August 27, 2008
Lessons from the Games
The past two weeks enabled the world to focus on the Beijing Olympics. From many countries, in one place, physically-gifted individuals met to celebrate sportsmanship, while determining athletic superiority. Records were set and medals were awarded, as a global audience gathered in dozens of magnificent venues, assisted by television coverage, hosted by an emerging and powerful nation, China.
Athletes representing America were a visual confirmation of what was once considered the de facto motto of the United States: E pluribus unum - which is Latin for "Out of Many, One." No other nation's athletes were as multi-racial and multi-cultural as were those from America. Once again, the melting pot, that is the American tradition, continues to be the differientator for those who run, jump and swim - for the United States. Those talented athletes, wearing the red, white and blue, were described as Americans - and there were no hyphens to differentiate individuals by race, culture, religion or ethnicity. Many of us look different from those with whom we live and work, but we are all Americans, and no where was this more clearly demonstrated than in Beijing.
To represent a nation on its Olympic team, the ground rules are quite simple: Performance is all that counts. Medal-winning athletes rely on discipline, focus, and follow-through; never on past history, religious preference or cultural roots. At least at the Olympics, the playing field is level. There are no ethnic quotas to be filled on any team for any event. Individuals qualify based on speed, accuracy and ability to contribute to the success of the team. The requirements for being an American citizen in good standing in the United States of America, especially after watching the Beijing Olympics, have become even clearer. While we can celebrate our differences, while simultaneously subscribing to the principles of freedom that unite us, it is apparent that productivity - personally and professionally - is essential. The global playing field is extremely competitive.
The 2008 Olympics provided a clear view of the new world that is unfolding around us and China is an excellent reminder of what will be required to be successful into and beyond the 21Century. Not only did the Chinese people present a powerful presence, from the opening to the closing ceremonies but also their attention to details was overwhelming. As the host nation, taxi drivers in China learned multiple languages to increase the comfort of visitors. With 1 million volunteers to help with the "Games" in Beijing, the emphasis was consistently upon the greater good and not on individual recognition. The Chinese demonstrated the powerful results that can be achieved through education, sacrifice and an uncompromising commitment to the greater good.
The Beijing Olympics have ended, but we should remember that in China, there are more individuals with bachelors and masters degrees than the entire population of the United States. As the Twenty-first Century unfolds, we are now aware that our global neighbors, the Chinese, are also committed to excellence and are willing to pay the price. We will remain competitive, only if we continue to raise our own standards.