Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Some Flicker Of Hope In The Country

Frankly, I was surprised this story didn't get more airplay:
Joey Cheek wins speed skating gold


February 14, 2006

TURIN, Italy -- Gold was on his mind. What good would a gold medal do, after all, when the applause died down? So, two days before his race, Joey Cheek had coffee with Johann Olav Koss in the Olympic Village, an American speed skater and his Norwegian inspiration.

Koss won four gold medals in speed skating, then devoted his life to the children of the world. Cheek did not ask Koss how to win the race. He asked how he could help others if he did.

"He was talking that he wanted to do something big," Koss said. "I was so humbled to meet such a person. The most important race of his life is coming up in a couple days, and he's talking about what he can do to give back."
So what did Joey do?
Minutes after he won the men's 500-meter race yesterday, he announced that he will donate $25,000 so children in African refugee camps might have a chance to play sports.

"For me to walk away with a gold medal is amazing," Cheek said, "and the best way to say thanks that I can think of is to help somebody else."

The $25,000 represents the prize awarded by the U.S. Olympic Committee to all gold medalists. Cheek donated his to Right to Play, the organization led by Koss that provides recreation programs to underprivileged children in 20 countries across Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Cheek, citing the U.S. government finding of genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, said he wanted to sponsor programs for what he said were 60,000 children forced into neighboring Chad. Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) wrote last week in the Baltimore Sun that more than two million people had been displaced from Darfur during the last two years.

Cheek, who lives in Park City, Utah, also said he will ask his sponsors -- Nike and Oakley -- and "all of the Olympic sponsors that give hundreds of millions of dollars" to match his donation. And, if he wins the 1,000 meters Saturday, he said he will donate that $25,000 as well.

In the traditional post-competition news conference, gold medalists generally describe the thrill of victory and the agony of previous defeats. But Cheek would not address that lighter side until he had made his announcement, well aware that the world might never again pay attention to him.
This is a 26 year old, applying (finally) for college, turned down already by Harvard (meaning he wasn't making it on an academic scholarship, and obviously his speed-skating credentials couldn't get him an athletic scholarship,) so he probably needed the money. He had his fifteen mintues of fame, and he didn't try to land yet another endorsement contract. So, his first thought after winning?

Give to people who truly need it. People who's government has abandoned them, with no hope and little future in a country torn by war and division. Ain't that America?

Now, I could have been describing New Orleans, but in truth, they at least stand a chance of a Democrat being elected President and finally helping them. What's really embarassing is the Sudan is a country we've targeted for...well, influencing...and yet here's a skater reaching out to the people we're about to..."influence" back to the Stone Age for harboring terrorists! He has it right: this is about a carrot to go with the stick. Let's show the world what America really is about: a kind and generous people who help people who need help.

Hey, I can dream, right?

The other flicker of hope in this country? Admittedly, it's a dim one:
Breaking Ranks

Posted Monday, Feb. 13, 2006
President Bush may wave away Democratic critics of domestic eavesdropping, but one challenger is proving harder to dismiss: Heather Wilson, a plainspoken Air Force veteran from New Mexico and four-term G.O.P. Congresswoman little known outside of national-security circles. As chair of the House subcommittee that authorizes technical intelligence, she has waged a behind-the-scenes battle for access to information about the controversial surveillance program since word of it leaked in December. She won a significant victory last week. After she called for a full investigation of the spying, the White House ended 54 days of stonewalling and briefed the full House Intelligence Committee.

Two days later, at the House G.O.P. retreat on Maryland's Eastern Shore, after Bush told lawmakers that he had resisted briefing them to keep more program details from getting leaked, Wilson retorted that the original leak appeared to have come from his Administration and that Congress has a right and a duty to exercise oversight. "The men who wrote the Constitution feared most a strong Executive with control of a standing army," Wilson tells TIME. "Our Constitution is set up to protect all of us from tyranny."
She gets it. Imagine. A Republican, and a former military serviceperson, who gets it.

Why is this a bit weaker flicker of light? Well, she's in a dead heat in her district for re-election, up against a popular state attorney general, in a state run by Bill Richardson, the former UN Ambassador under President Clinton, so she's got to tack a bit left of her party to stay alive here.

But there's more to it that cynical politics here. That she had the audacity to say the "T" word in front of a friendly audience speaks volumes to me about her anger at Bush.

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