What the chess community teaches us about lionization

Photo credit: George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress)

Alexander Alekhine–Photo credit: George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress)

I wanted to address a question that was raised by King and others on another thread, namely the question of when and how it is appropriate to lionize an historical figure. Much of this conversation comes from the debates surrounding the legacy of Woodrow Wilson, a U.S. President who achieved many great things but who, by modern standards, was a racist. Is it proper to have statues, buildings, and schools erected in his honor? He was not all that racist by the standards of his own time (contrary to the narratives that some “activists” are using in an effort to rewrite history right now), but by modern standards, he most definitely is. Do we take down the symbols? I think our answer can be found in the way chess players lionize former world champions.

Dr. Donald Liu, dies while saving children

Just saw this story: Hero Surgeon Dies in Lake Michigan Rescue Despite Wife’s Efforts to Revive Him. It’s hard to have anything but the highest respect and honor for people like this. Dr. Donald Liu went to med school to save and protect children. He became chief of pediatric surgery at the University of Chicago Medicine’s Comer Children’s Hospital, saving lots of children (see the video feature). On Sunday, he tried (and succeeded) to save two children who were swept up in the water at Lake Michigan, jumping in over the protests of his own children. He himself was caught up in a riptide, and he drowned in the effort. Rest in peace, Dr. Donald Liu.

George Katagiri: Heroes

George Katagiri in 1951

George Katagiri in 1951

This is the kind of story that I find interesting.

George Katagiri (grandfather of Zach, who is on this blog and the co-owner of Peachyhost, which houses Thymos.org) was the elementary and high school teacher of Joan Harvey, a reporter for the Oregonian.  Harvey recounts how whenever her district administrators would ask her to write down the names of her best teachers, she would write, “”Mr. Katagiri, Mr. Katagiri and Mr. Katagiri.”

Check out the story.  George Katagiri was controversial from the start: