July 18th, 2012
07:05 PM ET

Letters to the President #1276: 'Easy street'

Reporter's Note: President Obama receives a letter from me every day. Lucky, eh?

Dear Mr. President,

When the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia died in 1995, I did his obituary for World News Tonight with Peter Jennings. It was remarkable how many fans seemed to have been touched by his life and felt unbelievably close to his music.

I honestly never quite understood what that was all about. I liked their songs well enough, but the whole idea of people following the band all over the country, attending one concert after another, and leading the whole Dead Head lifestyle held no attraction for me. I didn’t fault them, but neither did I feel a kinship.

Nonetheless, lately I’ve been listening to a good deal of Grateful Dead music, and I’ve grown fond of it; particularly that tune, Uncle John’s Band. One line strikes me every time I hear it: “When life looks like Easy Street, there is danger at your door.”

I like that because I think it is a valuable cautionary phrase. So many times when things seem to be going well; on the job, in private life, in…ahem…elections, trouble is just around the corner. Personally I believe there is a mathematical explanation which I have mentioned to you before: Graduation toward the mean.

Simply put, most things want to gravitate toward their “average” state, so when things are really bad or really good, get ready for them to change. Which is a far less eloquent way of saying “When life looks like Easy Street…”

Anyway, if you pass me on the sidewalk and you hear me humming, chances are it will be that tune. And you…and any other politician in the land…might want to give it a listen.

Hope all is well.


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