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Who is an “American?”

This last weekend, for the first time since 1982, an AMERICAN won the NYC Marathon. As someone who has run several marathons and who would have been lapped by this winner, I greatly admire these fleet footed men and women.

Why is this an immigration issue? Well, it turns out a commentator on CNBC by the name of Darren Rovell thinks there are different kinds of “Americans.” In this case, Meg Keflezighi, an American ,who immigrated to the United States when he was 12 as a refugee, proudly wore the USA on his sweat stained jersey as he cruised to victory in the NYC Marathon. Much was made in the press of the fact that an American had finally won this particular marathon again after more than 25 years! But, Mr. Rovell was apparently looking for a controversial way to express his ignorance.
Mr. Rovell noted:

“He is an American citizen thanks to taking a test and living in our country…Nothing against Keflezighi, but he’s like a ringer who you hire to work a couple hours at your office so that you can win the executive softball league.”

Rovell explained his bizarre views in an article on CNBC’s web site:It’s a stunning headline: American Wins Men’s NYC Marathon For First Time Since ‘82. Unfortunately, it’s not as good as it sounds. Meb Keflezighi, who won yesterday in New York, is technically American by virtue of him becoming a citizen in 1998, but the fact that he’s not American-born takes away from the magnitude of the achievement the headline implies.

Mr. Rovell later apologized, because he realized what an idiot he sounded like. But the apology was hollow, without meaning, and dug the hole even deeper. He explained that because this great runner had trained here since he was young, he was now American “enough” to count.

It turns out, Keflezighi moved to the United States in time to develop at every level in America. So Meb is in fact an American trained athlete and an American citizen and he should be celebrated as the American winner of the NYC Marathon. That makes a difference and makes him different from the “ringer” I accused him of being. Meb didn’t deserve that comparison and I apologize for that.

Mr. Rovell, you sir are an emblem of what is wrong with the immigration debate in America today. I suppose that in your opinion that folks like Albert Einstein (immigrated as an adult), Zbigniew Brezinski (immigrated as an adult and fellow NBC employee), Isaac Asimov (a favorite of mine), Dan Aykroyd (he was born funny in Canada), Alexander Graham Bell (a Scott, who immigrated as an adult), Wayne Gretzky (learned Hockey in Canada), Patrick Ewing (who was also a U.S. Olympian–guess we should give that Gold Medal back, eh Mr. Rovell), and literally millions of others, simply do not count as “real” Americans to Mr. Rovell because they did not “grow up” as Americans. I guess we should reject them and their contributions to America becuase they did not “grow up” here.

As my kids might say, Dude, stop drinking the Haterade! America is a nation of immigrants. Once you take that oath, it is your future that matters, not your past. This sentiment is the beauty of what it means to be an American. You are part of a greater good, you are part of the greatest experiment in the history of mankind. You the former immigrant, are now an American. You are now as good as Mr. Rovell, even if you did not grow up in America. You are now as good as anyone else. Mr. Rovell, take a civics course and learn what it means to be an “American.”


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