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November 28th, 2011
07:48 PM ET

Letters to the President #1043: 'The legacy of right now'

Reporter's Note: I write a letter every day to the president, and while it is possible that some historian will look at these many years in the future…I doubt it.

Dear Mr. President,

Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank says he will not seek re-election, bringing to an end a very long run in office. 16 terms. That’s a lot. Enough that one might ask, at the age of 71 why did he not tire of this work and decide to move on earlier?

His answer is simple enough: He cared deeply about some legislation that conservative Republicans vehemently opposed and he feared that without his stewardship…or at least his vote on the Democratic side of the aisle…his legacy would be in peril.

Fair enough. I can’t fault anyone for wanting his or her work to last. Hey, Greek sculptors did a pretty good job keeping their masterpieces around for thousands of years, so why shouldn’t modern folks try to do the same?

But when it comes to government, I tend to think it is a bit of a fool’s errand.

Government is a living, breathing thing that does, and should, change with the times. Political movements and public values come and go over decades. What we may think is a great idea now, we may reject as folly in the next generation.

Politicians are of the moment. They can shape our laws for their time in office, and can hope that some of their initiatives stand the test of time, but they should not bet on it. That includes presidents. I’m sure that you, like Mr. Frank, want to think that your accomplishments will affect American policy for many, many years. But the moment you leave office, all bets are off.

So my advice: Seize the day. No one in elected office, Democratic or Republican, has a promise of tomorrow. If you want to make a difference, make it now.

Hope all is well and that you enjoyed a nice Thanksgiving weekend. Hey, the Saints are playing tonight! Want to come over? Give a ring if you do.

Regards,
Tom

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Filed under: Letters to the President • Opinion • President Barack Obama • T1 • Tom Foreman
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