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.
Tom Foreman | BIO
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!
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