Medal Counts & Manifest Destiny

The first U.S. Olympic team—a ragtag group of fourteen men, mostly Ivey Leaguers, with little support from the country—stood at the top of the podium for an amazing eleven events at the inaugural modern Games in 1896. Their unexpected triumphs caused a swell of national pride and paved the way for generations of U.S. Olympians.

Jacket copy from Igniting the Flame: America’s First Olymic Team

America has always positioned itself as the underdog, even at the Olympics, even when it earns medals by the fistful. Why is that? What is it about our national psyche that caused our athletic leaders to ask the International Olympic Committee in 1908 to establish a “point system,” so we can tell who wins?

Want to find out? Join me in a class this August...

The very first TEAM USA, 1896, Athens.

American Olympic athletes have dazzled the world, starting with the very first games in Athens, 1896. But their performances have always had a subtext. It might be validating capitalism, promoting democracy, or even confirming American exceptionalism. We will explore these subtexts, the history behind the history, starting with how an upstart nation sought a foothold with Europeans in the sporting world and to prove itself as a world power.

Medal Counts & Manifest Destiny:
Team USA at the Olympics

I’ll be teaching this end-of-summer class, Thursday afternoons in August, online through OLLI at Cal State East Bay.

OLLI ( stands for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. That’s shorthand for no papers, no exams, no homework. All the interesting bits of your favorite history class, without the outside work that causes all the stress.

OLLI classes are discounted for seniors, but this program allows all ages to participate. And because it’s online, you don’t have to live in northern California.

If you’re interested, or if you know someone who might be interested, check out the link to sign up for the class here.

And here’s a PDF you can download that will tell you more:

Hope to see you there! But don’t delay–the class may only be available for sign-up for a few more weeks.

Zeus is waiting!

Statue of Zeus at Olympia, one of the original ancient wonders.

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