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History is a subject rich in insight for executive decision making and behaviour History does the executive suite ; Future - Leadership and Social Change: Making a Difference in the World
Hasta la Beijinsta True Patriotism at the Olympics
Becky Hammon, Liang Chow, and Kobe Bryant gave spectators of the Beijing Olympics something to remember besides athletic achievement. According to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa, all three individuals exemplified the original meaning of the modern Olympic games--not collectivist nationalism, but universal fraternity. Vargas explains why in "True Patriotism," his latest column for the Washington Post Writers Group.
At a time when some critics see the United States as increasingly nationalistic, NBA star and U.S. Olympic basketball player Kobe Bryant gave European journalists interviews in Italian (which he learned growing up in Italy) and Spanish (which he learned from an L.A. Lakers teammate). An even more dramatic example of a universal, non-nationalistic ideal came from former the current U.S. women's gymnastics coach Liang Chow. This former Beijing resident helped Shawn Johnson win a gold medal on the balance beam and thereby taught the collectivist government in Beijing about the power of the individual. Vargas Llosa characterizes this lesson as more powerful than the protestors' attempts at demonstrating against repression in Tibet during the games.
And then there was the personal drama in women's basketball: Becky Hammon, who plays pro basketball for the San Antonio Silver Spurs but could not make the U.S. Olympic team, endured criticism from the U.S. women's coach for competing on the side of Russia. A traitor? asks Vargas Llosa. No, an heir to America's grandest tradition: the right to the pursuit of happiness.
Despite the best intentions of the Baron de Coubertin, the French aristocrat credited with reviving the Olympic Games in the 19th century, the international competition has as much to do with collectivist nationalism as it does with universal fraternity," continues Vargas Llosa. "Any individual act, however small, that tears down a nationalist barrier during the Olympics should be applauded as restoring the games' true meaning.
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