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A number of you have told me that you don’t look forward to reading the column on your computer screen. That’s not necessary if you have a printer. Print out the column and take it with you to the breakfast table or wherever else you choose to read printed material. (You can also call up past columns in case you missed them.)
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July 2, 2008
Twice in a three-week span, Omaha and its hospitable citizenry have been stars on the national news media scene.
I’m talking, of course, about this year’s version of the favorable attention which Omaha receives on national television as the annual home to the College World Series and, this week, favorable attention coming Omaha’s way, again spotlighted on national television, for our splendid support of the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials.
Last Sunday, for a prime example, a national TV audience watched—and listened--as an opening-night crowd of some 12,000 roared approval as not one but two American swimmers broke a world record in the men’s 400-meter medley competition.
Then Katie Hoff broke the world record in the women’s 400-meter individual medley and Larsen Jensen set an American record in the 400-meter freestyle.
After his record-breaking swim, Jensen said: “Hats off to Omaha. This is by far the best atmosphere I’ve ever been in, as an athlete. You can’t ask for more.”
Kind words for Omaha have come also from Michael Phelps, widely acclaimed as the world’s premier swimmer, and a variety of others in the world of big-time swimming, including Chuck Wielgus, executive director of USA Swimming.
“I don’t know if we could have done this at any other city, at this stage of our sport’s evolution, than the City of Omaha,” Wielgus said. “We’re a sport that has to overachieve to get attention. And the people of Omaha are also overachievers. We found the perfect marriage, the perfect partner.
“The folks in Omaha have under-promised and over-delivered.”
As to that men’s 400-meter individual medley finale:
Phelps’ time of 4:05.25 broke his world record of 4:06.22 posted at the 2007 World Championships. And his friend and rival Ryan Lochte made it one of the most memorable athletic performances of this year—or any other year, for that matter. It’s one thing to break world records—impressive but not necessarily a performance to stand out in the history of swimming.
But for two Olympic-qualifying teammates to both surpass a world’s record (Lochte’s time was 4:06.08)—that is a sporting event to be remembered, and it happened in a pool in Omaha’s Qwest Center (a temporary pool, need I say?).
That pool and everything else that goes into a swimming meet have been praised by world-class swimmer after world-class swimmer as the best conditions they have ever encountered.
All in all, a triumph for the City of Omaha and especially for those responsible for making the Qwest Center such a spectacular swimming venue and promoting interest in the Olympic trials.
Special credit should go to Mutual of Omaha, which did a remarkable job of sponsorship, including building interest in this week’s Olympic trials by sponsoring the Swimvitational which brought Phelps and other stars to Omaha for a meet which served as an attention-building preliminary for this week’s Olympic Trials.
Mutual is properly proud of its role as a sponsor of USA Swimming.
When I put “one of the most memorable sports events this year or perhaps any year” label on Michael Phelps/Ryan Lochte finishing 1/2 in times both of which broke Phelps’ former world record in the 400-meter individual medley, I realize this is a personal opinion, but indulge me as I tell you how I reached that judgment:
How many times do two athletes both break a world record in the same event? Not very often, I would say. Keep in mind that this performance came in what is, in my opinion, one of the most, if not the most, challenging events in the athletic world.
In the individual medley, athletes must have mastered four separate swimming strokes—breast, back, butterfly and free style—and must be prepared to go flat-out for 100 meters in each of those four separate strokes.
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It’s interesting to see at least one national news medium begin to catch up with the importance of the story of the strongest reason for the growth of the Hispanic population in this country.
USA Today has given Page 1 prominence to a story carrying this headline: “Births fueling Hispanic growth,” with this subheadline: “Immigration no longer top factor.”
The USA Today story points out that the increase in the Hispanic population is accelerating because Hispanics in this country are younger than the national population as a whole—median age 27.4, compared with 37.9 overall, 40.8 for whites, 34.4 for Asians and 31.1 for blacks. Because they are younger and likely to have more children, there is an impact that far outlasts their initial entry into the country, the USA Today article says. It concludes with this assessment of the impact:
Because more than half of births to Hispanic immigrants are to low-income women who have no high school degree, a natural population increase challenges communities, says Steve Camarota, research director at the Center for Immigration Studies, which promotes limits on immigration.
“It’s a huge growth in low-income population and low-tax payments,” Camarota says.
USA Today made no mention of the impact of the presence of more than 10 million illegal immigrants.
Some weeks ago, I wrote a column pointing out that some Latino activists and academics contend that the “browning” of an increasingly significant portion of the American population—perhaps a plurality or eventually a majority—is simply a matter of time.
This hypothesis is based on (1) the fact that Mexicans and other Hispanics are having proportionately more babies than other American residents and, in my opinion, (2) the prospect the that more than 10 million of illegal Latino immigrants in this country will never be required to return to their original homelands (which many if not most of them still consider their homelands).
* * *
Also featured prominently on the front page of the recent USA Today edition is a picture of Michelle Obama with this headline: ‘I don’t want to be a distraction.’
I think it’s only fair to predict that the more active Michelle Obama becomes in her husband’s campaign for president, the more likely she is to become a distraction and not necessarily a helpful one to the Obama candidacy.
She has already made a public comment which isn’t going to go away—the one to the effect that “for the first time in my adult life, I’m really proud of my country.” She said her meaning had been misinterpreted by critics who are “just downright mean.” Her husband said critics were using his “feisty wife” to try to scare voters.
The challenge for the Obamas will be to see that the “feisty wife” doesn’t indeed scare voters, especially in view of the fact that she has been described—and not by Obama critics—as playing an important role—and wanting to continue to play an important role—in Obama campaign strategy.
The role of a candidate’s wife is, I would think, more likely to be a problem than a plus if the wife can accurately be described as “feisty.” One need only think back to the role of Teresa Heinz Kerry in John Kerry’s presidential campaign. I believe the consensus, even among Kerry supporters, was that Teresa should have kept quiet.
* * *
Some notes written by candlelight during the recent electrical blackout on Prairie Avenue:
More seriously, we didn’t break out the candles, but we did have eight flashlights and two battery-powered lanterns of the type you use for camping out.
I ran across a light source--$14.95 at Canfield’s—which consisted of a very small halogen-light device which you strap around your head. The three tiny halogen lights, powered by three AAA batteries, threw a light better than anything else I’ve ever read by. It worked well, too, for just walking around the darkened house.
Marian said it made me look like a doctor or a coal miner.
We had one unusual visitor during the time of heavy rain, high winds and darkness: a toad in our garden room. It apparently hopped in after Marian had opened the garden room door to let the dogs out. She had no trouble persuading it to return to its natural outdoor environment.
And how many times—I don’t mean an exact count, just an approximation—did those of you who shared the electricity blackout with us find yourself reaching for the light switch when you entered a darkened room? It took me two days—no, make that two nights—to break that habit.
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