Simone Manuel, a 20-year-old from Houston, Texas made history this past week at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Manuel was the 1st African-American to win an olympic individual swimming competition. She could have just made a perfectly honorable speech and left it at that, but instead she had to bring up #BlackLivesMatter and police brutality. It was almost perfect…until then.
I can’t imagine the honor and priviledge, like Simone Manuel’s, of not only breaking a race barrier, but setting an olympic record in the process. I’d like to think if I was in her position, I would have not only expressed my gratitude to those who came before and after me, and praised the big man upstairs, but continued to keep the moment positive, afterall, it was an unbelievable and exciting moment in history and for TEAM USA. She had the platform and opportunity to be a very strong optimist, like Dr. Condoleezza Rice may have been.
Here’s the video:
Here’s Simone’s words:
“It means a lot, especially with what is going on in the world today, some of the issues of police brutality,” Manuel said. “This win hopefully brings hope and change to some of the issues that are going on. My color just comes with the territory.”
It is something I’ve definitely struggled with a lot,” Manuel said. “Coming into the race I tried to take weight of the black community off my shoulders. It’s something I carry with me. I want to be an inspiration, but I would like there to be a day when it is not ‘Simone the black swimmer.’
“This medal is not just for me. It is for some of the African-Americans who have come before me,” she added, referencing former Olympians Maritza Correia and Cullen Jones. “This medal is for the people who come behind me and get into the sport and hopefully find love and drive to get to this point.
Like I said…it was ALMOSt perfect.
As a young American growing up and representing TEAM USA, I would like to think Simone Manuel would NOT be reflective of our “Divider-in-Chief” Obama, but be reflective of America – the great nation of opportunity for all, especially for those who work hard to achieve their goals.
It’s sad, but true to think many who elected Barack Hussein Obama as our first African-American president thought they were helping to break a racial barrier. The sad part is, Obama has been the most racially divisive president ever. I am guessing those who voted for him, never saw that coming or expected that. Afterall, this was the first African-American president.
I believe Simone Manuel has a good “head on her shoulders”. She’s religious, hard-working, and smart. She’s a student at Stanford University, along with another USA swim team member, Katie Ledecky. Simone said she wanted to attend Stanford based on Stanford’s “values”. I wonder if she knows the unofficial motto of Stanford means “Wind of Freedom Blows”.
I would advise Simone to spend time to get to know or take a class offered by Stanford professor, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, who has been at Stanford for over 30 years, and is someone who knows a little about breaking barriers herself. Afterall, “Condi” Rice was the first African-American Secretary of State and was also the first woman to serve as an advisor to the President.
In a speech given by Condoleezza Rice to HPU (High Point University) in May 2016 she said these words:
“Too often cynicism can be the fellow traveler of learning, and I know why,” Rice said, addressing 10,000 people on the Roberts Hall lawn. “History is full of much cruelty and suffering and darkness. It can be hard sometimes to believe that there’s a brighter future. But for all of our failings as human beings, for all of our current problems, more people today enjoy lives of opportunities than in all of human history.
“This progress has been the concerted effort not of cynics,” she said, “but of visionaries and optimists and idealists who deal with the world as it is but who never stop working for the world as it should be.”
“Education is transformative,” she said. “It literally changes lives. That is why people for centuries have worked so hard to become educated. Education more than any other force can help to erase arbitrary divisions of race and class, arbitrary divisions of culture, and to unlock every person’s God-given potential.”
“It is your responsibility as educated people to help close the gaps of justice and opportunity, and yes, the gaps of freedom that still exist beyond our shores as well as within them.”
Condoleezza Rice grew up in the time of segregation, during the Civil Rights Era. She experienced it personally – the trials and tribulations. I’m sure Simone could learn much from her, and it wouldn’t just be about politics and diversity, but lessons in life – from one barrier breaker to another.
I believe anyone can come from humble circumstances and do great things with education. Like Condoleezza Rice, I also believe that it doesn’t matter where you came from but where you are going – THAT’S what matters most.
We ALL need to move past the PAST – it’s history. We need to think about the future of the UNITED States of America and how we can all help UNITE this country, that has been strongly divided by another African-American barrier breaker. The divisiveness of this country was created by a barrier breaker – by a leader who was elected by Americans in hopes of UNITING this nation. But unfortunately, time has proven otherwise.
I can only hope over time, in Simone’s future, she learns more about great people like Professor Condoleezza Rice that are not only African-Americans, but more importantly Americans that are optimists and continue to work towards not what America is – but what it SHOULD be!