Hats off to Pittsburgh’s own Jackie Evancho, who gave an incredible performance during the America’s Got Talent finals Tuesday night. Her loss of the $1 million prize to Michael Grimm puzzled and shocked many viewers. While Michael Grimm may be a talented singer with a future in Vegas and the music industry, young Jackie clearly gave the superior performance.
Jackie has a rare gift. Her exceptional talent, obvious to everyone who hears her, got her voted on to America’s Got Talent. But it is her hard work and perseverance that will very quickly see her rise to the top of the industry. Watching her Tuesday night, I kept having to remind myself that this young girl with the voice, poise, and self-assurance of a sophisticated young woman was indeed only 10-years-old.
Possible reasons for the loss? The sympathy factor: The show aired a video of Michael with his grandparents. He wanted to win so he could buy them a house. Sure to tug at the hearts of many.
The Language Issue: Perhaps voters preferred to hear an English song they knew and loved rather than the Latin Ava Maria. Most viewers (including me) probably did not understand the words.
Age: Of the two, who was better equipped to perform in Las Vegas and around the country? Cross-country tours and Vegas performances are probably not the best activity for a very bright 10-year-old. Besides, Jackie has plenty of time to go on and achieve great things without the added push winning the award provides.
Regardless, Jackie has carved a niche for herself as an exceptionally talented and very poised young woman with a remarkable career ahead of her. She had my vote. Pittsburgh is proud of her!
- Kamana Mathur
We Americans devoutly espouse Voltaire’s philosophy of “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” The freedom to express our opinion freely without fear of persecution and even death as still happens today in many parts of the world is what makes America so appealing to individuals from all parts of the globe, and the reason our country is still the preferred destination of millions around the world.
The recent controversy over the construction of a multi-million dollar Islamic Center on ground zero and the backlash in the form of threatened Koran burnings is an unfortunate consequence of a society where asserting one’s legal rights sometimes trumps doing what is right. No one denies that Muslim groups have the right to build a Mosque anywhere they wish in the United States as long as they comply with local ordinances and laws. No one denies that an individual has a right to burn a book on his property as long as he or she complies with the local fire codes. But what one has the right to do so often differs from what one ought to do.
We are fortunate to live in a nation that welcomes individuals of different ethnicities and religions, a nation where different viewpoints are cherished and opinions freely exchanged. But there are times when it is important for those to whom this country has given jobs, homes, and an unparalleled degree of freedom to recognize the debt we owe to America and Americans. There are countries where you cannot get a job, secure an education, or become a citizen if you belong to a different faith. There are countries where you risk imprisonment and even death if you dare to speak out against injustice. But America is not one of them.
However, this unparalleled freedom must be exercised with a degree of caution. Consideration for the sentiments of an overwhelming majority of those who have welcomed us into their homes and hearts must go hand in hand with the exercise of our rights as U.S. Citizens. Insisting on building a Mosque on ground zero, while legally acceptable, appeared to many to be a slap in the face of those who experienced the enormous tragedy of September 11.
For Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf to say that he wouldn’t have picked the site on Ground Zero to build the proposed Islamic Center had he known the fight it would cause appears disingenuous. A man of religion must surely be in tune with the sentiments of the majority of individuals around him. The right thing to do is for the Imam to seek a different home for the Islamic Center. Moving it to another location would not undermine its value to the Muslim community, but it would go a long way in allaying the fear and hatred building an Islamic Center on the site of this terrible tragedy is likely to evoke.
Americans were the first to denounce the Florida Pastor’s plans to burn the Koran. We know it was an affront to Muslim sentiments and to all those who value an individual’s right to freely practice his faith. Fortunately, reason prevailed and Pastor Jones called off the proposed Koran burning. Would it be too much to expect the same from Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf?