December 5th, 2010
09:00 AM ET

Letters to the President: #685 'Listen. Did you hear that?'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: President Obama is a great speaker, and we always make a big fuss about presidents with that skill. I’m wondering in today’s letter, however, if we should be focusing more on the skill of listening.

Dear Mr. President,

Larry King, as you probably know, is bringing down the curtain on his longstanding interview show here at CNN, and we’re going to miss him. The last time I saw him at one of those big dinners where you were speaking, Larry passed me in the crowd, smiled ear to ear and reached up to pat my cheek as if I were ten years old. It was charming.

Isn’t it interesting to think that someone could make such a career out of simply talking with people? Notice I said talking “with” not “to.” It’s a crucial difference. Any numbskull can natter away at someone else. Heck, just look at all these letters. Ha!

Talking “with” people, however, requires a special touch My old colleague and a man I respect terrifically, Ted Koppel, taught me one of the most important lessons of my career: The secret to good interviews lies not in talking, but in listening.