This week in history we celebrate the anniversary of two events that embody the American culture and spirit, proving that an underdog can always come out on top.
On Feb. 22, 1980, 40 years ago, the U.S. hockey team defeated the Soviet Union in the legendary “Miracle on Ice.” At the XIII Olympic Winter Games, the team of scrappy Americans, mostly college-aged, brought an end to the four-time gold medal streak of the Soviet hockey team in Lake Placid, New York. This victory is often regarded as one of the most dramatic moments in modern Olympic history, despite the fact that this game was not even the final match, but rather the semi-finals.
Many people thought this would be an easy victory for the Soviets, especially considering their effortless win in an earlier exhibition game. Instead, the American team pulled through in the final period of the game with a 4-3 score. When the final horn sounded, the sold out arena of 10,000 spectators erupted in cheers as the coaching staff poured onto the ice in celebration.
While this victory may seem small in 2020, the reality was that this win was much bigger than hockey, representing an American victory over the Soviet Union in the bitter years of the Cold War. This also came at a much needed time in American history, as it gave a new sense of joy and patriotism to a country still dealing with the economic recessions of the 1970s.
Also on Feb. 22, in 1732, George Washington was born. The son of a wealthy planting family, Washington led a privileged upbringing on his family’s vast Virginia plantation. Despite his noble birth, Washington would gain fame and prestige on his own merit. At the age of 17, he worked as a land surveyor and by 20, he was a lieutenant in the British Army during the French and Indian War. His previous military success garnered fame throughout the colonies, making Washington the obvious choice for the commander of the Continental Army once the U.S. had declared independence from Great Britain.
Defeating the strongest military power in the world was no small task for the newly appointed general. With the lack of sufficient funds and properly trained soldiers, Washington proved his effective leadership skills with pivotal victories at Trenton, Princeton and Yorktown, to name a few. His leadership on the battlefield prompted his unanimous election as the first president of the United States. Washington’s administration would be remembered for establishing the precedents that would be followed by every future American president.
Today, George Washington is a legendary, almost god-like figure in American history, who is commonly regarded as the father of the United States. He has come to represent both the good and the bad of the U.S., as he was a courageous war hero and genius politician, but also a slave owner. Washington undeniably had an incredible effect on American history, and the country would look very different if it were not for him.
I’d like to end this column by wishing our good friend George a very happy 288th birthday!
Gino Giansanti is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.