The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Western Tribune Column and Olympics

Be sure to read the post below this one about Henry Cejudo, winner of Gold.

Everyone in the world must be happy for Shawn Johnson after her performance on the balance beam. Wow. She has been a delight to watch throughout the Olympics, her ever present smile (except those rare instances when she is wondering what she could have done differently to get a gold instead of a silver).

I mention her and Nastia Liukin, along with swimmers Michael Phelps and Kirsti Coventry, in this column which was written before the four athletes had completed their events, and I am just as impressed with all of them as I thought I would be.

How about Kirsty Coventry, winning 3 silvers and a gold, representing her native Zimbabwe. Coventry is one of many swimmers who attend or attended Auburn University, and in fact, said her decision to attend Auburn was the best decision of her life. Read about the Auburn swimmers here, in the B'ham News. And here, on Auburn's Olympian's page. Auburn's 2008 Olympians represent Australia, Bahamas, Croatia, Brazil, Jamaica, Hungary, Trinidad and Tobago, Zimbabwe, France and United States.

What a boost for the Auburn swimming program.

I have inserted a video about John Stephen Ahkwari, which, of course, was not in the paper.

Western Tribune Column

Since childhood I have been a huge fan of the Olympics. I remember as a teenager donating money to the U.S. Olympic team and receiving Olympic belt buckles in return.

Olympic athletes were my role models. Athletes such as Tanzania’s John Stephen Ahkwari, who, after finishing the marathon in 1968 an hour and a half behind the winner, bloodied and bandaged, explained why he kept going, saying, “You don’t understand. My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start a race; they sent me to finish it.”

And Mark Spitz, who though disappointed in his 1968 performance (two team golds, a silver and a bronze), returned to the Olympics in 1972 and won 7 gold medals.

Now we have new stars to watch. And for young people, athletes such as gymnasts Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson, and swimmers such as Michael Phelps and Kirsty Coventry, show what determination and perseverance can lead to.

There are news reports of how kids (and adults) are responding with increased interest in swimming and gymnastics. While this is good, and may actually do something to get kids away from the video games and allow for some physical activity, the story as reported is not complete.
Children watching in Bessemer may want to swim or tumble, but without the facilities to do such, they are left behind. While we do have a YMCA with a pool and gym most families in Bessemer cannot afford to be members. Kids might have a dream, but they have to wake up and face their own reality long before that dream is realized.

The Olympics also remind us of the differences in cultures, and none are more striking than those between the United States and the host country, China. Our society has an individualist mentality and theirs has a collective mentality. In their society, if you have talent, and are chosen, you will be set on the path to a gold medal. And you learn to accept your role because it is what is best for society.

In our country, in spite of our individualist leanings, it really does “take a village” to raise a child. But the villagers in Bessemer decided years ago to fill in the public pool here to avoid integration. Because of past racism, local kids have not had the opportunities that others might have.

It’s time for a change. It’s time for the villagers in Bessemer to find a way to provide a recreation center and swimming pool for our children.

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