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Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

By Trish Olson, Interim Associate Dean

I gave myself a gift on Black Friday. I am not a shopper that day at the mall or online, so the gift I gave myself was to read a book cover to cover the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving. I read Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand.

Hillenbrand tells the story of Louis Zamperini, an Italian-American born in 1917. This kid with a knack for getting in trouble was saved by a caring brother who introduced him to running on the high school track team. That led to a scholarship at the University of Southern California and participation in the 1936 Olympics, followed by enlisting in the U. S. Army Air Force and serving in the Pacific arena.

This is not just another book about WWII, an airplane crash, fighting off sharks, starvation, being a prisoner of war, or post-traumatic stress. While all these topics and more are covered in the book, it is above all a story of survival, endurance, stamina, grit, resiliency, and — most important — forgiveness. Hillenbrand is a writer of amazing talent who brings Zamperini’s story to life. (He died this past summer at the age of 97.)

I urge you to read this moving book. But if that’s not possible, see the movie of the same name, directed by Angelina Jolie and scheduled for release on Christmas Day. You must learn this story! As a philosopher said, "Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it." We need to look back as we move forward, to learn from those who cleared the way, stand on their shoulders to look ahead, and boldly create a new and better future.
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