another! How great it was when I was in school to stand in the morning and put your hand over your heart and pledge allegiance to the flag. This is our country! Also, to say the “Lord’s Prayer” – what better way to teach our children respect to God & Country. Who are these people who keep telling us that they don’t go together? Even our coins say “In God We Trust”! These people can sure spend that money though. What we need are positives and not so many negatives
 
We have to work many, many hours just to get our social security paid for, but that is the way it is so if that is the price you pay to live in such a beautiful country, how small it is. 
 
There is a developer in Red Bluff, CA who is building a shopping center. I don’t know the man personally, but they asked him how can you do this with the way things are today and he says that he will complete it in five years because the people of Red Bluff need it, and if you think you have competition just remember to give better service and smile. 
 
I know one of the freedoms we have is the freedom of speech of which I am exercising right now, but, why is it that ABC News is always on the negative side? If we took the stand not fooling ourselves, but just try and say “everything is great”! Maybe not so, but it is like a child doing a poor job of making his bed and you say “Wow! You sure did a good job!”. The next day it would be better until it was perfect. 
 
You will probably never read this letter, but I will feel better having written it. 
 
I am going to leave you with a scripture passage I Kings, Chapter 3, Verse 3-13 (New Scofield Reference Edition). 
 
We are behind you and respect you for what you are. You have paid a great price to lead this great country of ours and for our sakes we wish you good luck and God bless all your decisions.
 
Mrs. Marvin R Cartwirght
 
Nearly 40 years have passed since this letter was written, yet many of the challenges and social conflicts still ring true today. I have always admired the work ethic of my grandparents, who passed that down through their children to all of us grandchildren. I know I am preaching to the choir when I say that our country and our community would be better off with more people following the urging of another famous Leader of the Free World, President John F. Kennedy, who said “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” As we forge ahead focused on business recovery, we at the Chamber will continue to live out our commitment to civic action and call to serve the business community.
As grandma said, we will “remember to give better service and smile”.
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