“Everybody is a Winner!”
President Obama to children at an Easter Egg Roll at the White House
I have never heard of an Easter Egg Roll before. I only knew of the Chinese food variety, which I love dearly. Apparently this is an event for kids hosted on the White House lawn. Apparently, you roll an egg with a spoon and try to win by racing the other kids. I don’t know if there is betting or humiliation involved (or physical humor, I love physical humor), it would require a blood relation to keep my interest.
When I read a statement like our President’s above, I am always drawn to two similar quotes from The Incredibles, that awesome 2004 Pixar movie. The first is from the super fast kid who isn’t allowed to go out for sports. This is due to his overwhelming talent and likelihood of being unable to fit in when his powers are revealed.
Dash: But Dad always said our powers were nothing to be ashamed of, our powers made us special.
Helen: Everyone’s special, Dash.
Dash: [muttering] Which is another way of saying no one is.
The second quotes is from the villain, when he explains his motivation for killing everyone with natural super powers, then selling normal people powers equal to superheros.
Syndrome: Everyone can be super. And when everyone is super, no one will be.
I am reminded of Vonnegut’s short story, Harrison Bergeron. If you haven’t read it before, read it now, it’s super short so you can do it even if you are unmotivated.
We all know that the egg roll is a race. Unless you change the rules, there is a winner in every race. At the track (I’ve heard), you bet on the top three horses coming in with a certain order, not to pretend the limping horse in last place is the equal to the fastest.
There is pride in finishing a marathon. There can be pride in even getting off the starting post. Many people who achieve these goals are winners in their own ways for having overcome obstacles along the way. But they are not the equal of the runner who crossed the finish line first. The person who finished first was THE winner, the runner with the fastest time. No amount of cheering or distraction can take away from his domination of his opponents.
Not all movies are Best Picture and not all shots hit the bulls eye. To pretend otherwise is just an egalitarian fantasy. Let the winning child bask in the glory of his egg rolling talent! Let us encourage children to try to be the best they can be. And when they win, let them feel the elation of their success. Let’s not demean the efforts of the winner by giving gold medals to everyone.
The Ukraine doesn’t get a gold medal for failing to keep Russia out and the person who is the second place choice for the promotion doesn’t take home a bigger paycheck. It is worth striving to be first. We are not simply lucky that the USA became the strongest economic and military powerhouse the world has ever seen. Russia and the United States were not both winners of the Cold War. Germany and Japan didn’t tie for first in World War II. Past generations as well as our own have worked tremendously hard to raise ourselves to our current level. We should be proud of our efforts, not just because we tried, but because we won.
Huzzah! And kudos for not mentioning Ayn Rand even once. I know, I just ruined it.