BRAINERD, Minn. — Will politicians respond to an average American? That's the question Jackson Purfeerst, of Crosslake, Minn., would like to answer in the next few months.
Purfeerst is a student at Central Lakes College in Brainerd, Minn, and recently of his own accord, he decided to put out a challenge calling on all federal politicians of the United States to engage with him, an average American.
“This is just a project that I concocted and created myself,” Purfeerst said. “I was asking what I could do just for something to do. I thought maybe I could write every single legislator and senator, president and vice president, and see if I can get any responses. I figured I had to make it better than that. They are so busy, I figured they won't write back just to write back, so why not attach the donation part. For every letter I get back, I donate an amount of money for St. Jude for whatever office writes me back.”
Purfeerst's plan isn't a complicated one, but it did require a lot of work. He had to write a letter for every U.S. senator (100), every U.S. representative (435), and to Vice President Mike Pence, Second Lady Karen Pence, First Lady Melania Trump and President Donald Trump himself.
For each person who responds, Purfeerst has decided to donate $2 for every senator, $1 for each representative, $4 for the vice president and second lady, $5 for the first lady and president. However, he won't donate money in return for receiving some mass-produced form letter with a computer-printed signature.
“I would like it to be the actual signature,” Purfeerst said. “If it is the stamp signature, I'll still donate.”
Purfeerst works every night to write more letters and sends them the next day.
“I have 235 letters out now,” Purfeerst said Wednesday, Jan. 29. “I've been doing some every day, then I'll put the batch I did the night before in the mail. I hope to get everything out in the next two and a half weeks. Then I think the date I put in the letter was that I want responses by July 1.”
He hasn't received any replies yet, though he anticipated that, given that it takes approximately a month for letters to go through a security screening. He doesn't expect a response from everyone, but he does hope to hand out some major cash as a result of the project.
“My overall goal of the project would be at least I get 300 responses,” Purfeerst said. “It would be amazing if I could get at least a 95% success rate, but it would just be cool to see all the different responses.”
The money is coming straight from Purfeerst's own pocket. Thanks to his dedicated Facebook page, "Average American Project by Jackson Purfeerst," he's got other people interested in donating as well.
“Now I have three people who said they would match the final tally donation,” Purfeerst said.
Others interested in the journey can "like" his Facebook page to follow the progress and promote it. Spreading the word might not only get more matching contributions, but may even reach some politicians and encourage them to respond once they get Purfeerst's letter.
So far the most challenging part of the whole process was hunting down names and addresses. Some politicians tend to go by nicknames, and most have an address both in their home state and in Washington, D.C. Purfeerst had to find those correct addresses to make his project a reality. He also recognizes that he has serious competition for the attention of many of these politicians.
“Right now the biggest challenge will be the impeachment trial,” Purfeerst said. “They are busy with that. That and Amy Klobuchar and Warren and Sanders and people on the campaign trail.”
After this project, Purfeerst isn't sure what is next. This project played into his interests in politics, so it's possible he might tackle some other service project. He hopes it might inspire others to be more active and do service projects.
“It feels very rewarding in the end,” Purfeerst said.