Katie Vongphoumy came to America from communist-ruled Laos in 1982 when she was only 20. She had been trying to get here for a long time. Her first escape attempt as a teenager failed, and she ended up spending two years on a slave labor “farm”, partaking in the utopian paradise created by the winners of the wars of the 1970’s in Southeast Asia . On her next escape attempt, Katie made it to Thailand, and then America. Katie and her husband Sam, also a refugee, settled in Rhode Island and had four daughters. On Monday, their oldest daughter Juliet did something no other girl has ever done – she won the state high school golf championship, beating all the boys by two strokes.
Juliet is only a freshman at LaSalle Academy, and “a peanut” to boot – five feet tall, a shade over 90 pounds. It was funny to hear the discussion on local radio the day after her win: “And she doesn’t even belong to a country club!” Imagine that! Juliet “plays out of” Button Hole, a great place that uses golf to teach inner-city kids important lessons about life (and a client of New Harbor Group). Apparently, you can learn to play just as well at Button Hole as you can at a country club.
Seeing the picture of tiny Juliet playing a shot against a backdrop of trees on the course just reinforced that it’s all about heart. I was grateful to Juliet and her family for reaffirming – again – the American Story: sacrifice, hard work, focus, drive, commitment…success. And it doesn’t matter where you come from.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Some chatter around here about the Providence Journal’s banner headline after two local business execs were acquitted in a high-profile corruption trial proclaiming them “innocent”. Yes, the actual legal term is the less-exculpatory “Not guilty”, but the “innocent” tag has it’s roots in journalistic tradition. Here’s how it was explained to me in my reporting days: back when newspapers were printed with letters or entire words “inked” on little blocks of lead, newsrooms used “innocent” because if the “not” block (of “not guilty”) fell out or malfunctioned during printing, the headline in the next edition would say that the acquitted was “guilty”. There you have it.