November 29th, 2010
11:15 AM ET

Letters to the President: #679 'Growing older … and up'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: The president took a little smash mouth from a basketball opponent over the holiday. And as if that weren’t bad enough, now he has to receive another letter from me!

Dear Mr. President,

Sorry to hear about the elbow you caught in your basketball game. Stitches are no fun, as I know all too well from my failed attempt to jump onto that desk at work. So if your reflexes are slowing down a bit, maybe you should take up running with me. Ha! Just kidding. But I did run about 16 miles over the long holiday weekend. Enjoyed the cool air, the leaves, the woods around my house. That’s a lot more fun than bumping around with a bunch of sweaty guys. But maybe that’s just me.

It is interesting (and our wives would probably say a tad ridiculous) the degree to which men, as they grow older, act as if they are growing younger. There is some good in this, of course. Standing up to your aches and pains, pushing yourself as your natural agility, flexibility and strength fade is a fine way to keep yourself mentally strong. It’s good for your heart, your lungs, and your overall outlook. The bad side, however, is that sometimes we delude ourselves. We may slow the effects of aging, but we can’t stop the process.

Aging well, in both body and mind, is something that we do not respect nearly enough these days. Properly done, it should bring a certain grace, confidence, and conservation of energy with it. Gone are the self-conscious, herky-jerky movements of our overly enthusiastic 20’s, and in their place should be the elegant, self-assured symphony of surety. Our pump fake should work because we’ve learned how to sell it. Our drive to the net should be like a magic trick. Where once we relied on quickness and power, now we count on cunning, calculation, calm, and a sort of sporting sleight of hand.

We learn, in short, to make the most of the tools we have, rather than fretting about the ones we don’t have. The wonderful singer/songwriter Elvis Costello was once asked why his singing had improved so much as he grew older. He said something to the effect of, “I learned to sing within my range.”

In the same sense, I think, older leaders should set aside some of the frenetic efforts of their younger days and replace them with more thoughtful, strategic uses of their talents. That’s hard if you think of yourself as youthful, and I’m not saying that anyone should just surrender to the passing years without a fight. What I am saying is that learning to grow older in our thoughts and deeds is an art which, properly practiced, brings a wealth of value to our nation, our families, and our selves.

When I was a young man, I had no patience for those who argued about the virtue of experience. Because I had no experience. I still feel a strong affinity for living as “young as you feel.” Frankly, I think you should stay in the game as far as basketball is concerned as long as you feel up to it. But growing older, I have come to understand that youth, despite our nation’s obsession with it, is not all it is cracked up to be. And maturity, while not always flashy, is what makes societies actually work for the good of all.

I hope you heal up soon and make it back onto the court. Until then, call if you feel like it. And if you can talk. Ha!


Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (One Response)
  1. Beryl Jacob

    Arn't we tired of going around that old broken wheel? President Obama is a citizen whether you think so or not. Now Public servants get to the business of getting jobs for Americans, educate Americans. This ridiculous argument makes us look like mean spirited old man. We are better than this. You are elected to govern stop wasting time with this fruitless attack and take care of the country. You would not help him in that endeaver but your own family, friends and a country we all should love.

    November 30, 2010 at 1:59 am |