If I didn’t love the Shib Sibs before a particular moment captured on television recently, I sure became an ardent fan in that very instant. Alex and his sister Maia were being interviewed on the Today Show after capturing bronze for their ice dancing.
Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie were sporting the bronze medals they had borrowed for the segment captured earlier by the brother and sister in the team event. Al Roker made a sad face indicating he felt left out of the medal glory; Alex immediately removed his newest medal from around his neck and handed it to Al, who waved it proudly in front of the camera before the commercial break, beaming.
Without being prompted, Alex had decided to share. Such empathy and kindness from such a young man. Impressive. He was probably the hero of the preschool playground before he became a hero on ice.
The Olympics in Pyeongchang were a proud moment for me as a Korean American. I loved the way my native country was being portrayed on the international stage, even with the often-intervening drama of the North-South political conflict being played out in the viewing stands and on the parade grounds.
Whether it was K-Pop with blond-haired Korean teens gyrating and keening energetically, or Korean beauty with its special brand of green tea hydration and snail extract facemask, or the cornucopia of unusual foods—fermented, salted and seasoned in that extra-Korean way—my country has come into its own.
Thirty years ago I was in Korea for the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. It was the springtime of my own youth and it was also a hugely important developmental time for Korea, even then yearning for the sophistication and acceptance only a recently third world country could understand.
From the ruins of the Korean War of the 1950s, to the poverty of the 1960s, to the emergence in the 1970s of an economy built on ingenuity and electronics, by the 1980s, Korea wanted to stake its claim on the world stage and the Olympics represented a huge coming out party. At the time I was working for the NBC affiliate in San Francisco and was sent by my station as a field producer, coming up with those sidebar pieces on Korean culture that supplement the actual athletics coverage.
It was a coming out party for me on a personal level as well, as I was able to bring along my tall blond fiancé to meet the Korean side of the family.
There’s a part of me that wishes that I were still in the broadcast news business so I could be in Pyeongchang covering Olympic glory. Korea has come a long way in 30 years and changed so much; I have gone from soon-to-be-married career woman to an empty-nester in her 50s, oh yes I have changed a lot too.
As for Olympic glory, I think Korean-Americans can be duly proud of that amazing Chloe Kim.
Her proud father beaming from the sidelines claiming his daughter as his American dream is the best antidote for the anti-immigrant stance of the Trump administration.
Aside from her heart-stopping skills on the half-pipe, there is a refreshing sweetness about Chloe Kim that makes me beam. She seems so down to earth despite her international rock star status.
That her father gave up his job to schlep her to the mountains to fulfill the potential he saw in her—it’s the embodiment of that spirit that brings immigrants to America to seek a better life for themselves, of course, but ultimately for their children.
That the Kim family saga and their journey should end literally with a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow—how fitting and awesome is this.
President Trump, many of your best Olympians in Pyeongchang are the embodiment of the American dream and are the strongest representatives of the resilience and strength of the immigrant character.
We are stronger as Team USA and as Americans because of our melting pot and in these contentious times, these young sports heroes remind us of the best and strongest people we can be when our differences bind us rather than divide.
During the Olympics, there were other young American heroes to honor —the survivors of the massacre in Florida who resolved to turn this most recent school shooting into an inflection point for change.
I cannot even let myself get bogged down in the minutiae of the argument for gun control; that something so obvious and necessary in 2018 even has to be debated for one second boggles the mind.
I look at the faces of those high school students who are calling out the Trump administration and marching on authority to effect change and want to cheer them from the highest rooftops.
Maybe they can accomplish what we, their parents, have been unable—meaningful and lasting change in our gun laws so that we do not have to lose another child to senseless carnage. Young people on this side of the globe marching for change; young people on the other side of the world testing the limits of their endurance and physical capabilities—I am awed and inspired and thank you for reaffirming my hope in the future of this country.