Forty years ago, during the 1972 Olympic Games, 11 Israeli athletes were taken hostage and killed by a Palestinian terror group, Black September; an act which defied the spirit of the Olympic Games. On the anniversary of that horrific attack many people, including the President, thought it was appropriate to acknowledge that event with a moment of silence. Others did not.
“We feel that the opening ceremonies is an atmosphere that is not fit to remember such a tragic event,” said Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee.

Ignoring that history, however, does a disservice to the Olympics. The games represent overcoming the differences that may divide nations, in order to come together in the spirit of competition, and achieve national pride.

The Olympics symbolize a unity among nations, and it was in this spirit, that after the tragic attack on Israeli athletes, President Nixon sent a letter to the Prime Minister of Israel, Golda Meir, describing the event as “a tragedy for all the peoples and nations of the world.”

A moment of silence to remember the past also reminds nations of the spirit with which their athletes go forward and compete. Olympic athletes represent “the determination that the spirit of brotherhood and peace,” which President Nixon wrote “shall in the end persevere.” That spirit has persevered, and it is worth a moment of silence to remember.

Ian Delzer is a Research Assistant at the Richard Nixon Foundation.