Olympic Athletes are Coming to America

Friedman: Melting Pot Meets Great Wall. I think Thomas Friedman is my favorite writer because of the way he can recognize the world’s most serious problems and yet still find optimism. In this passage he observes something I’ve also caught onto while watching the Olympics.

Walking through the Olympic Village the other day, here’s what struck me most: the Russian team all looks Russian; the African team all looks African; the Chinese team all looks Chinese; and the American team looks like all of them.

This is especially true when you include the coaches. Liang Chow, the coach of the Iowa gymnast Shawn Johnson, was a popular co-caption of China’s national gymnastics team in the 1980s before he emigrated to West Des Moines. The U.S. women’s volleyball team was coached by a former Chinese player, Jenny Lang Ping, when it defeated China a few days ago.Lang, a national hero in China, led the Chinese team to a gold medal in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. It would be like Michael Jordan coaching China’s basketball team to a win over America.

The Associated Press reports that there are 33 foreign-born players on the U.S. Olympic team, including four Chinese-born table tennis players, a kayaker from Britain, seven members of the track-and-field team — as well as Lopez Lomong, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan’s civil war, who was resettled in the U.S. by Catholic Charities, and Leo Manzano, the son of an illegal immigrant Mexican laborer. He moved to the U.S. when he was 4 but didn’t gain citizenship until 2004.

It is amazing that with our Noah’s Ark of an Olympic team doing so well “that at the same time you have this rising call in America to restrict immigration,” said Robert Hormats, vice chairman of Goldman Sachs International. “Some people want to choke off the very thing that makes us strong and unique.”

I couldn’t agree more – more and more American ingenuity is coming from outside our borders. This is a good thing – the best and brightest from around the world want to build a life in our country. At the same time, the rest of the world is continuing to get better and brighter. So I would appreciate it Lou Dobbs and his crazies focused their attention not on closing our borders, but on raising the bar for our education system so American kids can compete in this new world. How many new schools could be built for the price of that border fence?

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