July 25th, 2009
07:46 AM ET

Dear President Obama #187: The Russians are coming ... to a theater near me

Reporter's Note: President Obama had a very busy week what with health care, comments on the Cambridge matter, fundraisers, and a prime time news conference. No doubt he could use a break; maybe a nice movie this weekend! Hence, the subject of my daily letter to the White House.

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Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

As you may recall, I’ve been keeping you up to date on my family’s screenings of great movies over this summer. My younger daughter came up with the idea, and we’ve made reasonable progress. Perhaps if you would quit making me stay late at work by making news so often we’d make even better progress. Ha! Anyway, this week’s selection is kind of an odd one for mid-summer, (speaking of which, we also saw that new film “500 Days of Summer” a few days back…excellent! Really well-written, acted, directed. Four thumbs up from the Foreman family!) but a favorite nonetheless: “Doctor Zhivago.”

Now I know that this film has long been praised for its beautiful cinematography, epic nature, the backdrop of the Russian revolution, the incredible scenes of winter, the drama of life in big times. It’s all wonderful to behold, but what I most love this movie for is a single line, as Komarovski describes Zhivago: “There are two kinds of men and only two. And that young man is one kind. He is high-minded. He is pure. He’s the kind of man the world pretends to look up to, and in fact despises.”

Don’t look for any hidden or secret meaning in my mention of this. I’m not writing with a nod and a wink your way, nor any aspersions either. It’s just that I think that quote can have great meaning for any person, in any station in life, who aspires to goodness.

We have to teach our daughters good manners; how to be decent, caring human beings. Sometimes that has put them at odds with some group that wants to do otherwise, and they have find themselves elbowed from some social circle as a result, just as I have.

At such times, I have mentioned that quote. I tell them being good can often mean being lonely. If you strive for greatness, you must be aware that not everyone shares that goal, and some will resent you for it. Sometimes you will do the right thing in a quest for excellence, in defense of justice, or out of simple compassion for another, and you may be ridiculed for it. Do it anyway. Being lonely, unpopular, even driven from the field, is better than betraying the things you believe in and the trust of those who believe in you.

Maybe I’m reading too much into that old movie. But I wait for that line every time, and in a strange way I take comfort in it. So if you want to come over for the screening, give me a ring. We’ll save a chair. Or four, if you want to bring the family.



Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Julia

    Love your stories, Tom.

    July 27, 2009 at 1:31 am |
  2. josh

    Family values are often forgotten when citizens think of their leader. Some of us tend to let the main topics of the day (the big health care issue, etc) completely obscure our views on the leader's personal life. That is: we often forget that he has a life away from the "office".Pres. Obama seems to have a firm grip on the needs of his family. Balancing the toughest leadership job in the entire galaxy with a successful family life is not to be taken lightly. Pres. Obama seems to be on pace for a passing grade here. I applaud him,and wish him well. Most Canadians think as I do on this- at least I hope they do. Josh-Edmonton

    July 25, 2009 at 2:57 pm |
  3. Isabel, Brazil

    Doctor Zhivago is a classic!
    My son is 3 and I do not see the time he wants to see movies like this. Will he want?

    Who isn't felt touched with the story of doctor and poet who supported the Russian revolution, but to few, he was disappointed with socialism and is divided between two loves. And the theme song of Lara, composed by Maurice Jarre, wonderful!

    July 25, 2009 at 1:37 pm |
  4. Lori

    People can look up to someone and despise them as well. That's why it's hard to find true friends when you're so darn good.

    July 25, 2009 at 1:29 pm |
  5. Donna Wood, Lil' Tennessee

    Thank you Mr. Foreman for another great piece! I always look forward to your segments.I think a lot of people could relate to that experience. I think maybe we all have at least one movie that we tend to watch over and over again because it provides us with some comfort. For me it's Prancer. It doesn't have to be Christmas for me to watch. I love the part where Jessica is reading to the reindeer from Yes Virginia There is a Santa Claus. There is a veil covering an unseen world. That does it for me every time.

    Donna Wood
    Lexington, Tennessee

    July 25, 2009 at 10:25 am |
  6. D King

    That quote is 100% true! But since you can't please 100% of the people 100% of the time, if you're that despised person, make sure that you are at least pleasing yourself 100% of the time.
    People that fall into that quote rarely (we are all human) try to live for others. They are not living for the Jones', but instead following that internal instinct toward greatness. Others hate the fact that they don't give in to peer pressure or don't let crabs pull them down yet although they despise them secretly also wish they were that person!

    July 25, 2009 at 9:44 am |
  7. DaniSu

    Nice. Trust is penultimate.
    Dani S.
    Russophile from way back
    Melbourne, Australia

    July 25, 2009 at 9:31 am |