For Winter Olympics, Ancestry.com says foreign makes America great

Commentary: In an ad featuring the "Miracle on Ice" US hockey team from 1980, the players discover their forebears came from many different places.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

Where did his ancestors come from?

Where did his ancestors come from?

Ancestry.com; YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Of late, we've been questioning who we are.

As the president presents a picture of American greatness that seems a touch monochrome, some believe it's a slightly distorted view.

The Winter Olympics has brought into stark focus the notion of what American is and what role diversity plays. Why, a Fox News executive editor, John Moody, suggested these games would be "darker, gayer, different."

In steps Ancestry.com to sprinkle its science upon the conversation.

In a new ad, the DNA-testing company examined the ethnic mix of some of America's most famous Winter Olympians: the so-called "Miracle on Ice" US hockey team from 1980.

These amateurs came from nowhere to beat the highly professional Russians. (Perhaps they could give Facebook some hints on how to do it.)

In the ad, team members Dave Christian, Mike Eruzione, John Harrington, Rob McClanahan and Buzz Schneider offer a few words describing the context of their momentous victory.

"We were more than American," says one player. 

"I never realized we were from all over," adds another. "Italian, Middle Eastern, Jewish. Turkey, Iran. That's what makes America what it is."

Oh, please don't tell the president that Iran makes America what it is. I fear he might claim it's fake news.

The message, should you not have grasped it already, is spelled out: "America's greatness comes from everywhere."

Some will see this as a controversial approach. For Ancestry, though, it's timely message.

"With so much attention currently on American pride and athleticism, we feel this is the perfect opportunity to highlight the importance of unity, diversity and inclusivity, and to inspire people to look at America's, and their own, greatness in new ways," Ancestry.com's executive vice president and CMO Vineet Mehra told me.

This isn't, though, the first time it's stepped on manifestly political hot coals. 

For Independence Day, it offered a provocative ad that suggested those who signed the Declaration of Independence were a fairly diverse lot.

Moreover, after the Charlottesville riots, the company made clear that it wasn't interested in getting business from white supremacists. Ethnic purity is an illusion, said Ancestry.

So, as we cheer on America -- at least those of us who are fascinated by snowboarders flying through the air and skaters crouching at speed along the ice -- it's wise to remember who we are and who we aren't.

If only we could all agree on the definitions of "we" and "are."

Updated 6.42 p.m.: adds comment from Ancestry.com.

iHate: CNET looks at how intolerance is taking over the internet.

Special Reports: CNET's in-depth features in one place.