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May 24th, 2011
07:18 PM ET

Letters to the President: #855 'Trouble at home'

Reporter's Note: I write a letter to the president every day.

Dear Mr. President,

It must be odd to be stuck overseas as you are when something momentous and terrible strikes such as that tornado in Joplin, Missouri. I’ve covered a lot of big storms in my career - some of the biggest - but this was certainly a whopper. I’m sure the temptation to come rushing back is quite strong, and yet I think it is better that presidents don’t rush around too much in response to such matters.

Don’t get me wrong. I mean no disrespect to the people of Joplin. Their losses are profound and they deserve not merely the attention of the president, but also the prayers of us all. But sometimes stability is also much needed.

In my own profession, I have never cared for reporters who get all breathless and start talking about a disaster as if it is the end of the world. To the contrary, I most admire those who efficiently and dispassionately go about collecting and sharing useful, important information - who provide facts, not feelings. In desperate times, that kind of maturity and clear-headed appraisal can truly save lives. After all, if the river is rising, you need people who know how to build a levee, not people who just know how to cry about not having one.

The same is true for presidents. While certainly in the very biggest disasters a president can’t afford to simply fly over (ahem) and call the day done, in many…including Joplin and Tuscaloosa…I think it is fitting that the president visit the site only after a few days have passed. That gives the town time to take in what has happened, and it also provides an interesting kind of reassurance. It is a way of saying, “Despite the calamity that has struck, your nation is sound. Your state will help you. Your government is concerned about your well being and your losses, but not shaken in the confidence that this community will recover from all that has happened.”

A calm president is a quiet voice of reassurance, and our good friends in Missouri surely need that now.

Best of luck in dealing with all that has happened.

Regards,
Tom

Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (One Response)
  1. sheron

    president should cut his trip short,trouble at home in usa,come be for sunday to Joplin

    May 24, 2011 at 10:35 pm |