Our guest blogger is Henry Fernandez, a Senior Fellow at the Center For American Progress Action Fund working on state and municipal issues.
Henry Cejudo’s uniquely American story started with a single mother who taught him what it meant to truly fight. His mother Nelly – an undocumented immigrant — moved him and his siblings several times chasing work and opportunity, scraping by, ensuring her kids got an education. And along the way, the family found a channel for both the tough resilience she modeled and the country they loved through the sport of freestyle wrestling.
With the brothers he shared a bed with growing up cheering from the stands (as well as his sister), Cejudo repeatedly got off the mat to come back and win in a tough match against Tomohiro Matsunaga of Japan. And now America has both an unexpected gold medal and a new hero.
Today in Beijing, our nation proudly called Cejudo one of our own:
“What Henry has accomplished is an American success story,” USOC spokesman Darryl Seibel said. “This is a story of perseverance and determination. We couldn’t be more proud of Henry, not only for what he has accomplished on the mat, but for how he has represented our country.”
It has become commonplace on the right to talk about how recent immigrants, and particularly undocumented immigrants and their children, do not want to assimilate, learn English or identify themselves as truly American.
Yet this family – all of them proud to be the cheering voice of the United States in a city on the other side of the planet – did our country proud:
They all wore or waved American flags, an entire family decked in the stars and stripes. A family that started with illegal immigrants and advanced to right here, this moment, their very own gold medalist resting in their lap.
“Only in America,” Cejudo said.