Olympic Gold Medalist, Track & Field Head Coach Tommie Smith
Many famous alumni have returned to Santa Monica College, and even Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will be addressing the graduates this June, but SMC has yet to notice the All-American men's track and field head coach - Tommie Smith. Although most SMC students recognize Smith, they really do not know who he is. "This campus has no idea just how intelligent Tommie Smith is," said Trena Johnson, secretary for the athletic department.
After winning a gold metal in track and field during the 1968 Olympics, fighting civil and human inequality, breaking and holding nearly 13 world records, will be receiving a honorary Ph.D in social science from San Jose State University at the 147th Commencement ceremony, teaching and coaching 37 years, Smith is looking forward to a considerable retention after retiring from the workforce this June.
Smith's dedication to human rights within the athletic arena cause him to take a great personal risk to champion the cause of African Americans sociologically, educationally, morally, athletically, financially and spiritually.Recently, Smith was honored in St.Quen, France, by the city and mayor with the unveiling of the Tommie Smith Sports Complex but has yet to be honored in the United States.
Smith along with John Carlos, in an all-American arena during the Olympic Games in Mexico City, took their black-gloved, fist-held-high, black-power salute and greeted the nation on the victory stand with their heads bowed to expose the existing political cultural differences in the Olympics. This gesture has been coined the "fist of freedom" and considered one of the most provocative sports moments of the century.
In a discussion with Smith, he expressed dissatisfaction with the youth of today. With so much opportunity standing at their feet, Smith feels SMC students do not take advantage of the opportunities.
"How can a student come to SMC, and not know the person who died many times in the '60s," said Smith. "I am a temple of God. He used me as a vessel to make the name for people to use, to their own social advantage, but people don't use it."
Smith says for example, the Women's Movement used social integration to their advantage.
"In the '60s," according to Smith, "there were women who wanted power, who felt 'less than,' and grew tired of not being equal. (They knew) if they include all women that the strength would be in numbers." It was also known that the missing portion of the strength would come from black women.
In addition, Smith says the push for "the gesture," along with the Women's Movement led to more jobs for minorities, to perhaps control the unrest, the woman and the blacks.
Smith wishes some of his athletes would grow to use their opportunities.
After his retirement, Smith will hold the first Annual Tommie Smith Youth Track & Field Conference this summer by invitation.