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Jim Crawford: Together, we can meet the challenges

Lake Placid, New York, February 1980 — The U.S. hockey team wins the gold medal at the Olympics with a final victory over Finland.

On the way to that victory, the U.S. team defeated the Soviet team in a match that has been remembered as “The Miracle on Ice.”

The “miracle” was that the Soviets had the best team in the world, a team that no U.S. team had beaten in 20 years prior. Yet, this group of 20 young Americans, on this one day in February, bested the talented, experienced, best team in hockey. How did they do it?

They did it together. They did it by surrendering individual goals to team accomplishments. The less talented U.S. hockey team played together not as individual stars, but as role players in a design for team victory. They did it in the same way America has accomplished all its great successes, Out of One, Many, e pluribus unum, the motto of our nation.

That night, the night of the win over the Soviets at the height of the Cold War, Americans filled the stands at Lake Placid, many holding and waving small American flags. At first, resigned to yet another defeat at the hands of the Soviets, the crowd quietly cheered their team for any small sign of accomplishment. But, as the U.S. team scored a buzzer-beating last second tie goal at halftime, the crowd burst into arena-shaking cheers.

Throughout the second half of the match, the crowd was cheering, foot stomping, waving, standing, encouraging the young men from across the U.S. who represented all of us as the team played toe-to-toe with the more-talented Soviets. Standing side-by-side that night were Democrats, Republicans, Independents, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters — Americans all watching what was thought to be impossible, an American victory. As the final seconds ran off the clock, with the score U.S. 4, Soviets 3, the impossible became real. That night the Miracle on Ice reminded us that together we are more, united we are stronger.

That was 40 years ago, and it was a fundamental lesson about this nation. Just as the team concept sublimated individual to all, we were reminded that whether it was defeating the fascists in World War II, or landing on the moon, we Americans are our best together.

Today, we face the greatest crisis since the Great Depression and World War II. It is a defining moment for America. It is a crisis that not just Americans, but the world of all humanity faces, and just as we know we are stronger together, we must now learn that we will be stronger together with all the other nations working to end the killing power of the novel coronavirus.

This time, some of the teams of heroes will be found in science, working together, sharing research, rushing to vaccines that save not some of us, but all of us. For as long as the coronavirus thrives anywhere, it poses a threat to all humans.
In the United States, we must also recall that only together do we find our great successes. We stood together to stay home for almost two months to slow the spread of corona, and that worked to protect our healthcare system from overload and collapse.

When New York struggled at the edge of chaos in crisis, we helped them meet the challenges of the virus.
Now, with some of us seeking an end to the isolation, while most still desire to wait until the public space is safer, we find our nation at a crossroad…do we stay together, or pull apart? Do our individual freedoms doom our unity by strength, or do we find ways to listen to each other and hold together?

There will be no success found with packed crowds and gun-toting Americans demanding their rights over everyone else’s freedoms. That formula will only result in diminishing our chances of defeating the virus. It will kill more of us and accomplish absolutely nothing.

Jim Crawford is a retired educator, political enthusiast and award-winning columnist living here in the Tri-State.