February 21st, 2010
07:04 AM ET

Dear President Obama #398: Doing the Texas two step

Reporter's Note: Texas has been home to several presidents, including the one just before President Obama. Oddly enough, it may also be a launching ground for the nation’s recovery. Oh the irony. And it will be the postmark on my next week of letters to the White House.

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Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

So by the time you are reading this I will be winging my way to the great Lone Star State! Texas! Cowboy Town! The Wild West! Hot-cha!

Just as you periodically like to joyride around America to chat up your ideas, I’m traveling to hear what folks have to say about the economy, politics, their families, their faith, and possibly bowling. This is part of this special Building Up America series that we’ll be doing on CNN for the next seven months or so. Simply put, I’m going around to find individuals, businesses, and communities where people have ferreted out a way to move forward and thrive despite all of the hard times the nation is facing. By sharing good ideas, maybe a town in Texas can help a town in Maine which might help a town in South Dakota, and on and on it goes. At least that is the theory.

Sometimes we take on projects in journalism that I have serious doubts about; I don’t always think they are good reporting, or effective, or valuable to anyone, but I really do believe in this one. I may have told this story to you, and if so…sorry…but take a read again. Years ago when I worked at ABC News I had dinner with Peter Jennings one night in Denver. Peter had always taken a pronounced interest in my work, which meant he spent a lot of time critiquing my efforts and telling me what I was getting wrong.

We dined right at the end of an election cycle and he said at one point, “Tom, there is some concern in New York that you don’t really care much for politics.” I responded, “That would be correct. I don’t.”

Peter leaned forward, fixed me with an intense stare and said, “That’s ridiculous. Everything important that happens in this country is because of politics.”

Normally that kind of focus from Peter was enough to quail almost any colleague, but this subject was too dear to my heart. “To the contrary, Peter, I think most of the important, meaningful work in this country happens despite politics, not because of it.”

I don’t remember much about the rest of the dinner except that it was kind of uncomfortable. In the end, however, Peter appreciated the fact that I was honest about my judgment and didn’t just roll over when he tried to kick me. At least I think so. Hard to tell when your boss ends the conversation with, “OK, Dimbulb, so I guess you’ll get the check?” Ha! Just kidding.

But I’m not kidding about what I said. That’s why I am excited about this series on Building Up America, and I hope you watch. I’ve said before and I’ll say again: The greatness of America lies in its workers more than it does in its bosses. And the politician who learns to listen more than he or she talks…that person is well on his way to becoming a true leader.

Do you want me to bring some barbecue back? If so, just give a jingle. Cell of course. I think I’m going to check out that Stevie Ray Vaughn statue. As many times as I’ve been to Austin, I’ve never seen it. Can you imagine? Heresy!



Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Merle Dunn

    While you are in our wonderful state of Texas I hope I get the
    chance to visit with you.
    I live in Mesquite,Texas which is on the edge of Dallas going East,
    you are my favorite Journalist.
    You do great work.

    February 22, 2010 at 11:53 am |
  2. jeanine

    Re: "the politician who learns to listen more than he or she talks...that person is well on his way to becoming a true leader."
    A wise man many centuries ago agreed. He wrote,"Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance."
    Proverbs chapter 1, verse 5–the Bible!

    February 22, 2010 at 8:39 am |
  3. A. Smith, Oregon

    I fully agree with the Texas wing-nuts that are screaming to leave the United States. Give Texas back to Mexico!

    February 22, 2010 at 12:24 am |
  4. Tamara Randi

    Great, Great, Great. we need you to do some positive reporting so people don't get more discouraged. The whole world needs you to be the example not the part of the problem. Thank you for taking the high road.

    February 21, 2010 at 9:49 pm |
  5. Octavia Brown

    One year and three months ago, our citizens elected on this continent the first black president: conceived in hope and dedicated to the possibility of change and equality for all Americans.

    Now we are engaged in a great political debate…challenging whether this nation with its great people so divided and so enraged…can continue to endure. We are aligned on the great political battlefield of that debate.

    We must dedicate in a portion of that political debate the understanding that we are all Americans regardless of our political affiliation and that our political leaders serve the people of their state, district and county regardless of race, nationality, religion or disability. It is altogether essential that they remember this.

    But , on a larger scale, we cannot forget, we cannot ignore, we cannot harbor this fact that there were brave men and women who sacrificed their lives so that African Americans could be free from slavery with the equal political rights and privileges as their white counter parts. The true fruit of their sacrifice was realized on November 2, 2008, when Senator Barack Obama was elected the first African American President.

    I hope that all American can believe and resurrect the words of President Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address

    “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us. . .that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion. . . that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. . . that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom. . . and that government of the people. . .by the people. . .for the people. . . shall not perish from the earth. "

    February 21, 2010 at 9:25 pm |
  6. Nanci Warner

    I'm looking forward to it. You realize you can't leave any state out. And don't forget there is both Eastern and Western Washington (the State). Hope you come here.
    BTW, both you & Peter were right.

    February 21, 2010 at 9:23 pm |
  7. Alex Valiao (New York)

    Great story as always. I missed a couple of letters. I have to absolutely agree with you. There is more to the word "We the people" in America that just its plain meaning. Thanks!

    February 21, 2010 at 5:24 pm |
  8. C. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    No more than a pitch for the party of NO who are trying to TEAR DOWN AMERICA, won't be watching.

    February 21, 2010 at 3:05 pm |
  9. alex lyrics

    I myself steer clear away from that dreadfully backward state called Texas.

    February 21, 2010 at 2:34 pm |
  10. john Laforme

    I can understand wanting to help out Texas but a state that really needs assistance is Michigan because some parts of Michigan have turned almost into a ghost town status with no industry , since the government intends to support non polluting energy this would be a good place to start since there is an excess of out of work people it would benifit two ways one support the new energy policy and assist a state with an excess of unemployed workers

    J.M. Laforme

    February 21, 2010 at 11:28 am |
  11. Tim Gibson

    If anything, the past few years have taught most of us, perhaps not to be interested in politics, but to pay attention to our political leaders. They may not shape this country, but they sure as the dickens put a dent in the fender while refusing to accept responsibility for their reckless behavior that resulted in the mishap to begin with.

    Dispite the misguided intentions of our leadership there is a spirit we call the American Spirit and it will take more than a wreckless politician to kill that engine.

    Some may be invited along for the ride while others will be put out at the first rest stop available, but the journey does and will continue.

    February 21, 2010 at 8:46 am |