May 20th, 2010
10:04 AM ET

Dear Mr. President # 486 "Lessons from the Navajo"

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/05/20/art.vert.navajo.boy.jpg caption="I am still traveling in New Mexico, and I had an experience that lifted my spirits right up. And you know where I found it? On the Navajo nation." width=292 height=320]

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: I am still traveling in New Mexico, and yet my letters to the president continue unabated.

Dear Mr. President,

Well, I’ve rolled out far deeper into the Western countryside since I wrote yesterday’s letter, and I must say I am feeling better by the mile. When I moved to DC ten years ago I vowed that I would not get too caught up in all the silliness that seems as much a part of that place as marble monuments, but like the old saying goes, you lay down with dogs, you wake up with fleas.

That said, I had an experience that lifted my spirits right up today about how groups of people working together can accomplish great things. And you know where I found it? On the Navajo nation.

If you have not checked out the Navajo Agricultural Products Industry program, or NAPI, you really ought to. Here’s the skinny: About ten years ago tribe members in charge of this program decided to really step up the emphasis on quality and accountability on their massive (and I mean, 30 miles by 20 miles massive!) farm. Gone were the days of “good enough.” They started demanding top level production, utilizing state-of-the-art soil and water analysis. They pushed their teams to take pride in producing only the best alfalfa, wheat, beans, corn, potatoes, and even cattle. And they developed their markets worldwide to maximize their profits and promote the name “Navajo Pride.”

And it has really worked. They now turn out more than 30-million dollars worth of ag products every year for big league companies like Frito-Lay, Walmart, and Ralston-Purina. Chances are good that you’ve eaten a Navajo Pride product recently and didn’t even know it, because it was part of some other highly successful product.

Here’s the real proof though: NAPI employs 1200 full and part time workers each year and despite the recession, they have not had a single layoff. Not one. To the contrary, they have an aggressive training program to bring more young Navajos into the company, and they are steadily expanding their operation.

I just can’t express how impressed I was with all I saw. Make no mistake, the tribe still wrestles with very serious matters, like roughly 65 percent unemployment. That’s nothing to celebrate. But NAPI is proving to be a cornerstone of genuine stability in very tough times.

I’m telling you, it is inspiring what people can do when they work together for the good of all, and btw, isn’t that what government is supposed to be about?

Once again, it is very late, I’m very tired and still working on the story for tomorrow, so I better go and get back to it. Call if you get a moment, but don’t be surprised if I am out of cell range. Hooray!



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soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Priscilla

    It is always great to hear positive remarks about Native America, especially when its ones tribe – The Navajo Nation.

    Tom, you are really getting to see the reservation as it is, more people that work in the Federal Government, even the State government, need to see what the reservation is like. Decisions are made by them that affect Native America and I seriously doubt they know the demographics and geography of a tribe. Thanks Tom!

    November 19, 2010 at 12:39 pm |
  2. Hugh in California

    Great story with a happy ending. Thanks CNN, I hope to read more "feel good" stories like this one. Thank you Mr. Forman for your insightful reading and message to our president.

    May 20, 2010 at 2:06 pm |
  3. Vernon Livingston

    I live on the Navajo Reservation. I am glad to hear this on a larger scale than just the reservation.

    This year, NAPI was very helpful in that they provided food and hay for the peope and animals during the severe winter months at no cost. I
    was one of the many and want to say thanks to you and NAPI for the story of good news.

    May 20, 2010 at 1:44 pm |
  4. Kirk Hill

    Again excellent work Tom.

    I hope the President gets the message. If not he may be looking for a new job in several years. Are the Navajos hiring?

    Thanks for the series. Sorry you can't be with your family every night.

    Continue the great work. Americans are listening.

    Is it difficult to keep your letters to the President at or below the 2500 character limit imposed by the White House on the public?


    Kirk Hill

    May 20, 2010 at 11:58 am |
  5. ronnie

    Thanks Tom – As a Native American – it is SO seldom that we hear good things about a tribe...

    May 20, 2010 at 10:37 am |