August 29th, 2009
08:45 AM ET

Dear President Obama #222: Keeping it light on dark days

Reporter's Note: President Obama is attending Senator Kennedy’s funeral today, along with a great many other big names in American politics. Perhaps, I’ll write to some of them later, but for now I’ll continue with my letter each day to the White House.

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Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

I feel as if I have been to a great many funerals in my life. Certainly more than one might expect. Not long after my wife and I met we somehow got onto the subject and she was quite surprised at how many I had attended. Back then they were mainly for quite old uncles, aunts, and family friends. Over the years more of the funerals have involved people whom I knew on a much more personal basis. They are always sad and always make me think a little about the passage of time.

At my first radio station, WAMI in Opp, Alabama, ( the “City of Opportunity!”) we included the obituaries every hour as part of our local newscast. It was a small enough town (still is) that we usually had only one or two to report. Sometimes, however, we would get swamped; six or seven funerals would come rolling at us on a Saturday morning and by the time a newscast was done you’d think we were reporting on an outbreak of plague.

One funeral that I announced on the air was for a great uncle of mine. He was being buried in a weekday afternoon service. So as soon as school was over, I dashed for my car, drove the 30 miles home, threw on a dark suit and ran to the small country church. I felt rushed in every way, since I knew that as soon as the final hymn was over I had to hurry right back to Opp for my shift at the radio station. Maybe that’s why in the scurry to get to the service I overlooked a detail. Sitting there, wedged into a pew in the packed church, I looked down and saw to my surprise that I had forgotten to change socks. A pair of screamingly exotic purple-and-yellow argyle ankles were practically glowing above my shoes. It was all I could do to keep from bursting out with laughter.

Now of course, I look back and wonder what I was doing with such socks in the first place, but suffice to say I was something of a fashion trendsetter. And my uncle, who always had a ready smile, I think would have appreciated the humor in it all.

And so would your friend, Senator Kennedy, I suspect. As he said in his famous speech at the 1980 Democratic Convention: “We have learned that it is important to take issues seriously, but never to take ourselves too seriously.” Not bad advice for anyone of any political bent. Safe travels back home. Call when you can.



Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. Lionel

    "Remembering U.S. Senator, Edward "Teddy" Kennedy"

    You didn't know me because we've never me but I've
    known you my whole life.
    We are Kindred spirits connected by a committment
    dedicated to lives that are not our own, delivered
    to us by a higher power invisible to the eyes.
    You are a direct descendant from a country that bares my last name.
    I am a direct descendant of someone that connects our families and us through a picture that brought justice to America.
    I was with you when you lost your two brother and you were with me when I lost mine and the dream he had to unify our nation.
    You carried the torch of privilege, power, and hope that had been passed down from generation to generation.
    I carry a cross baring the scars of oppression since birth and the passion to inspire unity among the separated and hopeless.
    You became a voice of reconciliation that brought equity to our society, seeking progress toward the avenue of righteusness and unification with a fire that you burned in our souls.
    Your vision and spirit of hope will live on within my heart and those whom you've fought for.
    Your words, "The work goes on, the cause is ours, the hope lives on, and the dream will never die!" will forever resonate in our hearts and minds for as long as we shall live.
    May you rest in Peace, Senator Edward "Teddy" Kennedy.

    August 31, 2009 at 7:04 am |
  2. George Sturdivant

    To the rude, crude and indignent..In speaking ill of Senator Kennedy's mistakes of his youth, take note. I'm releatively sure that you are the very same that run all over the airwaves about being a Conservative, Christian Right.
    Remember God' Word.."He who is without Sin- cast the first stone".
    "Judge not least you be judged.
    As an Ex-Republican, now Independent, I was immensly proud of Senator Hatch. Now that was Statesmanship quality.
    To the Kennedy Family, May the Lord Bless You and Keep You.
    George Sturdivant

    August 30, 2009 at 10:19 pm |
  3. Lionel

    To the Kennedy's,

    My tribute to your family will be coming soon to this website. I'm not sure if it would be posted this weekend or next week. I want the world to know just how much Senator Edward "Teddy" Kennedy and the Kennedy family meant/means to me and my family. He was truly loved and will be missed. May God bless you all in this time of need and may he be blessed as enter the kingdom of our creator. May he rest in peace.

    August 30, 2009 at 7:29 pm |
  4. Miriam Cooper, NY

    Hi Anderson,

    I wonder whether it was the hurricane that caused the flooding in Lousianna. There must have been a wind speed, but I guess it was the levee that broke and flooded the entire neighborhood. I wonder whether what I wrote the previous time was right, but it must have been the levee that broke causing so much flooding. It may also be the neighborhood that does not have good quality homes, but on the whole if you compare the pictures of katrina with some of the pictures of tsunami, it was pretty much the force of water. Either the water reached a particular height and the levee broke and when it gushes with that speed like a manhole, you really cannot withstand the homes in the first line that took the greater impact.
    It should be the levee and the people must have been moved to the schools, I wonder whether it was the the hurricane.

    August 30, 2009 at 7:00 pm |
  5. Taylor

    America's love affair with the Kennedy's fascinates me. Anyone ever do the research on how the family fortune was made? Liberals have been setting the family up for disappointment for decades with lofty hopes of the next JFK. Nowhere is this more obvious than the many "passing of the torch" references about Ted's support of President Obama during the campaign. Incredible Marketing by the liberals; Hope, Change and JFK's blessing via proxy.
    Like all families, they have their flaws. They are not Royalty although the media treats them as such. Ted's passing is just another chapter come to a close for the Kennedy's. Maybe the liberals will find another family to rely upon for the Liberal American Legacy.
    I personally think that Ted drove in more runs than he let in. The question is, when the Encyclopedia's are all written, will there be any references to Mary Jo and the contrived story of what happened that night or will the Kennedy's get yet another pass from print journalism.


    August 30, 2009 at 12:54 pm |
  6. Joe Fattal

    @Marie Champion;
    As Kennedy was also known as the "Lion of the Senate", the rumors goes that Vickie might replace him in the senate.

    August 30, 2009 at 9:57 am |
  7. RLWellman

    Remember, together we stand, divided we fall. The Government is doing a real good job at keeping us divided so they can continue passing garbage bills without our knowledge.

    This is just a warning. Keep your own eyes open and watch what they are doing. They do not have our best interests in mind, only their own!

    August 30, 2009 at 9:49 am |

    When my Grandpa died.there was this old guy singing a hymn at the service... ... He went off tune one time to often and as he did my eyes caught the eyes of my Girl cousin Cheryl....And we had to do everything we could to stop the full belly laughs about to erupt from both of us. Our tongues an lips have healed from the biting... But we still get our laughs about it to this day....

    August 30, 2009 at 1:31 am |
  9. Carole salemi

    How does a divorced man, a believer in abortion, a man involved in the drowning of a girl he was involved with end up having a Catholic Mas with all the pomp & cercomstance????? Catholic Communion too at his service?? Come on. Divorced remarried Catholics aren't welcomed at the Catholic altar. When my best friend died & her children had a Catholic mass for her only "Catholics" were welcome to the altar for communion which the priest announced loud and clear during the service.,. Dah!!!

    August 29, 2009 at 11:39 pm |
  10. kenneth croskey

    It was said that it will not be a 21 Gun Salute given for Ted Kennedy but we had a 21 gun salute please pass it on. I enjoyed the service by cnn.

    Thanks Pastor Ken

    August 29, 2009 at 8:47 pm |
  11. Daryl Berezik

    Hi Andreson – the cloth you talked about with Wolf and the other gentlemen that adorned the casket in the Basilica is called a pall it is not a flag of the Catholic church. The pall symbolizes the the cloth used at the baptism of a deceased Catholic. the pall covers the casket as it enters the church and is removed as the casket leaves the church. Just an FYI

    August 29, 2009 at 6:31 pm |
  12. Vicki Eskridge

    Just as Princess Diana was the" People's Princess" Ted Kennedy was "The People's Warrior" God Bless you and all that you did! This country and world is a better place because of you!

    August 29, 2009 at 5:56 pm |
  13. claudette

    I have been watching the great cnn coverage of the Ted Kennedy funeral since last night- it 's so very moving.
    The irony that a storm named Danny boy has made the skies over boston weep does not escape me.

    August 29, 2009 at 4:20 pm |
  14. Nancy Walker

    Where was Carolyn Kennedy at the funeral?

    August 29, 2009 at 3:49 pm |
  15. Celeste Chittaphong

    “We have learned that it is important to take issues seriously, but never to take ourselves too seriously.” Good advice for everyone by Sen. Ted Kennedy. Thank you & May your soul rest in peace, Amen.

    August 29, 2009 at 3:47 pm |
  16. Shamsa

    Hi Tom
    I think that anybody who heard the president speak would say that his eulogy was very uplifting and a great trubite to a graet public fiqure. My only wish is we could have more leaders like Ted Kennedy who are embody what it is be an american. With great public service and a chapion for the under previlaged. Your spriyt will be with all of us Senator Ted Kennedy.
    Shamsa Shahab
    Plano TX

    August 29, 2009 at 3:28 pm |
  17. KIm

    "Celebrate my life and laugh" A tear or so and Joe Biden choked ya up but made ya laugh. That egg he was playing with and Ted Kennedy tells him to put the ....down and it costs more than your house. That's to real and funny ! Then they seat Hillary Clinton by George Bush at the church. Uh oh ! The League of American Voters on the 4th floor are not wasting any time to get their e-mails out against health care and don't send me another one. Socialistic health care ? Who really believes that ?

    August 29, 2009 at 1:28 pm |
  18. Kathleen Crossley

    What a lovely letter from Mr. Foreman to the president..

    So true.. Time and Tide wait for no man...

    Always keep a sense of humor.. It is a crucial .... A sense of humor will determine how you play the hand life deals you.. It can see you through some of the toughest of times.

    Props to you Mr. Kennedy !


    August 29, 2009 at 12:58 pm |
  19. Sally Kilcullen

    Thank goodness President Obama listened to Anderson Cooper and gave a beautiful eulogy!!!!

    August 29, 2009 at 12:56 pm |
  20. Mary Joan Quinn

    Dear President Obama,
    I watched you listen so pensively to the Rev. Father speak about Senator Kennedy during the funeral Mass today. I couldn't help but think that that there certainly is a difference in the message and demeanour between the Priests officiating at the Mass and the one you listened to for so many years, Rev. Wright.
    It was very obvious, to the people watching the Mass around the world, that you were moved and in agreement with the words that the Rev. Father was speaking.
    Perhaps, now that you have experienced the opportunity of hearing words spoken about Jesus from a loving Reverend, I hope that you embrace the opportunity to hear the Gospel preached in this manner on a weekly basis. The Washington Basilica is so close to your residence. Now that Washington is your home, it is my hope that you visit there as frequently as possible. Not only will you benefit from further opportunities to hear the words of the Gospel read and reflected on by men of the cloth who preach with a loving voice but it could possibly give you the opportunity to develop a closer relationship with Jesus and develop spiritual growth in the loving arms of the Catholic Church.
    Hopefully, having the opportunity to attend Senator Teddy Kennedy's funeral Mass will be the beginning of a new spiritual journey in Christ for you and your family.

    August 29, 2009 at 12:29 pm |
  21. Carolyn DeLong

    This is the first time that I have blogged. I,m sitting here watching the funeral mass of Senator Kennedy, I,m taken back to President Kennedy's death. My birthday is 11/23 and as I watched Caroline and John Jr. lose their father I felt a bond to Caroline because my name is Carolyn and I turned 7 that 11/23 and I couldn't imagine not having my daddy anymore. Now I sit here today on 8/29/09 a grieving widow of 21 days. My husband had heart bypass surgery 6 yrs.ago and he had diabetes and hypertenson,but 2yrs ago they were going to raise his health insurance premium to 1,000.00 a month and he dropped it then he couldn't get insurance anywhere else. After that he would see the doctor for checkups and take his medication,but wouldn't do any tests or procedures because of cost. Somethig needs to be done. Twentyone days ago I kissed my husband goodnight at 11:00pm and at 12:00am I herd a thud and came running my husband had fallen out of the chair his lips were purple,but I had to start cpr and call 911. Iknew he was gone but couldn't stop trying to save him. The hardest part was our 7yr. old granddaughter was spending the night with us. Thank you, Carolyn from Missouri

    August 29, 2009 at 12:02 pm |
  22. Mary Champion

    As I am watching the wonderful coverage of Sen. Kennedy's funeral, I am wondering where is Caroline Kennedy? I would think she would have been foremost, along with Sen. Kenney's wife, Vickie. Is there a reason apparent?
    Thank You,

    August 29, 2009 at 11:53 am |
  23. Terry, TX

    I am watching the funeral now.....Teddy's little socialist liberal democratic children giving their political one liners....ending with "we pray to the Lord" each time. They covered everything from Obama/Teddy Care to Amnesty. It was disgusting that these children were used like that. God help this country. The man was a drunk, killed a woman drunk driving and ran like a coward leaving her in the water overnight, took his nephews drinking...they brought women home and one gets charged with rape...he was just a wealthy govt employee who never held a real job...and had no problem of spending tax money to keep people permanently on the govt tit. This funeral service was a political ad for the White House socialists we have now in office. Getting real creepy.

    August 29, 2009 at 11:50 am |
  24. Lori

    Thank you Tom. Have a wonderful weekend. Get some rest.

    August 29, 2009 at 11:45 am |
  25. doctorj2u

    At least the funeral gives Obama cover for not coming to New Orleans today, the fourth anniversary of the storm. Oh, that's right. He was not coming anyway.

    August 29, 2009 at 11:27 am |
  26. Mary Molloy

    An old Irish saying:

    Happy the Bride the sun shines on.

    Blessed the corpse the rain falls on.

    August 29, 2009 at 11:12 am |
  27. robyncaffrey keyser west virginia 26726

    ( god – bless the kennedy family.


    August 29, 2009 at 10:53 am |
  28. robyncaffrey keyser west virginia 26726

    awwwww "
    im watching cnn as everybodys at his wake.
    it's raining . i was so happy to see that everybody has unbrellas.

    when it rains means : ( everything ) is at rest now. sen,ted kennedy
    deserves all this. ( god bless )
    his dream was deffinitly filled
    " amen "
    just remember at ' arlington cemetory : look for a white butterfly
    you will see teddeys spirit fly up to heaven.

    August 29, 2009 at 10:51 am |
  29. Desiree/whitefox360/twitter.com

    My Condolences and warm thoughts are with the remainders of the Kennedy Legacy... The sky mourns with us... Sweet dreams prince of Camelot,

    August 29, 2009 at 10:47 am |
  30. Sally Kilcullen

    Please listen to Anderson; you heard the disbelief in his voice that ANYONE, inlcuding the President would dare to try and PLUG his healthcare program at this Funeral – I am a diehard democrat and I'll tell you if President Obama does something as distasteful enough to bring up the healthcare program at this funeral, I will be very, very disappointed. This is NOT when that would be appropriate whatsoever, regardless of what Mr. Carvelle thinks –

    Also, Anderson was the only one who say the HUGE empty space that would be taken up by the family...LISTEN TO HIM! He knows the PROPER way to pay respect and it isn't plugging a political program.

    I'm reminded of my husband's funeral where Sean O"Malley was as well – He is such a wonderful, wonderful warm Francisan Priest I can't think of a more appropiate Church representative to preside at this Mass for a man that saw the strengths and weaknesses of our church as Senator Kennedy did.Arch Cardinal O'Malley was the only priest that could bring Boston Catholic's back together after so much damage was done with abuse cases... they called him back from Palm City Florida where he solved the tragic shame there as well...I'm sure Cardinal O'Malley would understand Senator Kennedy's viewpoints very well!!

    August 29, 2009 at 10:46 am |
  31. kelly palko

    Why are President and VP in the same location? I thought that was never to happen?

    August 29, 2009 at 10:28 am |
  32. Bridget Turner

    Must we disclose to the world the exact location of US political VIPs?
    This is indeed a day of morning for our country, lets not set ourselves up for more loss please.

    August 29, 2009 at 10:21 am |
  33. Cheryl - Letchworth UK

    When our hearts are heavy with grieve it very hard not to doubt the man upstairs decision.

    August 29, 2009 at 10:21 am |
  34. interested party

    Are the Clinton's attending TK funeral?

    August 29, 2009 at 10:10 am |
  35. Tammy, Houma, LA

    For whatever great things (or not so great things) Ted Kennedy may have done in the eyes of the public, his true legacy was being a father and uncle. The selfless way he took it upon himself to be there for his mother, siblings, nieces and nephews after the deaths of his brothers speaks volumes for him. My prayers are with his family.

    And for the record, yesterday my family buried the great-aunt who was like our mother and grandmother. When you lose someone that huge in your life, there is no laughter.

    August 29, 2009 at 10:08 am |
  36. Mari

    Yes, Mr. Foreman, keep it light. However, I think it will be hard for our president having lost a mentor, supporter and friend.

    To the conservatives that are focusing on Sen. Kennedy's sins, I say, we are all sinners, we have all been forgiven when we ask, and God is our only..... and ultimate Judge!

    August 29, 2009 at 10:08 am |
  37. Nick

    If hell is real, Ted Kennedy is there.

    August 29, 2009 at 9:53 am |