Olympic champion Nadia Comăneci scores a perfect ten during Monticello’s 50th Annual Independence Day Celebration and Naturalization Ceremony
Transcript of Nadia Comăneci's remarks, July 4, 2012
"I would like to thank you all for inviting me to say a few words today at the 50th Anniversary of Monticello’s Independence Day Celebration and Naturalization Ceremony.
"Congratulations to those of you here today who will soon become the newest US Citizens!
"When I first heard the list of important global leaders who have spoken at this magnificent event like FDR, President Bush, Colin Powell, and Madeline Albright, I was very intimidated.
"They are all inspiring leaders, but frankly, none of them were very good on the uneven bars!
"Then, when I heard that I would be the first athlete to ever speak on this important and inspiring day…
"I thought…Well, it’s about time!
"After researching the life of Thomas Jefferson, I found a couple of things that we had in common.
"For one...he admired Balance
"Second... he professed the virtues of Health and Fitness
"With regard to balance:
"One of Jefferson’s most lasting reforms as a legislator was to introduce a workable 'balance of powers' into the structure of the US government.
"With regard to health and fitness, Jefferson wrote:
"'Give about two hours every day to exercise; for health must not be sacrificed to learning. A strong body makes the mind strong.'
"My life story is also all about balance and fitness.
"No one really knows when they are about to make history.
"As I swung onto the parallel bars at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, I executed each skill with the proper technique that I had practiced day after day in training.
"I performed the same compulsory routine as every other gymnast in the Olympics, but I must say, I had worked very hard in training to add a little extra 'Nadia touch.'
"I thought my routine was good. Actually, I felt that I could have done even better.
"Then, I heard a lot of noise in the arena. Normally, I don’t look at the scores, but this time I looked over at the scoreboard, and it said '1.00,' which is not too good of a score!
"The scoreboard was not actually designed to accommodate a mark of a perfect 10, so that was the only thing they could do at the time.
"The fact that I was the first to get a perfect score in the Olympics, continues to define my life today.
"Let’s face it, when I started gymnastics at six years of age, I did not set out to make history. All I wanted to do was to challenge myself to be 'just a little better' each day.
"Along the way, I came to understand the concept of 'Olympism' that now drives everything I do…even today.
"The founder of the Modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin once said: 'Olympism is not a system, it is a state of mind.'
"By blending sport with culture and education, Olympism promotes a way of life based on:
"The balanced development of the mind, body and character
"The joy found in effort
"The educational value in being a good role model for others
"The observance of the universal ethics of tolerance, unity, friendship, and respect for others.
"The Olympics, in a way, is much like the concept of America…and it is the ultimate meritocracy. The only way to the top of the podium is through hard work and dedication!
"Jefferson once said:
"'The interests of a nation, when well understood, will be found to coincide with their moral duties. Among these it is an important one to cultivate habits of peace and friendship with our neighbors.'
"So, I am confident that Thomas Jefferson would have loved the Olympic Games, the Paralymic Games and one of my favorites causes, the Special Olympics; the global sports movement for persons with intellectual challenges.
"I have been a proud volunteer for Special Olympics since I first arrived in the US over 20 years ago.
"After my success in the 1976 Olympics, I was interviewed all over the world about every topic you can think of. I’ll never forget one time a reporter asked me what I wanted to do now. With everyone expecting me to say something profound, all I said was 'I want to go home to Romania.'
"Of course, if I had grown up in America, I probably would have said, 'I want to go to Disneyland.'
"Some of you may remember me from the 1976 Olympics. I was the 88 pound little girl, with a brunette pony tail, flipping around on the beam and bars.
"Now, I’ll admit that I look pretty different than I did 36 years ago, but I’m never exactly sure what to say when someone says to me, 'Is it really you Nadia? You used to be so cute when you were fourteen.'
"When I started gymnastics at six years of age, I did not realize it at that time but, while I was learning to keep my balance on the beam, I was also learning how to keep my balance in life. My training in gymnastics gave me the foundation from which I learned the most important tools with which to succeed in life, too.
"Many people think that if you win the Olympics, you automatically become rich. But, fame and fortune do not necessarily go hand in hand.
"But the lessons I have learned through the Olympics are much more valuable than any material rewards I could have received.
"Like many of you, I always wanted to come to America, the 'land of opportunity,' but many of us learned very quickly that 'the streets are not paved with gold,' or as we say in Romania, 'Even in America, not every dog has a pretzel on his tail.'
"One thing that we have come to appreciate about the US, is the true concept of 'Freedom.'
"I come from a wonderful country, with wonderful people, but many years ago, we were living under a communist system where we were told what to do, and how to live our lives.
"Romania is different now and I am happy to go back many times each year to reconnect with my family and friends, and continue to do projects with my foundation.
"All of us here today come from many different countries, but we all have something very important in common.
"We will never take our freedom for granted.
"In America, we all have the opportunity to write our own story.
"Do you think that when I was 6 years old doing cartwheels on the playground of my hometown of Onesti, Romania, that I could have imagined that I would be standing here today, as an Olympic Champion, a naturalized US citizen, married to Bart Conner who is also an Olympic Champion, and .... living in Oklahoma?
"What a country!
"That is MY American story. What is yours?
"As a gymnast, the concept of keeping BALANCE, not only on the beam, but also in life has come to provide constant guidance to me.
"So, using the word BALANCE as an acronym I will give you some of my thoughts about succeeding in America, and in life.
"The 'B' in balance stands for 'Bold.' You must be bold, set high goals, and go for it.
"Believe me, my first cartwheel was not 'Olympic quality.' But I was bold enough to try to be the best.
"So, be BOLD!
"The 'A' in balance stands for 'Agility.' It is important to be agile, flexible, and be willing to make changes to improve….
"So, be AGILE!
"The 'L' in balance stands for 'Love.' In order to be great at anything, you must love the process of developing your talents. If you can focus on the process, and your day-to-day improvement…the results will take care of themselves!
"So, LOVE what you are doing!
"The other 'A' in balance stands for 'Accountability.' Our freedoms come with some responsibility. Top citizen leaders are more likely to be self-motivated people who take ownership of their successes and challenges.
"So, be ACCOUNTABLE!
"The 'N' in balance stands for 'Now.' What are you learning right now, to help make yourself more successful?
"So, do it NOW!
"The 'C' in balance stands for 'Courage.' You have already demonstrated a great deal of courage that has gotten you to this important day today.
"So, continue to be COURAGEOUS!
"The 'E' in balance stands for 'Energy.' Have you ever noticed that some people that you hang around simply 'energize you?' Their enthusiasm and excitement for life 'inspires' you.
"Energetic people are like magnets…they attract other motivated and successful people.
"So, be the most ENERGIZED person you know.
"Remember to keep your Balance…
"Love what you are doing
"Do it Now
"As a fellow naturalized US citizen, I encourage you to continue to balance your new freedoms with your new responsibilities as Americans.
"And, I hope that you all get 'Perfect 10’s' in your new life as US citizens.