September 9th, 2010
11:28 AM ET

Letters to the President: #598 'The imam's words'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: President Obama is a wonderful speaker. Even many of his opponents readily admit that. But speaking only works, if there is an audience to listen, and that’s the subject of my daily letter to the White House.

Dear Mr. President,

I believe in talking. Actually, I believe in it far too much as far as my producer, Katie, is concerned. Sometimes after we’ve been cranking down the highway for a couple hours she’ll turn to me and say, “Ok, so let’s just be quiet for a while.” I like talking about music, ideas, books, movies, work, play, and of course the Saints. (Who, I may note, are playing tonight! Huzzah!) And I believe in talking out disagreements with others. Partially this grew out of my experiences in junior high, when I realized I wasn’t a very good fighter. Some of it has come from 24 years of marriage in which I realized talking is a lot better than an evening of frosty silence.

So I was pleased to see Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf appear on CNN last night to explain his plans for that Islamic center near ground zero in New York. I’m sure people all over the country will be grinding every sentence today with their morning coffee beans, parsing his words, and talking them over endlessly. But here is something I think is worth considering: As much as I love talking, I learn the most when I listen, especially when I listen to people with whom I do not automatically agree.

I thought the imam did a wonderful job explaining his position last night. He seems to have thought out the pros and cons of his predicament. He has a strong grasp of the world implications involved in this dispute. And he gave solid reasons why his project should be allowed to continue. Mind you, I’m not saying I agree or disagree with his position. But I am saying I understand it better now, and anyone who cared to listen can do the same.

I don’t know if that center should be built or not. That’s up to others to decide. I do know that sometimes we absolutely should stand firm on principles, but at all times we owe it to ourselves to collect all the information we can as we make such monumental decisions. It’s easy to get angry. It’s easy to react to things we don’t like. It’s easy to start talking, but first we should listen. Just a few thoughts.

Anyway, do you want to come over for the game tonight? It should be a monster. You know the Vikings will be out for revenge after last year. Oh, but if you come, I should warn you…no talking during the game. Ha! Go Saints!


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Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

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