As Tom Hanks prepares to take flight on movie screens as Chesley B. Sullenberger in the new film Sully, the Oscar-winner will in many ways replace the real man in the popular imagination. That’s the power of film. But it’s helpful to remember that the real man is the hero, not the actor, and that the real man who landed Flight 1549 safely in the Hudson River has much to teach us.
That’s why he’s the subject of the film in the first place. We can be grateful to “Sully” not just for his heroism but also for sharing his thoughts on how to live and act in two different books, Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters and Making a Difference: Stories of Vision and Courage From America’s Leaders. Here are some highlights:
— “Almost always, there is a particular flight that challenges a pilot or teaches or changes him, and every sensory moment of that experience remains in his head forever.”
— “I made a pledge to myself, right then at age 13, that if I was ever in a situation where someone such as Kitty Genovese needed my help, I would choose to act.”
— “I am willing to work hard to protect people’s lives, to not be a bystander, in part because I couldn’t save my father.” Sully’s father committed suicide after suffering from depression.
— Even so, in his acknowledgments Sully writes: “My mother and father taught me about hard work, integrity, and lifelong education. I am grateful to them for instilling in me a set of values which have been constant guideposts throughout my life.”
— “In so many areas of life, you need to be a long-term optimist but a short-term realist.”
— “Clearly it is not always necessary to be universally loved or even admired in order to lead effectively.”
— “I observed the way even the most routine actions and the smallest words could resonate and have an impact on the morale of a team.”
— “I believe my preparation for the events of Flight 1549 began even before my birth.”
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