For Grand Master Lee, it was a “Land of Opportunity”

Grand Master Lee
Independent Arkansas acknowledges and even defends opposing points of view because healthy debate is the cornerstone of our democracy. And also because none of us have all the answers, even if we think we do.

I bring this up to share this anecdote about Rep. David Sanders’ efforts to change the state’s nickname from “The Natural State” back to “Land of Opportunity.” I have written on this blog and in my Arkansas News Bureau column that it’s my opinion that both nicknames are too vague to mean anything. Sanders argues that “Land of Opportunity” can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we see Arkansas as a land of opportunity, it can become one.

So here’s the anecdote. In 1977, Haeng Ung Lee moved the headquarters of the American Taekwondo Association from Omaha to Little Rock. It was the early days of the ATA, but since then it has grown into an organization representing 350,000 members worldwide. Its annual world championships attract 6,000 competitors and 20,000 spectators, making it the city’s largest annual convention. Grand Master Lee became a local legend. After he died in 2000, a $1.4 million memorial was erected in downtown Little Rock.

Why did he move here? According to the ATA’s current CEO, Jim Wolf, Lee always said there were two reasons. One was that the hills of northwest Arkansas reminded him of his native Korea. And the other was that he saw the words “Land of Opportunity” on a license plate and decided this was the place for him.

I haven’t changed my mind yet. But I thought this was worth sharing.

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