Friday, July 20, 2012

The 2012 Olympic American Dream – Going for the Gold!

We often hear talk of “The American Dream” in abstract terms. Usually the definition is the house with the white picket fence, car in the garage, wife and two children. However, American athletes define their American Dream differently, usually in terms of records broken and competitions won. Every four years the Olympic Games give athletes from around the world the chance to represent their country in sports ranging from Archery to Wrestling. Far from the training they have done at home, the international competition is an opportunity to see just how good they really are, possibly even the best in the world.

The 2012 London U.S. Olympic team, also known as Team USA, is about as diverse as the U.S. itself. 530 athletes from 44 of our 50 states set out to compete in 300 events, representing their home town every bit as much as our nation.Our oldest competitor is Karen O’Connor, age 54, our youngest is Katie Ledecky, age 15, but for each person on Team USA they are quite simply the best at what they do in our entire nation of 300 million people. To be able to say that you are 1 in a million is special. To say that you are 1 in 300 million competing to show that you are the best in the world - 1 in 6 billion - is an opportunity that few people ever get in life. While few Americans will be able to run 400 meters in 43.75 seconds like LaShawn Merritt did in 2008, we know that during the Olympics we can get behind our nation's best and support them.

As American athletes take their positions for a dive, or settle into starting blocks for the 100 meter dash, their American Dream becomes our collective American Dream. The same national enthusiasm many countries experience during the FIFA World Cup is multiplied by hundreds of events, and our support for each American wells up in each of us as we watch them compete. Glued to our televisions, or watching online, we watched Michael Phelps break swimming record after record in 2008 – each time holding our breath to the last second. We cheered with our friends as we saw his American Dream come true, knowing that somehow it made our day better that one of our own Team USA had won the gold.

As Americans, seeing our Team USA athletes succeed allows us to feel a tiny sliver of the national pride they feel as they cross the finish line. In a time of increasing diversification in the United States the definition of the American Dream is now open to interpretation. Our Olympic contenders in turn give us the chance to see them define their goals for themselves, and see how future generations of average Americans and Olympians will take hold of their fate to achieve their own American Dream.

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