Hoover and His Young Advisors

By Thomas F. Schwartz

Presidents receive endless unsolicited advice on what to do and how to do it.  Modern Presidents, even with the most vigilant staff, cannot prevent unsolicited advice from reaching their boss, especially in open public settings.  Hoover tended to be impatient with advice given by adults, especially from the general public.  But he always indulged advice sent by children, perhaps realizing how much encouragement from an adult could mean in their lives.  In two instances, children initiated their own hunger relief efforts to help the less fortunate during the depression.

Anne Warner Burnham, a ten-year-old from Elizabeth, New Jersey enlisted the help of her friends and decided to put on a play in the living room of a friend and also sold fudge and lemonade.  The proceeds from the sale of tickets and food was sent to the Red Cross and the following letter went to President Hoover:

“I am writing to tell you about a play we gave for the benefit of the Red Cross because I think it would be good if you told other little children about it.  If lots of kids everywhere give plays they can get lots of money to help the poor people who need food and clothes.  They don’t need to be very old to do it, because I am only ten….We gave a Punch and Judy show and movies, but the movies didn’t work.  We sold lemonade and fudge.  We charged two cents admission and made $6.31.  Nobody grown up helped us.  We gave the money to the American Red Cross chapter in Elizabeth.”

Another precocious five-year old, Rosemary Ernisse of Webster, New York, was so moved by hearing of plight of people living in drought affected areas, she robbed her piggy bank of a half dollar and sent it to Hoover with the following:

“Dear Mr. Hoover:  Here is a big white penny from my bank.  Will you buy some bread and butter and milk and candy for the little boys and girls who are hungry?”

It is said that good habits developed early in life carry on into adult life.  The caring actions of both Anne Warner Burnham and Rosemary Ermosse reinforced Hoover’s belief in the generosity of average of Americans in addressing the needs of the less fortunate.


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