Sometimes, when it feels like all I read about in the newspapers and hear on television is about war and conflict, along comes a young woman with wisdom, grace, confidence and dignity beyond her years, an "old soul", if you will, ready to bring us together, to teach the world that we are all one people. Catlin Cahow is just such a person.
Since President Obama announced that he was including Caitlin as a member of the U.S. delegation to the Closing Ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, the media's focus has seemed to be on the fact that, along with former tennis great and founder of the Women's Sports Foundation, Billie Jean King, Caitlin was somehow picked because she is openly gay, not because she won a bronze and silver medal in women's ice hockey at the 2006 and 2010 Winter Olympics and is an outstanding young woman.
The media's speculation was that, by naming Caitlin and Billie Jean, and by not attending himself - or sending First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, or another member of his cabinet - the President was somehow sending a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin about the Russian Federation's new anti-gay laws. Gay rights groups were quick to applaud the picks for just that reason.
But while some may question whether Caitlin would have been selected had she not been gay, including the inevitable question from Matt Lauer in his interview of Caitlin this morning on the Today Show (which Lauer appropriately prefaced by saying that, by his question, he "meant no disrespect"), there is no question in my mind why President Obama chose Caitlin to be part of our delegation to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
As she demonstrated in her Today interview this morning, Caitlin is an extremely articulate, thoughtful woman who cares passionately, not just about LGBT rights, but about a wide range of issues. As a two-time Olympian, Harvard graduate, and soon to be lawyer, Caitlin is a wondeful example of how sport in general, and the Olympics in particular, can unite, rather, than divide nations and people. She embodies the spirit of inclusiveness and fair play that the Olympics have, at their best, always stood for.
Four years ago, when I first met Caitlin, she was raising money for breast cancer research. I knew very quickly after speaking with her that she would be someone in the world who would make a difference.
In January 2010, I had a chance to meet up with Caitlin and her teammates at the 2010 Winter Classic at Fenway Park in the run-up to the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. (see picture at right of me and Caitlin at Fenway) Later, I was there in person to watch the U.S. women's national team put up a valient effort against host Canada in the gold medal game.
A month ago, a couple of weeks after posting an article about Caitlin's long road to recovery, with the help and support of her mom, Barbara, from post-concussion syndrome, and after Caitlin came out as gay, I asked her whether she would help MomsTEAM develop out the section of our site on parenting LGBT youth athletes.
It will be an honor to have Caitlin contribute to MomsTEAM. Like her, we look forward to the day in the not-to-distant future when whether an athlete is black, white, gay, straight or transgender won't be described as an "openly gay" athlete or a "black athlete"; as Caitlin so eloquently put it in her Today Show interview, to a "tomorrow when these classifications no longer exist."