When I started to look back, remember, and check my files for this book, I was struck by the sheer number of remembrances, anecdotes, news conferences, press briefings, and by the other millions or so words uttered by presidents, first ladies, aides— and the accompanying media accounts — which made for some lively reading. I was also prompted to include events that touched the nation, made us shed a tear, left us breathless or just bewildered. I also recalled events that reminded me of the awesome power and responsibility of the presidency and the personal strength and public travails of some chief executives.
As for September 11, 2001 — we look back on September 10 as the end of the good old days, when we were carefree and confident, and we thought we were going to live happily ever after. But our world, and everyone else's, has changed, and we may never return to the America we once knew with our essential liberties intact.
I hope we encounter this brave new world with courage and a fierce intention to keep our freedoms and not lose them all in the name of national security. Benjamin Franklin said if we give up our essential freedoms for some security, we are in danger of losing both. And when all is said and done, let's hope there will be happy times again, more smiles and more laughter in the twenty-first century.
Helping me put it together was a great network of ex-colleagues at United Press International who shared coverage duties with me at the White House and across the country. They all combed their files and their memories (some didn't have to worry about their hair) and sent me a number of stories for inclusion. I thank them all for their generosity and I've named names. I hope I've done right by them.
So, let's settle back and enjoy. After all, as Samuel Butler remarked, "Man is the only animal with a sense of humor — and a state legislature."
I am often told how lucky I have been to see history in the making in the White House and to observe our leaders in their triumphs and defeats. All I can say is "Thanks for the memories, Mr. President."
From Thanks for the Memories, Mr. President : Wit and Wisdom from the Front Row at the White House, by Helen Thomas. May 2002 , Scribner used by permission.