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March 6th, 2010
07:35 AM ET

Dear President Obama #411: So we're all in agreement?

Reporter's Note: All indications are that President Obama was a decent student in his undergraduate years, and better than decent in law school. I was a pretty good student too, but not “going to be President one day” good. More like “going to write lots of meaningless letters to the president one day” good. But maybe that’s good enough.

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

I had a really interesting conversation with some college students the other day. Graduate students at Georgetown. I was teaching a class for a friend who had to be away, so I stepped up to play pretend professor, and I’m awfully glad I did. I mean, I would have been happy enough for the chance to wear my tweed jacket with patches on the elbows, but I wound up with a real bonus.

We ended up having a very pleasant conversation about the state of media and politics these days. And in the midst of it, one of them said something that I found intriguing. I asked where they get their news these days, and as you might expect, most said “from the Internet.” Then I said, which websites? A couple of them immediately named a well-known, liberal-leaning site. Then a woman and I had this exchange, (and sorry, I’m paraphrasing very roughly…perhaps the students would give you a different interpretation of what was said, but if they want to, let them write their own letters!)

“Why do you like that site?” I asked.

“Because I agree with it. It tells me I am right.”

“Are you always right?”

“No.”

“Then why would you want someone to tell you that you are?”

In a nutshell, that’s what concerns me most about the shift from old mainstream media to new media sources like blogs. Sure, those of us in the MSM have made mistakes over the years, we’re not always the most innovative in our thinking, and I’m sure some folks could give you’re a list of grievances against us that would stretch down to the Potomac.

But the alternative that some people choose, I think, is much worse. They are opting to crawl into comfortable little media caves packed only with others who share the same beliefs. They willingly isolate themselves from ideas that might contradict their concepts of the world, and this is being done by liberals, conservatives, and even middle-of-the-roaders to an extent. And in the process, they are cutting themselves off from a whole world of other thoughts which might prove useful to them, if only they would open their minds to them.

Anyway, I have plenty of respect for the folks I was talking with because they were honest and open about their views and their choices. But I did give them some advice which I also offer to you, just in case it might be helpful: While it is fine to share time and company with people who also share your views, it is a good thing to seek out those with whom you disagree as well. After all, the person who simply tells you that you are right does nothing to strengthen your views. But the person who challenges you, and forces you to defend your position? That person makes you find logic in your views, or he makes you reconsider them. Either way, that’s learning…and we can all use more of that no matter our age.

Call if you can. On the road a bit this weekend, but always happy to hear from you. Or, I guess I will be if you ever call.

Regards,

Tom

Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Alexandra Datig

    Dear Mr. Foreman:

    Wonderful advice. To see an issue for what it truly is it takes all views. Otherwise we'll never have our full argument, nor will we be fully able to discuss it.

    March 6, 2010 at 9:30 pm |
  2. khym

    Excellently put I find this too among my peers i.e the ones who actually care about politics. I must say though many news today are doctrinal rather than informative and that may be the reason for the prolonged traditional political culture of the unwillingness to have an open mind and think for ourselves.

    March 6, 2010 at 1:40 pm |
  3. gina

    I have veered away from mainstream media because they seem so bias toward President Obama. I do get my news from a variety of sources for the reasons u cited. I believe there are still to many people who have just checked out & love in a cacoon of scared indifference.

    March 6, 2010 at 12:27 pm |
  4. KC514

    Tom,
    As always you're right on the mark. I first remember becoming aware of this phenomena when I was in college (1965-1969). Everyone seemed to be against the Vietnam war. Although I was horrified by the war scenes on the evening news, I wondered how and why we got into the war in the first place. A friends father had lived and worked in Vietnam for many years and invited us to his home to discuss the situation. Very eye-opening to realize how complicated the situation was. It was a lesson that I've never forgotten. Issues and problems are ALWAYS much more complicated than presented on the evening news. (Not putting down the evening news but just recognizing that they need to put issues into 2-minute sound bites.) It's up to individuals to do the research into all points of view. Not an easy exercise for the intellectually lazy. But it's a challenge for everyone who wants a free and thriving democracy. Keep up the good work.

    March 6, 2010 at 11:56 am |
  5. Tim Gibson

    First I just wanted to say, put the tweed jacket with elbow patches back and step away from the closet, seriously. But I see your patch and raise you one, it could work. That not sure why I like it but I do thang if you own it.

    With that said, I always thought we had to get through the tuff stuf to get to the good stuff. A green salad without anything other than green, not very appealing. But not to say I am right about that.

    March 6, 2010 at 11:55 am |
  6. kristin

    The RNC has made a mess of this country really they had 8 years and squandered it all. Made it so hard for the average Joe and Jane. All these issues are so interconnected. Or It was all a set up for this Admin to find difficulties. I wish everyone the greatest luck in finding you own answers to these crazy problems we face. Both on the left and the right.

    March 6, 2010 at 11:55 am |
  7. jaelle

    Very, very important advice!!! I wish more people would encourage this.

    March 6, 2010 at 11:51 am |
  8. Maria H-Miami

    Tom, great letter and advise. Wish more people would read this letter and follow your advise.

    March 6, 2010 at 10:31 am |
  9. Shirley

    I agree with you, as to many people just follow the crowd ,people NEED to think things thru!! Keep up the good work.

    March 6, 2010 at 9:02 am |
  10. Jeff Schroeffel

    "Sure, those of us in the MSM have made mistakes over the years" – thats the understatement of the decade. As a conservative news consumer in his mid-30s who started watching News on CNN's coverage of the 1st Gulf War, I can tell you it disgusts me to watch the blatent bias in the MSM. It is not just in the stories, but the words, definitions, and attitudes.

    If you have a bias, you cannot from the news.

    March 6, 2010 at 8:54 am |
  11. James Frey

    Fantastic. Well said. (and I'm not just saying to agree with you and make you feel better)

    March 6, 2010 at 8:08 am |