Last night on Channel 3’s Live at Five show, Mark Koehn’s Wisconsin Traveler segment was a five-minute interview with Olympic Gold Medal speed-skater Casey Fitzrandolph, who was raised in Verona and now owns a small farm outside Hollandale.
It was a great interview, because Mark got Casey to talk about how he persisted to win the Gold, and his perspective on the Olympics now. Mark’s laid-back style caused Casey to really relax and open up about his life.
When the interview was over, I couldn’t help but think that Casey’s remarks could be construed as a variant on the “you didn’t build it” meme that the Romneyites have seized upon.
There is NO doubt that Casey Fitzrandolph won that Gold Medal (and all the other Silver and Bronze Medals) because of his own personal effort. Those medals are his; he won them; and there is no arguing with that fact – even in this day, when so many people seem to think they’re entitled to their own opinion and their own facts.
What made me think of the “you didn’t build it” meme was Casey’s reflection on what went into winning the gold. He talked about how his parents would get up early in the morning to drive him from their home in Verona in to Madison so Casey could practice on a sheet of ice. He talked about the many coaches who worked with him to help him develop as a speed-skater and how he was inspired by Madison’s Eric Heiden. He talked about his parents taking him to Milwaukee so he could skate competitively at the Petit National Ice Center, with its 400-meter Olympic oval track.
In other words, he talked about all the people who helped him win Olympic Gold. Like a great quarterback who engineers a monumental come-from-behind win, he talked about the people who helped make it happen.
I was struck by the similarity in Casey’s remarks to the interviews I’ve heard with many other successful athletes and captains of industry. Many of them, like Casey, are eager to share the credit. But there are those who are content to “blow their own horn” and don’t have a word to say about all the help they got to get where they are.
This is another example of the huge divide in our nation. As the Republicans have demonized “government” for the past few decades, President Obama is trying to point out that the role of government is NOT the same as the role of business, and that government can and should be a partner in business success stories. This is in direct contrast to business owners and politicians who talk only about government’s “burdensome” regulations, government “obstructionism”, fees and taxes, and claim that the government itself is a “job killer”. (What a disconnect: politicians acting as if they had nothing to do with the government.)
You can showboat in the end zone after you’ve caught a touchdown pass and draw all the attention onto yourself; or you can acknowledge the lineman’s block that allowed the quarterback to throw the pass. It’s all in how you look at it.