October 15th, 2010
12:52 PM ET

Letters to the President: #634 'Lessons from Chile'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: President Obama is facing many problems, but in a classic leadership sense, that means he is also facing many opportunities to show courage, fortitude, and leadership.

Dear Mr. President,

You can not believe the number of compliments I’ve heard people giving to the president lately. No, I’m sorry; I’m not talking about you. I mean the president of Chile, Sebastián Piñera.

The way that he stood by during those long hours of the miners’ rescue - congratulating, consoling, comforting, often sharing the spotlight but never hogging it - clearly struck many people as the very picture of what a president ought to be.

Maybe it was his smile, which seemed always ready. Or maybe it was the way he stood there in a red jacket looking like everyone else on the sidelines with no visible sign of security or handlers. Maybe it was the way that he spoke often enough, but not too often or the way he did not rush to be the first to great each saved man, but also never left them waiting for a friendly hand to shake when they were finished thanking the rescuers. It just seemed as if Mr. Piñera., at least in this circumstance, struck the perfect balance.

Now he is promising a robust review of mining regulations and enforcement in his country and promising not to desert the cause of the miners just as he did not desert them in the ground. We’ll see if he delivers. But if he does, it will undoubtedly bring him the kind of acclaim for which politicians thirst.

It has often been said that presidents don’t make the times, the times make the president. A president who serves well but faces no major crisis may be liked or even loved, but often is forgotten. It is the president who grapples with disaster, stares it down, and wins, who is recalled fondly for generations.

So take heart in the troubles with which you are tangling. If you can vanquish them, (and I know that’s a tall, tall order) true, lasting greatness awaits. And what president would want anything less?

Call if you have a moment. No doubt I can help you find some extra troubles to take on in case you feel like you don’t have enough. Ha!


Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Jeral

    I second EVERYTHING that Tom said about the President of Chile. Oh, that we could have a man like that to lead the good ole USofA!!!

    October 16, 2010 at 4:58 pm |
  2. ckesling

    i want to thank cnn and all of you for covering this whole rescue. gary, and mr. penhal. i never got tired of watching. i cried each and every time one of those miners were brought up. and thank god for those 6 rescuers who offered to put their selves in harms way !!!this is a "feel good all over" story. god bless all of the miners & their familes. i wish them health and a good life, they certainly deserve it. and i hope they never have to work again the rest of their lives !!! they have earned it:):):)

    October 15, 2010 at 11:49 pm |
  3. David, Indiana

    Tom I think the President will be ok, me though, I've just wasted three years on being dumb dow jones watcher. I guess I "screwed up."

    October 15, 2010 at 11:10 pm |
  4. vig

    This is a story of hope, resilency and reunion. It is a message for all times in a world full of conflict, hate and despair – it offers humanity at it's best.
    The other touching images were the affection the men showed to each other, kissing and hugging and crying. So simple, so real. Pure joy. The world needed a lesson in cohesion and unity and it finally got one.

    October 15, 2010 at 10:58 pm |