Telephone company officials had estimated that "millions" of people would attempt to call President Carter on Saturday afternoon, and the lines were indeed flooded with more calls than anybody could count.
If we take the low end of the phone company estimate and assume 2 million Americans disled the magic number but only 42 got through, th odds against any individual caller work out to one on 47,619. But the program was a good idea anyhow.
Those who did get through spoke for all of us. They asked many of the questions you or I might have asked, and they got answers that were usually informative and sincere.
The President got a chance to find out what is on the average citizen's mind, something he said doesn't happen in a formal press conference. And the average citizen got a chance to find out how his President reacts under fire. There was good two-way communication, and that is beneficial to both parties.
My biggest dissappointment waa that a question I wanted to hear put to the President never got through. I was hoping that somebody would ask him how he feels about the Youth Camp Safety Act. Camp safety is one of the unimportant issues the big-name reporters don't bother with. It isn't earth-shaking enough. It just concerns the safety of little children who are sent to summer camp.
I wanted to hear a mother with a lot of gumption get through to say: "Mr. President, when it appeared that Congress was finally about to pass a Youth Camp Safety Act, President Ford shot it down. Mr. Ford had said no dozens of occasions that he was in favor of the bill, but at the crucial moment he had his Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare announce that the administration was strongly opposed to it. And that finished it for that session. The House passed it, but the Senate failed to act. Now Congressman Sarasin of Connecticut has reintroduced the bill, and has written you a letter asking for your support. My question is this, Mr. President: Do you intend to repond to Congressman Sarasin's letter, and if so, what position do you plan to take?"
It would have been interesting to hear Mr. Carter's response. Even before the Call Carter program began, we had a good idea of where he stands on tax reform, draft evaders and the Panama Canal. The heavy hitters in the White House press corps had asked him about those issues a dozen times. But what we didn't know was where he stands on the minor issues - the insignificant little questions like: If I send my boy to summer camp, am I likely to get him back dead or live?
There are 40 co-sponsors to Rep. Sarasin's bill, Mr. President, and they come from both sides of the aisle. Thye are supporting his efforts because they are tired of holding hearings and enduring delays while children die in summer camp "accidents."
The states have done little to require that summer camps be operated safely. As a result, unsafe facilites and untrained "counselor," some of them teen-agers themselves, have caused scores of trafedies that could have been avoided.
The Youth Camp Safety Act would do no more than set minimum federal standards of health and safety for youth camps, and then encourage the various states to adopt and enforce camp safety programs.
It has been blocked in each previous session of Congress because the operators of youth camps and homes for the elderly contribute heavily to certain congressmen and by coincidence those congressmen always think the issue need more study.
During the campaign, Mr. President, you gave us the impression you are opposed to that kind of government and would raise your voice against it at every opportunity. An opportunity is now at hand.
Would you please tell us, sir: How do you intend to reply to Congressman Sarasin's request for your support of the Youth Camp Safety Act?