December 31st, 2009
07:30 AM ET

Dear President Obama #346: Counting down the hours

Reporter's Note: If I were President, I’m not so sure I would have time for a New Year’s resolution, but as a regular citizen, I often contemplate ways in which I might improve. For example, I could write two letters to the White House each day…although I’m not sure that would be an improvement. While I ponder that, I’ll continue with my vacation plan of avoiding political talk for a while and sharing tales of holidays past.

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

New Year’s Eve has never been a particularly grand holiday for me. I always enjoy seeing the work of the past month roll out in my special show All the Best, All the Worst, which btw, is airing tonight at 8 eastern and then again at 10. Hope you get to see it. So you see I have reason to like the holiday well enough, but it always seems somehow artificial for people to organize big parties, and dance, and drink, and blow on paper horns just because a digit on the calendar is changing. We don’t decorate and break out the bands when one month changes to the next; or even for the changes of seasons, which are more noteworthy in my book. Although, arguably, I guess we could say that some pretty major celebrations had their ancient origins in such matters; such as Christmas and the winter solstice.

When I was a child, living in small towns where precious little that was legal happened at the midnight hour, I used to sit up after my family had gone to bed on New Year’s Eve to watch the festivities on TV and wonder about who all these people were who reveled through the night. My favorites were always the folks who joined in to celebrate with Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians. I can’t recall which network carried his orchestra, but he’d come on the air perhaps sixty minutes before the witching hour and fill the room with classic jazz and swing tunes.

I would see him on either a black and white TV, or a color one with such bad reception it may as well have been black and white, which took a little edge off of the celebration, but still it was a window on an astonishing world where people sipped martinis, wore funny hats, and swayed back and forth to the melodies. At midnight, of course, Guy and the band would crank into the ever-puzzling Auld Lang Syne. If people in the big city were never quite sure what to make of that number, you can guess how strange it sounded as it filled a family room with shag carpeting in a simple house on the Illinois plains, with no one but a junior high school boy listening in the wavering light, while the bitter winds of winter whipped outside.

In the morning, my father would usually smile and ask, “How was Guy Lombardo?” “Still Canadian,” I’d reply. Or something like that. The assessment was neither an insult nor an acclamation, but like the holiday itself, just kind of “there.”

I’ve had plenty of interesting New Year’s Eves since. I took part in a fancy fundraiser in New Orleans one year. I spent another watching a building blow up in Las Vegas, toasting the minute with my TV crew and a bottle of champagne on the Strip. At the millennium, my wife and daughters (who were very young at the time) danced the night away at a friend’s party, then went home and cooked pancakes in the sunrise before finally falling asleep.

But just like those old TV signals, those late nights with Guy flicker at the edges of my memories each year as the final hours count down.

Hope all is well and your celebration is lovely, however you mark this passing of time.



Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Elizabeth Mohammed

    Thank you for your trip down memory lane! I suppose if I were writing the President I would thank him for one of the most memorable inaugurals I have ever witnessed. Tears were streaming down my face as I heard his message of hope reminiscent of the civil rights leaders of the 60's like Ted, Bobby and Martin. I saw on that day the lights and spirits of the American people go back on and my spirit renewed.
    I would tell the President to renew his message of Hope for the people of the United States this New Years and to never give up his thirst for justice and peace in an often times unjust world. My New Years prayer and hope would be for the President to always have the strength and peace of mind amidst the rhetorical onslaught of various opposition.
    Hopefully I have not rambled on too much! Happy New Year and may the Presidents New years wishes come true.
    Elizabeth Mohammed

    December 31, 2009 at 2:25 pm |
  2. Brit

    Pancakes with loved ones...can it get any better than that?

    “So much of what is best in us is bound up in our love of family that it remains the measure of our stability because it measures our sense of loyalty. All other pacts of love or fear derive from it and are modeled upon it.” Haniel Long

    December 31, 2009 at 11:06 am |
  3. Tammy, Houma, LA

    While I'd like to say New Year's is simply the changing of a calendar, it is in reality so much more. It's parties with friends, dinners with family, a day of recovery listening to the concert from Vienna and watching football while eating some more, and realizing life is blessed. It's remembering my best friend who died around New Year's and concentrating on the gift of his life. And this year, it's working and visiting with parents and listening to the concert from Vienna while reading and editing stacks and stacks of papers and having dinner and seeing a Disney movie with my childhood friend and remembering it's the simple things that matter. Happy 2010.

    December 31, 2009 at 10:18 am |
  4. Isabel Siaba (Brazil)

    `•.¸¸✴•*¨*☆ Happy New Year •*´☾`•.¸¸✴•*¨*☆ •*¨*

    December 31, 2009 at 9:05 am |
  5. Tim Gibson

    I myself will be counting down the minutes to All the Best, All the Worst as I sip a soda from a plastic bottle to later be recycled and wondering why anyone would give up the warm toasty comfort of their home to fill Times Square in mass to watch a large ball drop on a pole.

    As to resolutions, mine will be to save more and spend less even when I am not sure how to accomplish that when I have already mastered the art of living on a dime a day.

    December 31, 2009 at 8:19 am |