After the bombings at the Boston Marathon, backpacks are now banned at the New York City Marathon and family members waiting at the finish line will be screened. Those are just some of the increased security measures. Last year's race was canceled because of Superstorm Sandy, so this year's marathon takes on special meaning. Tom Foreman has one runner's American Journey.
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Saint Louis has far fewer immigrants than other American cities of its size. Now, a program called the Mosaic Project is trying to change that. Tom Foreman has the story.
Reporter's Note: President Obama is enjoying his public inauguration today and preparing for four more years of work. I, on the other hand, will be taking a break. The letter below is the same one I sent on the day of his first inauguration when I began this unbroken string of missives. It is also the last one.
Dear Mr. President,
Congratulations! Watching you on that podium today, surrounded by so many hundreds of thousands of Americans I could not help but feel inspired by the miracle of Democracy and the greatness of our nation. I also have a question: Do you have any idea what you’ve gotten yourself into?
I know you are busy today, but call when you can.
Reporter's Note: President Obama’s second inauguration take place today, then tomorrow there will be a big public ceremony.
Dear Mr. President,
Well, we’ve come down to the end. You will raise your hand today and take the oath to continue being President for the next four years, and I’ve already sworn to my wife that I won’t continue writing to you. I’ll send a little note tomorrow, but this is the last time I will send any kind of substantial letter your way.
This all started because you said before you took office the first time that you would appreciate ideas from your fellow Americans. The extraordinary length of this letter writing campaign suggests I took that a tad too seriously, and in any event I think I’d be a little concerned if you’d had time to read them all.
Still, I was thinking back over everything I’ve said and wondering if it could be boiled down to a few key points that might serve you or any president well. So here goes.
1) Listen more than you talk. I realize this is an odd sentiment coming from the guy who wrote 1,463 letters, but I believe it. We learn from others, not from ourselves.
2) Don’t imagine you are the smartest person in the room. Although you seem clever enough, at any given moment in any given place we should all see the wisdom of others.
3) Treat your opponents with dignity and respect, no matter how they treat you. It is not only the hallmark of maturity and intelligence, it is also shrewd politics.
4) Know that people who think you are wrong are not stupid, evil, or shortsighted…and sometimes they are even right.
5) Remember (and this one if unique to presidents): For all the pomp and honor, for all the trappings of success and power, you work for the citizens of America. They do not work for you.
I hope for you, as I would hope for any president, that the next four years go well. I hope you have gained not just experience, but also wisdom. I hope you call one day.
Best of luck.
Reporter's Note: President Obama’s second inauguration is officially tomorrow, and ceremonially on Monday. At which point I will cease writing these letters. I’m sure we’ll both be relieved.
Dear Mr. President,
The weather seems to be a bit more cooperative for the inauguration this time than last. That’s a good thing. I’m sure that you and the other VIPs would be fine either way, but all those folks standing out on the National Mall waiting for the big moment have to endure an awful lot as it is, I’d hate to see them dealing with hypothermia on top of it.
I’m sure it is very exciting for you and your family. Personally if I were a re-elected president, especially in tough economic times, I would opt for a small ceremony in the Oval Office, maybe hold a nice dinner to raise money for charity, and then I’d get back to work. But that’s me. And frankly I imagine even if you wanted things to go that way you’d get a lot of pushback from fundraisers, advisors, and supporters who would be disappointed.
Under the circumstances, my biggest concern is just being able to drive to the office on Monday. We are, as you know, only a couple of blocks from the Capitol so I think I can come in only from the north on one open street. We’ll see. If I get into a bind I’ll give you a call and see if you can issue an executive order to open the way. Ha!
Anyway, I’m in the office working again on this Saturday. Pretty much standard fare with big events like this. If you have a moment, give me a call. Otherwise, the countdown continues: one letter for Sunday, and one for Monday, then that’s it. You’re on your own.
Reporter's Note: President Obama’s second inauguration is now just days away. Which, in a way, could be a relief for a lot of people…
Dear Mr. President,
You may notice the number at the top of the page with confusion, as did I. At first, I assumed that I must have lost count since one letter per day for four years ought to be 4 x 365 =1460. Then I went back and checked and sure enough 2012 was a leap year, we picked up an extra day, and tomorrow will officially mark the complete four year mark in my letter writing campaign to you. And even though the official ceremony is on Sunday, I plan to write to you through the big public ceremony on Monday, so the final count will be 1,462 letters. And then I intend to stop.
Yes, sad, but true. We've been at this quite a while, haven’t we? Me writing letters to you each day, offering my heartfelt advice and wise counsel…or whatever I think might pass for that…and you steadfastly ignoring it. What a kidder you are! At least I think you are ignoring it. Perhaps you start every day with a shout down the hall, “Biden! Bring me the latest letter from Tom!” But I doubt it.
Truth be told, whether you've enjoyed it or not I have. As they say in Maine, “took to it like a duck to water.” Well, I’m not sure they say that in Maine, but seems as good a place as any to hear such a thing. In any event, within just a couple of months of starting this quest back on that cold January of 2009, I came to look forward to it each day. I liked setting aside a few minutes to set down my thoughts and send them your way. Sure, sometimes it was hard to find the time, and this past year it was harder and harder to come up with things to write about, but still I think I will miss it in some ways.
The question is, will you?
I have wondered many times if you have ever seen these letters or if you even know that they exist. (Word of advice: If you haven’t been following along I would not try to catch up now. Way too much reading.) I’ve also wondered if someone wrote to me this often would I bother to read every letter? Probably not. In fact, if I were you I likely would have sent the Secret Service to tell me to knock it off. Ha!
Look at this: Here the clock is fast running out and I’ve wasted my last Friday letter talking about how I’m down to my last few letters! Ah well. I have too much work yet to do to be ready for your inauguration, so I guess I better wrap it up.
More tomorrow (at least for now) and I hope your weekend goes well.
Reporter's Note: President Obama is no doubt preparing for his inauguration, as am I.
Dear Mr. President,
Well, here the week is winding down again and the work just seems to be growing right before my eyes. And yet at any given moment I feel as if I am getting nothing done. Do you have that sensation?
I imagine you do, since the ocean of matters surging around your desk is infinite. No matter how much you bail it never seems to change, I suppose.
Still, the big inauguration is coming up and you must be excited about that. Speaking of which, I talked yesterday with one of your fans. I won’t put his name here, since I didn’t say anything about mentioning him to you and I would not want him to be embarrassed. But he really is a big fan. He voted for you last time and this time too, and he’s also coming to the inauguration!
I have to say that I am impressed by that. Of course, as a journalist I am paid to never get that “into” any candidate, but even if I had, I can’t imagine that I’d ever feel so strongly about an elected official that I’d pack my bags and get onto an airplane just to cheer for him or her from a distance. But hundreds of thousands of our fellow Americans are going to do that in just a few days because that is how they feel about you. Isn’t that something?
I always feel good when my wife just stands on the porch and waves goodbye when I leave for work. The idea that people I’ve never met, and never will meet personally, would go to such pains to wish me well…just amazing. Fortunately, I don’t think I’ll ever have to contemplate such a puzzle. Ha!
Still, I hope it crosses your mind as you make your final preparations. I’m sure taking the oath will feel just as special this time as last…maybe it would feel that way if you took it a dozen times. But remember as you stand there that just witnessing that moment from a distance…maybe a great distance…is also a great moment for many of your fellow citizens, whose hopes for the next four years may be even greater than yours.
Call if you can. I’m busy, but around.