December 13th, 2009
11:11 AM ET

Dear President Obama #328: A Dickens of a time

Reporter's Note: President Obama seems to be a pretty big reader, and I am too. I’m also a big writer, hence, my letter every single day to the Oval Office.

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Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

So just yesterday I was writing to you with a playlist of Christmas tunes that I like, and it made me think of one of the true treasures in my collection of recordings, and it is not a song at all. I have a 1938 version of A Christmas Carol by the Campbell Soup Radio Playhouse with Orson Welles and Lionel Barrymore. It is simply wonderful and I have been listening to it for years and years. I believe it is available on-line now, so you might want to check it out.

A Chrismas Carol has long been a favorite of mine, and heck for millions of folks. So every year I listen to the recording, and read the book, and love it even more. “Marley was dead to begin with…” What a great start to a story. And a great end, too, come to think of it.

I mention it, however, because just in case it hasn’t occurred to you, this would be a great time for all of us to reread that tale. Can you issue some sort of Executive Order? I suppose not, but still it’s an idea.

I know that everyone totally gets the whole three ghosts part and the ending is no surprise, but in the original book there is a subtext that is easily overlooked: What A Christmas Carol is really about is not really the holiday at all, but our year round obligation to care for the people around us, and especially those less fortunate. Charles Dickens was terribly concerned in his day and time about child labor, poverty, and families who wound up trapped in a cycle of suffering. That’s why those two starving children, Ignorance and Want, appear beneath the robe of Christmas Present.

Dickens wrote his story specifically for hard times; to be an inspiration to people who are facing adversity. It was a reminder of the importance of the need for “charity, benevolence, mercy.” I won’t attempt to salute his writing anymore than to just say, take the time…read it again. After all the movies, plays and TV shows, you can still find the deepest inspiration and understanding of this story hiding in the dusty depths of Dicken’s own words, which can seem as fresh as a snowy Christmas morning…especially when times are hard.

Call if you need me to run over with one of my copies. I’ve got five or six, including one edition I bought in London from 1883 or something like that. Uh…but you can’t borrow that one. Sorry.



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Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

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