May 23rd, 2010
09:00 AM ET

Dear Mr. President #489 "Searching for intelligent life"

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/05/21/art.blair.jpg caption="So you are replacing your Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair. Can I make a suggestion? What the next candidate needs is imagination."]

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: I send a letter every single day to the president in response to his pre-Inauguration request for ideas from the public. So far I’m not sure he’s taken any of my suggestions. But maybe today is the day…

Dear Mr. President,

So you are replacing your Director of National Intelligence, eh? I guess we all so that one coming. An attempted bombing here, a rising threat there, an actual act of violence…a few things like that stack up on your watch and it’s pretty much time to pack the desk.

My question is, what are you looking for in your next one? Can I make a suggestion? I think he or she needs a good deal of experience in the field, some strong leadership qualities; it goes without saying that the next Intel Director should have a deep knowledge of international affairs and all those murky little groups both here and abroad who sit around scheming about how to hurt us. But here is something else he or she needs: Imagination.

You have no doubt heard 9/11 famously referred to as a failure of imagination, and I have always thought that assessment is spot on. We need someone in that position who can clearly see the worlds as it is with all of its dark corners or resentment and chaos, but we also need someone who can see the world as it might be…both for good and for bad.

One time on a show I was anchoring I asked a reporter to explain to me what might happen in a certain political situation, and he responded rather indignantly, “I can tell you how things are today, but I can’t predict tomorrow.” He missed the point. I wasn’t asking him for a David Blaine act of magic. I was asking him to apply his reasoning, experience and intelligence to the situation and give the viewers some insight about what kind of solutions might be considered. I was asking him not to speculate, but to imagine.

Imagination is a powerful tool. It is imprecise to be sure, and taken too seriously, can easily lead to disastrous assumptions. But applied properly it will allow us to better meet our enemies on the field where they build their offensives; the battleground of “what might be.”

So as you interview each candidate, ask him or her this: “Can you describe to me a way of attacking America that I’ve never considered before?  And can you explain to me both how it would be done, and how it might be stopped?” If that visitor can not answer clearly and concisely, you might want to keep looking.

Give me a call if you want some help on this. You know I am reliable, and I may even have more imagination than is good for me!  Ha!



soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Ofmany2

    Einstein once said that, "Imagination is more important than knowledge." As you note, both are needed as, knowledge is past & imagination is future.

    May 23, 2010 at 9:41 am |
  2. Rachel Rountree

    I love this article, and you are 100% on it, I pictured it in my mind as I read, and they should be able to answer this question in detail and be excited in doing so,, To take yourself out of your min d into the mind of someone else!!! A+ Tom, and President Obama I know you read Tom's daily letter, I see into your mind and your not able to resist, I wouldn't be, have a Beautiful Sunday to you both and God bless....

    May 23, 2010 at 9:31 am |

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