"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Birthdays Today (and Tomorrow) - John Carlos and Tommie Smith

Two of America's greatest sprinters, John Carlos and Tommie Smith, were both on June 5, 1944 and June 6, 1945.   Smith won the 200 meters in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City in a world-record time of 19.3 second, while Carlos finished third.   On the medal stand, they both bravely protested racism in the United States by raising their fists in a black power salute during the national anthem.   This is one of the most iconic photographs of my youth, and an event I have remembered ever since.   (Back then, I watched the Summer Olympics religiously, and the 1968 Olympics were tremendous, with American gold-medalists in track and field including Smith, Jim Hines (100 m), Lee Evans (400m), Al Oerter (discus), Randy Matson (shot put), Bob Seagren (pole vault), Dick Fosbury (high jump), and the great Bob Beamon in the long jump with a world record of 29' 2", which is the single greatest feat I've ever seen in the Olympics.  

In a world where LeBron James and Kobe Bryant are household words and heroes to millions of American kids across racial lines, this image thankfully seems a very long way away:

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