Last March, an interviewer archly asked President Barack Obama whether he was aware that he had been “surpassed” by basketball phenomenon Jeremy Lin “as the most famous Harvard graduate.” The question was misformulated. If there was any surpassing going on, it was that Mr. Lin had become, briefly, more famous than Mr. Obama as the country’s most exemplary figure from a hitherto marginalized minority.
Mr. Lin’s triumph on the basketball court is a living metaphor for the social group he comes from. No one would dispute the opening paragraph of the Pew Research Center’s massive study of Asian-Americans, released over the summer: “Asian-Americans are the highest-income, best-educated and fastest-growing racial group in the United States. They are more satisfied than the general public with their lives, finances and the direction of the country, and they place more value than other Americans do on marriage, parenthood, hard work and career success.” Or as Mr. Lin put it in a video of congratulation he made last spring for the overwhelmingly Asian-American graduates of New York City’s famed Stuyvesant High School: “Never let anyone tell you what you can’t do.”