This blog posting really isn’t about basketball at all—which is exactly my reason for writing it.
Final Four? I don’t care. I guess I’m a sore loser. The minute Kentucky gets eliminated in the NCAA tournament, I just want to get as far away from basketball as possible. Two years ago, after UNC’s Luke Maye sent the Wildcats prematurely packing, I immediately started packing for my own trip to Turks and Caicos. When Kansas State upset the Big Blue last year, I booked the first flight out for the Florida gulf coast. This year, unfortunately, I’m headed out early again—to someplace far away from Minneapolis, where I can put overtime losses to Bruce Pearl completely out of sight and out of mind.
You see, less than twenty-four hours after returning from the disappointment in Kansas City, I was stuffing my suitcase for Washington, DC. I’ve been there many times over the course of my lifetime, but never while the cherry blossoms were in full bloom. I’m killing two birds with one stone on this trip—making my wife happy and NOT watching basketball during the first weekend in April.
Ah, the memories come flooding back. My first visit to our nation’s capital was with my mom and dad back in the mid-1960s. As newly minted, starry-eyed, first generation immigrants from China, my parents wanted to show first hand—to their number one son—the sights and symbols representing their personal pursuit of the American Dream. Where better than Washington, DC, where founding fathers and freedom fighters named Washington, Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln stood sentinel over democracy? Granted, I was only six years old at the time, but something deep down inside of me still resonated with this Land of Opportunity. Even back then, the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness sounded pretty darned good to me.
I returned to DC again in the early 1980s, this time as a recent college graduate, indoctrinated with the liberal agenda and misguided cynicism flowing out of all university campuses. The city had a different vibe for me this time around. Thoughts of American imperialism, social injustice, and racial inequality sadly replaced the wide-eyed innocence of my earlier visit. With malice towards none; charity for all suddenly became a slogan that pipedreams were made of. Not going to happen in this America, I surmised at the time.
I returned to Washington again in the early 1990s, a thirty-something professional with a beautiful wife and one-year-old daughter in tow. Ten years in the military with a stint living overseas, and my thoughts on America had changed. The good ole’ USA was now all about capitalism—making a buck, keeping up with the Joneses, and paying off your mortgage. To me, DC represented all that was worth striving for—the money of the Federal Reserve, the power on Capitol Hill, and the status of the West Wing. I have a dream. It was a different dream than Dr. Martin Luther King had, but it was my dream, nonetheless.
And now, nearly three decades later, I’m back again—armed with a lifetime of experiences and a bucketload of supposedly new wisdom. It’s somewhat bittersweet. My mom has since passed, my daughter is all grown up, and I’ve been retired and put out to pasture. On a beautiful sunny weekday morning, I stroll leisurely along the National Mall, with plenty of time to ruminate about life’s regrets, growing old, and what America has meant to me.
Over a half a century as a naturalized American citizen gives me a perspective grounded mostly in gratitude. I’m grateful for many things—a fine education, access to health care, and languorous walks with my dog. But as I pause in front of all the different war memorials, I realize that the thing I’m mostly grateful for in America is freedom. Freedom to speak, write, gather, and worship as I choose. The United States of America still has its faults, but in terms of individual freedom, it remains the greatest nation on the face of the earth.
Walking up the steps of the Jefferson Memorial, I’m reminded that with freedom comes responsibility. Freedom isn’t free. Many have died fighting for it. May we think of freedom, not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right.” (author unknown)
Our Founding Fathers got it right in the beginning. We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…” May Washington, DC remain forever a bastion of liberty and a beacon for democracy. Let freedom ring!
By the way, the cherry blossoms were beautiful in April. My wife is happy. Final Four? Who does Duke play again?
Dr. John Huang is a retired orthodontist living out the American Dream covering University of Kentucky Sports. He is a columnist for Nolan Group Media and lead writer for Sports View America. If you enjoy his writing, you can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @KYHuangs.