August 15th, 2009
07:32 AM ET

Dear President Obama #208: Coulda, shoulda, woulda-stock

Reporter's Note: President Obama was not really old enough to attend Woodstock, and neither was I. On the other hand every president before him was old enough, (well, some were dead by then,) but none of them went. Go figure. So here’s another letter to the White House.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/SHOWBIZ/Music/08/14/meaning.woodstock/art.hendrix.woodstock.courtesy.jpg caption="Jimi Hendrix closed the Woodstock festival on Monday morning, August 18, 1969."]

Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

Happy Woodstockiversary! I’ll be dragging out my soundtrack album (oh yeah, vinyl timyl!) firing up the Fender, and no doubt scaring the dog with a noisy tribute. Listen carefully: When I launch into my cover of Voodoo Chile there’s a good chance you’ll hear the distant sound of Hendrix spinning in his grave. How about you; any plans to celebrate?

I know that we were both too young to be part of that whole shindig, and I confess even if I’d been old enough I probably would not have gone. The whole hippie scene never did much for me. I’ve never used drugs, and I’m not that fond of mud. Still, I find Woodstock an interesting cultural milestone.

Some of the music was intriguing; some of it was self-indulgent and boring. Not unlike this string of letters. Ha! Same goes for some of the moments. “We must be in heaven, man!” With a Joan Baez soundtrack? I don’t think so.

If I could go back in time to check out any of the Woodstock acts in person, I suppose I would be in the company of a lot of folks saying, “Bring on Jimi.” I’ve heard his influence in the chops of so many other guitar heroes over the years I’d love to see the man himself. A friend of mine did, btw. The year after Woodstock, when Hendrix played the Atlanta Pop Festival. My pal said it truly was an extraordinary thing to see and hear. As I write this, I’ve punched up YouTube to watch him performing. “Red House.” “Voodoo Child.” Fun!

But for all the pluses and minuses of Woodstock, and all the mythology that has grown up around it, the idea that music could “matter” that much to so many people is just flat out cool. I’ve always believed that the arts make a difference in our world. Maybe we can’t measure their impact the same way we measure the economy, politics, or sports, but I feel like they give meaning to our lives and need to be encouraged.

So like I said, Happy Woodstockiversary. Give me call if you want to get together and jam, but for the moment I’ll stand up next to a mountain…and chop it down with the edge of my hand.



Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. D Hewitt

    Yes, I was old enough to go to Woodstock but did not attend...I was in Vietnam at the time. While 450,000 came to Woodstock, the same number or more were in Vietnam with an equal number in Europe. All I know is that on August 15, 1969 28 Americans died with just about the same number on the average dying everyday for the rest of that year. Less than a year later, in July 1970 a boy from Woodstock New York died in Vietnam. All they asked for their service, as those today, was to be remembered. The least you could do while showing all of the hippie types having a good time is to remind folks that many of the same young people were out taking care of the country's business (most of them couldn't vote but died so the others could).

    You were old enough to be there or remember it but it's amazing how you couldn't even juxtapose these scenarios...maybe you just forgot, like the folks I remember seeing when I came home.

    August 16, 2009 at 5:47 pm |
  2. J

    oh....about the mountain thing......COOL.

    August 16, 2009 at 12:17 pm |
  3. RLWellman

    It's too bad that most of you aren't old enough to have gone to Woodstock. It was a time when our country was tired of the Government making stupid rules and regulations for the rest of us to follow. Much like what is going on today.

    The majority of the United States has been sitting back and watching how the country is being ran. Guess what? They don't like what they are seeing.

    You can't take part of one party and think you can make up the rules for the majority of the country. Not going to happen! It has just taken a little while for the majority to wake up and see what the liberals are trying to do.

    Most people in the United States want to believe that the Government has their best interests in mind. However, they have finally realized the Government only cares about its own interest.

    August 16, 2009 at 7:05 am |
  4. J

    I was born. I was scared out of my wits of those people. First of all if you weren't on something, it just didn't make a lot of sense. I just learned to say the word...cool....alot.

    August 16, 2009 at 12:37 am |
  5. Gilby-HI

    President Stupidsly did such a great job in Chicago the city has to shut down several day a month to stay out of total bankrupsy. And now he is working his magic on the whole country...
    We will not Accept Criminals Legislating Us.

    August 15, 2009 at 9:13 pm |
  6. Sharon G newmann

    Please answer this question, I know Sarah Palin has a handicapped child. Do they get SSI for him or do they qualify?

    Also I'm 71 years old, very healthy, but when my quality of life is no longer good , I will have a living will.

    August 15, 2009 at 7:39 pm |
  7. Charlie Atherton

    The government could not even run the Nevada cat house they took over and lost money.

    Informed citizens know the government should not be in control of health care just like we know children should not perform brain surgery or play with sharp objects or matches. Look at how the government has not responsibly handled health care for our veterans.

    The real issue across the board is our government is out of control, bankrupting future generations, not living up to the principals that our country is founded upon, principals our military died for, is performing irresponsibly, taking our freedom, turning us into a third world country and ignoring our constitution and bill of rights and states rights.
    Charlie Atherton 337-625-7613
    122 Vine St.
    Sulphur, La.

    August 15, 2009 at 6:18 pm |
  8. Norma Labno


    Tom, thank you for another interesting, thoughtful letter to the president!

    I agree – you can't overstate the importance of the arts in everyday
    life and in the overall mosaic that goes into making up a lifetime of

    Music can provide the soundtrack of life and and movies
    and television; the prose, catch-phrases, fads, & tag lines.

    provided: blissful momentary relief from often overwhelming issues
    and concerns so difficult to agree on and resolve – faced by
    each and everyone of us!

    Time consuming I'm sure, but I hope you keep those letters coming
    for they provide something to look forward to and consider each day!


    norma from nevada

    August 15, 2009 at 5:46 pm |
  9. Carlos Madeira

    I am a protester. I protest anyone who wishes to make this country like the rest of the world - the kind of place people are desperately running from, coming here. If we go the way of the rest of the world, where will they go? Where will we go? For those who love liberty, where will we go? FOr those who do not want government controlling any part of our lives, where will we go? I am an American, and I protest because I love this country, because I love liberty, because I do not want this country to become what the rest of the world is. I protest because I am an American and not socialist and i not wont the euthanasia or your health care program i am capitalist i am USA .

    August 15, 2009 at 5:30 pm |
  10. J. Minor

    Hey you guys at CNN> How could you do that to Anderson !!

    Him interviewing Nancy Grace...Poor Guy. She reminds me of a pitbull with lipstick!

    He was a pro thru the whole interview...I mean it was a hard interview. For some reason, she was just so overbearing and wouldn't give him a chance to even ask a decent question. And the kids!! everywhere.

    Next time she comes on, get one of those ladies from the View to interview her and give Anderson a interview that shows us how wonderful and talented he is.

    Please send Nancy and the kids back home....l

    We love you Anderson...

    August 15, 2009 at 4:55 pm |
  11. Eric SHeler

    this is my final words and it is was in a email to our commander in chief

    Mr. President,
    First of all congrats on your presidency and I know you will turn this country around. As for me I am an U.S Air Force member who has served over 11 years, served in Iraq and honorably until July 27, 2008. During the early hours of that date during an incident at Eielson AFB during this event a fellow military member charged me in a hostile way with two great dane dogs after an heated argument concerning my wife of 12 years, well as I walked away he called me the N word and charged towards me with these dogs me standing atleast 20 ft away I pulled out my .40 cal handgun as a deterrent to get him to stop charging towards me, he kept coming and I loaded it and told him again do not come any closer. we both went home 15 mins later I was arrested locked up for 48 hrs and released I was told by my chain of command that I was going to be charged with aggravated assault and communicating a threat. I will not go into the racial issues that ensued the following months until my court marshal but there were plenty of them. I pleaded with my commander and 1st Sgt that I have never done anything wrong in my 11 years of service and this was a 30 sec mistake on my part due to a bad reaction and doing what I thought what was best to defend myself. So I was court marshaled on Feb 25th 2009, I was sentences to a reduction in grade from e-6 to E-3, six months confinement , 2 months of hard labor and 2 months restricted to the limits of Eielson AFB upon my return from confinement. Sir I served my punishment despite the numerous ways my former commander lt. col Catherine Mcgowan, and First Sgt MSgt Michelle Vanderbunt tried to do everything they could to hurt me more, along with the wing commander Brig. Gen Mark Graper and the 354th FW legal office. Despite not getting a punitive discharge I will be discharged within two weeks time, I just wanted to be separated under my date of separation so I can receive separation pay so I can have something to take care of my family like I always have, but the leadership at this wing had determined that would set a bad example if I was to separate under these terms. Needless to say I made a mistake, I have been punished for it but I am a husband and father of three girls kelli 18, Mya 10, and Inara 3 and all I wanted to do was to still be able to provide for them until I am able to find adequate employment. despite my numerous college degrees, experience, and knowledge no one wants to give a convicted felon a opportunity for employment so I can continue being a husband and father who has always taken care of his family. Sorry for my long story but I just wanted you to know because how my unit has treated me, my family and the other stressors of that has been caused because of my mistake I regrettably must end my life, I am glad I was able to experience history in this country and the opportunity to serve but there is no hope for me in this world because all anyone will see is another black man with a felony despite I have been a law abiding citizen my entire life. I know it is too late for me but hopefully someone will be able to shed light on how the military justice system isn't always correct and the racial tension and other racism that occurs here at Eielson AFB, Alaska. I know you will be an excellent Commander in Chief, too bad I wont live to see the day when this country will be the great country it has always been. Thank you for hearing my story, good luck sir and I hope my family will be able to forgive me one day


    Eric Terry Sheler,
    United States Air Force

    August 15, 2009 at 4:25 pm |
  12. Steve Todd (Alberta Canada)

    Americans wake up and do some research....the healthcare plan your senators are proposing is NOTHING like the canadian plan. Canadian health care is equal for everyone, nobody loses a home, savings or entire fortunes over a sickness. My wife had a lump in her breast and from 1st appointment was 2 weeks to have all the tests and ultrasounds done with a diagnosis. I have a heart problem and am never on a waiting list for hospital care or specialist care. I am appalled at the behavior of your elected officials and the way they are refusing to do whats best for all of you instead of listening to big business and lobbyists for healthcare providers. Do your own research america and do not depend on the truth from your elected blowhards.

    August 15, 2009 at 3:31 pm |
  13. Ravi

    I am Indian and in US since past 2 yrs . I feel sad a country as big and as powerful like USA that people of this country cannot feel for their fellow citizens . We r seeing the fate of Health Care Bill in this country .How many people r coming on the roads to write it off..i ve never insensitive people like that ever in the world . Dont they ve feelings , how can u only think abt ur self and forget abt the millions
    who cant afford health insurance . Health insurance companies ve bomming business and making money left and rigt . If feeling for others is a socialism ..then why govt give unemployement allowance , medicare and medicad . How many uninsured people land at hospital and get free treatment ..i think the people those who r opposing shd go to every hospital and ask for data . Americans luv robbing their own country thats how they excersise their writing by opposing president obama . I think other countries ve better vision that US citizens . Caring abt fellow citizens is not socialism ....they tells selfishness , self centric nature of these people

    August 15, 2009 at 3:25 pm |
  14. Sue Snyder

    Mr. Cooper:

    Why are you not asking Robert Gibbs how much it cost to operate Air Force One? How much are we paying for the Obama family to travel around the globe? Are we not in a recession?

    What does it cost to fly Air Force One?
    I know that it’s difficult to calculate an accurate figure because the annual budget of the Air Force One Air Wing is classified. Based on different measures – one is that it cost $68,000 an hour to run the plane (basically for fuel costs). Is this true?????

    That course is only for Air Force One, it does not include the cost of the support staff and other planes that travel ahead of President everywhere he goes. Those include Secret Service advance teams, security, and the Presidential motorcade. The President's limo and Secret Service vehicles are sent ahead of time on military transport aircraft which is usually include two VC-25As and a C-130. There is usually also a chartered press plane to bring along additional journalists.

    There are some estimates that put the entire budget at around $200 million per year.

    August 15, 2009 at 3:12 pm |
  15. faroq moonda

    I am a physician and I am planning on quitting medicine soon because it is not affordable. I can't believe that the president does not see the simple truth that this bill will not do anything to curb the cost without having tort reform in it. Drs oreder test including, MrI, CT scan, etc because if they don't they get sued for millions of dollars. This increases their mal practise insurance, their cost of doing business, etc. This in turn dissuades people from going into the field of medicine. Texas has taken steps toward tort reform and physicians have been migrating there by the bus loads. You can't ask the doctors to not order tests and then turn around and say if you don't order the test we will sue you. If you want to curb the health care costs doctors need to be reimbursed appropriatley and be assured that they will not lose their life's hard work over a frivelous law suit. There also needs to be some solution to the medical school cost. The average cost to attend medical school is around 200k. So doctors end up paying their debts for 20-25 yrs. This has to change. If you want to attract more physicians this cost has to be addressed.


    Faroq moonda M.d

    August 15, 2009 at 3:07 pm |
  16. kbroman

    Newt, Rush, Glenn, and Ann have become an embarrassment to the Republican Party due to due to extremism of views, based on straw-man arguments. I only recently recalled that these people make money from both controversy and from an impressionable following. Now I worry about our party...and our America.

    These reactionaries also use the same tactics that the old unionists used – which is rather odd since they detest unions. Glenn quotes the Nazis but employs very similar tactics, as do the rest...spreading fear based on straw-man arguments.

    I am a conservative and I also deal with facts, I do not deal with twisted pablum from fear mongerers.

    A straw man argument is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position. To "attack a straw man" is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by substituting a superficially similar proposition (the "straw man"), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position.

    August 15, 2009 at 3:03 pm |
  17. Peterblades1

    The republicans ran two different administrations, with the majority in the congress. They never mentioned health care reform. Now that president Obama is trying to fix the health care system all the hipocrite republicans got a health care reform program of their own.

    August 15, 2009 at 2:51 pm |
  18. Owen R. Cormier

    Why don't you take a hike . (one-way) We know where
    you came from.

    August 15, 2009 at 2:24 pm |
  19. Dave Strohmayer

    Health care program. Its a death warrant for many. Just heard a few minutes ago that there might be two plans-one for abortion and one for regular people. ITS AN EVIL SYSTEM to do this to AMERICA. Abortion must be banned totally. When the gov said the abortion mandate would be attached to the health care plan, i totally am against it. Many need the health care, but not take the unborn, elderly, and the unwanted be killed. WE ARE GOING TO SOCIALISm AND NAZISM. Nope im not for the brainwashing tactics of obama health care. Thank you

    August 15, 2009 at 2:23 pm |
  20. KIm

    Neil Young=" Fork In The Road !"

    August 15, 2009 at 1:33 pm |
  21. Desiree

    We could have another woodstock but with out the narcotics,
    This would be civilized, may be they could smoke cigars and drink
    tea or have wine and cucumber sandwiches or snacks.
    It would trully be remembered...

    August 15, 2009 at 12:35 pm |
  22. carol blankman

    I am wondering why the device for cars that keep the car from starting if the drive has been drinking is not put on all cars , just like seat belts. Lives would be saved, insurance companies would benefit, it is a win, win for everyone. How does one start a grass root push for this to happen. Hope you can help. Carol Blankman

    August 15, 2009 at 10:36 am |
  23. Isabel • Brazil

    I liked your honesty: "I confess even if I'd been old enough I probably would not have gone." Me too!

    I think the movement interesting, I understand the good things they brought us, but I don't see myself in it.

    Celebrating the music, love freedom and the ideals of the counterculture ... hmmm...

    August 15, 2009 at 10:19 am |
  24. Vivien Wolsk, NYC

    Hi Tom, Love you column. I have an idea for you. Why not ask Obama to put a ceiling on salaries in other industries in addition to financial and auto. Like entertainment and sports. Entertainment and sports figures and their promoters make enormous salaries. A couple million I can understand but beyond that??? Not only do they get to do something they love but they get over-paid. It doesn't seem fair to me.

    August 15, 2009 at 9:49 am |
  25. kristin

    It seems as if not much has changed in these years Anderson. We're still at war, and equality is so lacking. Although we're progressed in areas we have to get unstuck as a nation. Get liberated stop the oppression of it's citizens. Times maybe have changed since then, but for what good if you still have to think if there's a master plan for you, and what is it? AKA Purple Haze running through my brain. Seems a little fuzzy, and I do hope Obama gets us through it! God willing!! Lobbyist get out of the way and special interests shame." Express Yourself Don't Repress Yourself"

    August 15, 2009 at 9:48 am |
  26. Rachel / Texas

    Music is a Expression of the times...Take for instance "Motown" no crazy beats like now, it was fun, love and laughter, it was calming to the spirit, what a time...Peace

    August 15, 2009 at 9:28 am |
  27. Shannon (@Cajun_Mama)

    Right on! I wasn't even born when Woodstock happened, but I have to agree with you Tom, the thought of a "movement of music" is totally cool. I guess that's why I do my best to encourage folks of all demographics to visit any local music festival they can. There's just something about bringing people together with one thing in common, they're all there to just chill to good tunes. And if you don't want to join the masses, get Rock Band. – A Southern Mama

    August 15, 2009 at 8:53 am |

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