The unanswered letter to my Uncle Leon reminded me, in a darkly humorous manner, of this gem from More of Paul Harvey’s The Rest of the Story, written by Paul Aurandt.

Nice Try

     Let’s say you’re thirteen years old, born and reared in another country, and you’re looking for a fast ten dollars.

     Would it ever occur to you to write a letter–simply requesting ten Yankee dollars–to the President of the United States?

     It did occur to one thirteen-year-old.

     In fact, the audacity of that letter was so striking that it is retained to this day in our National Archives.  The year was 1940 and the rest is THE REST OF THE STORY.

     In the autumn of 1940 he was a boy of thirteen, receiving a strict private parochial school education.

     Now certainly every youngster of that age wants attention.  This one wanted prestige.  Daily he pondered his anonymity and a way to be rid of it–a way to become a big shot with his classmates.

     Then it came to him.

     In school he had learned a great deal about the United States of America, the wealthiest and most powerful and most generous nation in the entire world.  What if he could somehow con the President of the United States out of ten dollars?

     The idea became an obsession.

     He would have to write a letter of some kind, carefully worded of course, a letter requesting the money while dangling a vague promise of something in return.

     The youngster had studied just enough English to get his subtle point across in writing.

     He addressed the letter to President Franklin Roosevelt, asking outright for ten dollars because “. . . I have not seen a ten dollars bill green american and I would like to have one of them. . . .”

     He went on to hint, almost in postscript, that his country was rich in iron ore–and he knew where the President could get his hands on some!

     Next day, the letter was in the mail.  Proudly its young author announced to his friends that President Roosevelt was going to send him some money.

     His friends laughed.  Surely he didn’t expect an answer from the President, much less a handout.

     The scoffing of the youngsters shook him awake.  What if President Roosevelt just tossed the letter into the wastebasket?  He had boasted prematurely and now he might have to pay for it in ridicule.

     But the little fellow did receive an answer.  The response was written by an embassy counselor on behalf of the President of the United States:

     “The President has directed the embassy to acknowledge, with an expression of appreciation, your letter of November 6, 1940, written on the occasion of his reelection.”

     No ten dollars.

     Nice try.

     But when the boy brought that letter of recognition to school, the Roman Catholic sisters were sufficiently impressed to put it on the school bulletin board for a whole week.

     They didn’t know their little lad had tried to hit FDR for a fast ten.

     Neither could they have guessed that the U.S. State Department would save the youngster’s letter, only to review it with amazement thirty-eight years later.

     For the thirteen-year-old boy who wished only to be important in the eyes of his classmates became important in revolution.

     You know him.

     Fidel Castro.


  1. 1 Abby August 2, 2012 at 10:26 am

    HA! What an ending! And he seemed like such a nice boy in his letter.

  2. 3 bearmancartoons August 2, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    Should have sent him the $10

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