by Peter O’Brien
In an article the other day, after she won a gold medal, a reporter waxed lyrical about Chloe Kim. The author went to some pains to point out that Miss Kim is Korean-American.
I protest. She isn’t. Neither are her parents.
The Kims came to the US to be Americans. Yes, they were born in Korea. And they appreciate their Korean heritage. They love their family members who still live in South Korea. But they left. Not because the Republic of Korea is a bad place. In fact, South Korea is a great place. But they left Korea. Because the US is different, it’s exceptional. Want proof?
Here are some questions you might want to research.
How many people of American descent are on, for example, the Chinese Olympic team? Or for that matter, how many folks of US descent are on anyone else’s team? There are, of course, a number of Americans, living in the US, enjoying US citizenship, who through the benefits of dual citizenship, get to compete on another team. Then they return to the US. Which sometimes seems a bit odd to me…
But let’s go a little further: how many countries let someone from someplace else rise to be a senior member of the government? The US has had any number of senators and congressmen who were citizens of other countries before immigrating to the US.
Currently, 6 Senators, 18 Congressmen, 1 Governors, Mayors of several cities, and 1 member of the cabinet were born abroad; (the current Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, was born in Taiwan). 20 years ago we had a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (General John Shalikashvili) whose parents had been born in Georgia, in the Caucuses, and had fled to Poland when Communist Russia invaded Georgia. The general was born in Poland and the family came to the US in 1952 when he was 16. He was drafted after graduation from college, commissioned a year later, and rose through the ranks to become chairman.
Two of our National security advisors were born outside the US: Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski; men who shared our nations most important information with just a handful of other people, men who acted as the closest advisors to the President.
Do any other countries turn such a blind eye to your origins as the United States? The answer is no. It is a living demonstation of Jefferson’s immortal words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
Yes, we have problems. That’s because we’re all imperfect. We’ve had problems and we will have problems. And many of them will be difficult to solve and will be painful. The horror that took place in Florida last week is proof enough of that.
But at its root, what we have here, this place, America, is unique; it is exceptional in the best sense of that word. More than 100 years ago President Theodore Roosevelt gave a series of speeches on what he referred to as “hyphenated Americanism.” His point then, which resonates down to us today, is that no one should be judged on where they came from, or what religion they follow or any other criteria, save one: are they Americans? You can come to the US and start new, as long as you embrace one criteria: you become an American.
The press, and many in academia and elsewhere, trumpet multiculturalism. In that trumpeting lies the real threat to the republic. As Roosevelt noted:
“The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans, English-Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans or Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality.”
President Woodrow Wilson, democrat, president of Princeton University and a man of unimpeachable liberal credentials, put it a bit more tersely than Roosevelt:
“Any man who carries a hyphen about with him carries a dagger that he is ready to plunge into the vitals of this Republic whenever he gets ready.”
But, in an interview, Miss Kim noted that her parents came to the US to live out the American Dream. It seems that Miss Kim gets it, as do her parents. If only the press were as smart as the Kims.
Chloe Kim, no hyphen. Just an American.