February 13th, 2011
09:00 AM ET

Letters to the President: #755 'Freedom? That's just some people talking'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: President Obama, like many presidents, likes talking about freedom. I, like many lunatics, like writing letters to people in power.

Dear Mr. President,

I’ve been thinking about a phrase that I heard tossed around a lot amid this whole Egypt uprising. In one form or another, it was this. “We just want freedom.” Some of my media colleagues joined the call. “These protesters are making a determined stand for freedom.”

Freedom. Americans love this word. We love it like we love purple mountains, Springsteen (especially during the Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town years), democracy, and Glee. In the broader context of world conflicts, however, I find it a troubling word because I’m not sure if the globe agrees on its definition.

It’s like that moment in Princess Bride when Vizzini says yet again, that an event is “inconceivable.” Inigo Montoya says, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Freedom. For most of us I suppose it means life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness - that sort of thing. Freedom to have a job, buy a house, get a dog, go to church…or not. Sing in your car with the windows open. Vote. Travel. Buy things and commit to cell phone contracts. In other words, to make our own choices and sell off our freedom one minute at a time.

But don’t you think the great oppressors of the world, whether individuals or groups, have valued freedom too? Think of even the worst tyrants in history. They wanted the freedom to dictate the terms of their society, to amass great wealth, to command armies, and to wield power like a truncheon.

Freedom, defined differently by different groups, was the case made both for and against slavery for crying out loud.

So as I watched the struggles overseas, I found myself wishing I would hear a lot less about people wanting freedom, and a lot more about what they intend to do with that freedom. Because that is the proof of pedigree. That is the question we all must be asking now. It is relatively easy to defeat oppressors with talk of freedom. It is a much greater challenge to not then become a new oppressor, from which people will soon enough want freedom again.

I hope your weekend is enjoyable. Is it just me, or are you dying for a little spring to come our way? I appreciate the seasons and usually like winter, but not so much this year.


Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Sam Abdel

    Anderson you are the voice of freedom surround the world. You are the voice of million of desperate freedom sicker, .Their government keep the voice turn off . CNN is doing tremendous job to educate people what the mean of free life and build better communities in each corner of this universe,. I will keep fighting for human right every where and particular in Sudan and middle east ,God help me and bless Anderson Cooper and CNN .

    February 13, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
  2. Sam Abdel

    Free Sudan is next revolution , the wind of freedom is moving to south of Egypt , I have keeping send my blog , face book , internet technology to all young generation to mobilize them to start new democracy in Sudan ,as one nation believe in God and justice to all , must run free election with no military interference. A lot people of Sudan are suffering to feed their kids and other stealing the treasure of Sudan , We are people are equal in life , right, religious and freedom , must all lives in best society according our GOD command.

    Sam Abdel
    Iam republicain love Anderson Cooper because is very honest and tell the truth .

    February 13, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
  3. aly


    I am an Egyptian American, who want to express my deep sincere admiration for hwo you felt for the egyptian people and the truth and facts you deliverd about the Egyptian revolt.

    I have a real wondering questions about Mubark wealth.
    1- where is Mr. Mubarek and his family taxes statements for the last 3-5 years.
    2- Was reported that charges a commision for the military bussiness deals and Suez canal transportion, I am amazed as that income should belong to the country not to a person since he does not own the canal or the military !!!!! Unless he believes that he is Egypt and the country is his and wanted to give it to his son.!!!!

    February 13, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  4. Ida

    Thank you for your accurate coverage of Egypt's revolution. Egyptians in Egypt and abroad are afraid that the military wont let go, they have too much at stake to give up their control of the Gov to civilians. They don't know what Democracy is all about. Please keep them honest

    February 13, 2011 at 11:30 am |
  5. Eve Buchhol

    I was really proud of your reporting from Egypt
    during the revolution, putting yourself in harms-way in order to keep us informed. Little has been said about the 1,000 prisoners that escaped from two of the institutions. Just where are they now? Have they been rounded up and returned to prison or could they be waiting in the wings to stir up trouble?

    Eve Buchholz

    PS....I can imagine what your Mother went through during this crisis. I know that I worried about your safety. We love you, Anderson

    February 13, 2011 at 10:43 am |
  6. Ronnie

    Yea, Tom – once again your wisdom – I wish when we speak of freedom – we would understand all the responsibilities that go with "Freedom" –
    Responsibility to self and others – THAT's what Freedom implies.

    February 13, 2011 at 10:23 am |