Thursday, August 16, 2012

Olympic Medalists: You Didn't Win That.

The USA Olympic Team will come home from London with forty-six gold medals to their credit.  That’s quite an accomplishment.  While each one of these winners is undoubtedly  proud of their achievement,  they shouldn’t get too cocky about what they’ve done because using President Obama’s rationale, they didn’t win those medals.  Somebody else made that happen. 

Based on similar remarks that the president made on the campaign trail awhile back, here is the speech President Obama will likely make to the assembled USA Olympic Team when they visit the White House upon their return from London:. 

There are a lot of Olympic Gold Medal Winners, successful Americans who agree with me --  They know they didn’t -- look, if you’ve won an Olympic Gold Medal, you didn’t get there on your own.  You didn’t get there on your own.  I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart.  There are a lot of smart people out there.  It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.  Let me tell you something -- there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. 

     If you are an Olympic Gold Medal Winner, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in the track field and swimming pool that you trained on.   If you’re an Olympic Gold Medal Winner -- you didn’t win that.  Somebody else made that happen.  The track and field complexes didn’t get invented on its own.  Government monies created the track and field complexes so that all the athletes could benefit from them..

     The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.  So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together.  That’s how we funded the GI Bill.  That’s how we created the middle class.  That’s how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam.  That’s how we invented the Internet.  That’s how we sent a man to the moon.  We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people.  You’re not on your own, we’re in this together

To those who think I’ve taken his remarks out of context, this is the official transcript from the White House website.  I’ve modified the text only slightly, changing the context of the speech from “business owners” to “Olympic Gold Medal Winners”. 
 I rather doubt that Michael Phelps would give much credit for his success to the contractor who built the swimming pool and even less credit to the designers of the Golden Gate Bridge or Hoover Dam.  President Obama seems not to understand the difference between social infrastructure and individual acheivement.  Not only are they completely different concepts, they have completely different goals.   The simple fact is that both the baker who’s mixing batches of dough at 4am and the athlete who’s swimming hundreds of lap every week really are doing it on their own.  It’s not something we’re all doing together.  Their success rightly belongs to them.  That’s the very thing we admire about them.  Despite what Obama might believe, they really did win that medal or build that business. 

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