Reporter's Note: President Obama says he’d like to hear from Americans with ideas about how to run the country. I’m American, and I have ideas sometimes. Two out of three is not bad.
Tom Foreman | Bio
Dear Mr. President,
A strange question occurred to me the other day: Do you carry a wallet anymore? I can’t imagine why you would. You don’t need a driver’s license, because you don’t drive now. You certainly don’t need identification to get past security anywhere, because, well, heck the security is all for you. You don’t need money. I mean, even if you found yourself somehow magically at a diner with Joe Biden, unnoticed and unaccompanied by anyone else, do you really think he’s going to push the bill your way and say, “Let’s see, I had the patty melt, and you had the Philly, but you got the onion rings…”
Hillary Clinton might. She’s still got that campaign debt. But still…
Remember in the movie, The American President, how Michael Douglas can’t even buy flowers for Annette Bening because he doesn’t have a credit card any more and his whole staff wants to do it for him? That movie was made in 1995. Oklahoma City was bombed that year. OJ Simpson walked away from those murder charges. You were four years out of college, married only a few years, with no children, and had never run for a public office. Wow. Amazing to think of how the world changes, sometimes.
I’ve met plenty of people over the years who got into politics for the same reasons you did. They wanted to make a difference. They wanted to correct things they thought were wrong with our government. And I always ask them, “So, what has been your biggest surprise?” The answer is almost always the same. “I had no idea how hard it would be to get anything done.” (Although notably, the answer was once, “The vending machines.” I still have no idea what that guy meant.)
My only advice today is that you should remember this simple fact: Changing even little things in government can be a very long, complicated process.
Right now, you’re fighting for your latest Cabinet picks, trying to keep this stimulus package from blowing up like a bag of Orville Redenbacher’s, and hoping bipartisan is a word that actually means something in D.C. Now and then, however, dig out your old wallet from whatever drawer in the Lincoln bedroom you left it in. Open it up and remember what it was like when you weren’t sure you could fill it. Think about what it means to not have power, to not be President. Then be patient. If you think change is hard to come by, imagine how the rest of us feel.
Call when you can. I’m usually up late.
Find more of the Foreman Letters here.
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