Sunday, December 21, 2014

Harnessing the "Unbroken"

I cannot wait to see "Unbroken" when it comes out in theaters on Christmas day. The movie was written based on the book by Laura Hildebrand, that tells the story of American Hero, Louis Zamperini. Louis, who passed away just this past summer, has one of the most awe inspiring, unbelievable stories of all time. So much so, that if I were to tell you it was true, you would have to look him up to make sure I wasn't messing with you.

Louis grew up in Torrance, California, where he learned to love the sport of running. He was so talented that he earned a scholarship to USC in the 1930's. At USC, he was one of the fastest young men in the nation, giving him an opportunity to try out for the Olympic team. When he made the team in 1936, the destination was Berlin, Germany near the pinnacle of the Nazi rise to power.

He ran so well at the 1936 Olympics, that Hitler demanded to meet this young boy with the "fast finish." He didn't medal but he was close and this pushed him to train harder for the next olympics. The only problem was that the world was thrown into war and so was he, so he didn't have his chance. Instead, Louis was enlisted and became an airman.

Flying over the Pacific, his plane was shot down somewhere near the Marshall Islands. Louis, along with only one of his partners, survived 47 days at sea, fighting off sharks, hunger, heat, and deliriousness. When they finally hit land, they were captured and held in prison for months. In prison, Louis was tortured and beaten. However, he was tough and had enough attitude to keep him alive. When he was saved, his story became world famous during the post war era. It has recently just been brought back to life.

When I think about Louis, I think about so many of the students that I know and have known. What I didn't tell you about the story was that Louis got into a lot of trouble at school. He should have been kicked out several times. But he found what he loved thanks to some people who encouraged and redirected him. The "bad boy" image that he had, would later serve him well as a survivor. Though most people though he would end up in prison, they had no idea the how great the context of that prediction would make him. Once he found his passion and got focused, his life headed in an incredible direction. It is hard and there is not always a happy ending, but we have a chance to help young people do great things. So the next time you have a student or know a kid who is a really tough cookie, remember that they could be the next Louis Zamperini. Leading is Teaching.