May 25th, 2011
07:30 PM ET

Letters to the President: #856 'Ping-pong diplomacy'

Reporter's Note: I write a letter to the president every day, and when he travels I always hope he will send me a postcard. He doesn’t, but I still hope.

Dear Mr. President,

This may sound odd amid all the serious problems you are dealing with these days, but I loved that video of you playing ping-pong with those kids! This is kind of a continuation of my thought from yesterday about the need for leaders to appear calm, even when circumstances might make them want to scream and run away.

When The Leader of the Free World publicly plays ping-pong, although it was just for a few minutes, it suggests a certain level of confidence in the stability of…well, everything. It is sort of the Oval Office equivalent of whistling in the dark.

It’s also a bold move. There are few games at which one can look as inept as ping-pong. Find yourself up against a skilled player and you’ll be flailing around as if you are in a swarm of bees and yet somehow you’ll never even touch the ball. I played a mean game of ping-pong once upon a time, and I once smashed a ball so hard onto the table it bounced up and gave my opponent a welt on the forehead.

I realize, of course, that any time a president engages in a sport, he risks looking the fool because games can go so wrong. But you seemed to manage yourself well, and appeared to be having a good time. I think that was an image a lot of us could use amid our myriad troubles these days.

Speaking of troubles, so sorry about the problems with the toast to the Queen. Yikes!

Call when you get home and we’ll go out to toast your return. Ha!


Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

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