Sarah Hughes came from behind to take the gold. Now she stands in that special circle of Olympians who remind us of something we too easily forget in the daily avalanche of violence that assults the spirit.
She reminds us of the human capacity to achieve dignity — not because of those perfect four-minutes on the ice, but all that it took to make those four minutes happen, and all the people in her life that helped her to make it happen.
Sarah is an honors student at Great Neck North High School, and hopes to become a physician. She plays the violin. She’s a well-rounded young woman. Her four-minute, come-from-behind performance required enormous dedication, combined with the exceptional physical gifts tat came when she was delivered on February 5, 1985.
Her parents have had a big hand in all of this. Her teachers, coaches and friends have played a big part. No one does it alone. We need one another — that’s a profound truth.
Soon Sarah will be performing for companies that pay enormous sums for athletes’ endorsements. It could throw her into a spin that knocks her off balance. The Enron debacle reminds us how devastatingly seductive money and power can be.
I didn’t expect to become so involved in the Winter Olympics. I had a negative response to the opening ceremony. It was, I thought, a crass spectacular that upstaged the disciplined dedication of the athletes, their coaches, trainers, and their families.
I was surprised to be so drawn in to the Winter Games in Salt Lake City. We were in Florida, visiting Lory’s father. We drove. On September 12 Carlyn asked if we could drive to Granpa’s, instead of flying. We had a long talk and made the decision then.
In the midst of our five days in Florida word came about the barbaric assassination of Daniel Pearl. He was a young, talented, energetic, reporter who was about to become a father. The brutality of this crime is one more shock to a fragile system of credulity. We believe in the worth and dignity of persons, but we are all-too well aware of the other side of the human coin. Mark Twain once quipped, “Look, he’s a human being. Worse I could say of no one!” Sarah, Apolo Ohno and the others remind us of our potential for dignity.
My sabbatical has given me a chance to stop and think about things — lots of things. I’m writing and reading as well as thinking. You have helped make this opportunity possible, and I am deeply appreciative.
I have a few more weeks, which will include time with my grandchildren. My Christmas gift to Susan and her husband Chip is a weekend away, which they’re taking the first of March. I’m looking forward to being with Alex and Hannah for a few days. And I look forward to re-connecting with you in a few weeks. I hope you are well. Take care.