In society and in life, you get more of what you honor, so if we want to produce more heroes like Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger we need to show that we’re serious about honoring the high standards that make Sully special.
Exactly one year ago, a large flock of birds disabled both engines of the US Airways flight that Sullenger was piloting from LaGuardia Airport, bound for Charlotte, North Carolina. Captain Sullenberger quickly decided that his best option was landing in the Hudson River, which he did without any major injuries to any of the 155 passengers and crew on board.
Although many called this a “miracle,” Sullenberger said, "One way of looking at this might be that for 42 years, I've been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience: education and training. And on January 15 the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal."
Sullenberger’s education and training emphasized the rigor and measurable merit that are far too often abandoned today in the quest to boost people’s self esteem or to dumb down standards to allow some politically correct quota or outcome.
At the age of 12, Sullenberger’s intelligence quotient was high enough to admit him to the world’s highest IQ society, Mensa International, and his subsequent academic and extracurricular distinction gained him acceptance at the U.S. Air Force Academy where he graduated with the Outstanding Cadet in Airmanship award, as his class’s "top flier."
Sullenberger served as an air accident investigator for the Air Force and the National Transport Safety Board and his recommendations "led to improved airline procedures and training for emergency evacuations of aircraft." He worked with NASA scientists and co-authored a paper about aviation errors.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg dubbed Sullenberger “Captain Cool” for his poise and skill under pressure.
If we want to grow more Sullys, we need to make our society’s definition of ultimate cool the achievement of Sully-like excellence of character and competence for all citizens, especially our young people.
From our beginnings as a country, what has kept us special—in fact, superior—is that we have produced in abundance what we have honored, whether that is freedom, innovation, competitiveness, knowledge, opportunity, excellence, prosperity or any other virtue or attainment.
Lately, America is in a funk—not just regarding our economy but also regarding a mediocrity we risk tolerating if we abdicate the personal responsibility and high expectations that our forefathers and someone like Sully have modeled for us.
We will sustain our destiny to fly high, we will outmaneuver failure, and we will land safely if like Sully we make small, regular deposits in what we honor and what brings honor to us.
Communications consultant Jon Kraushar is at www.jonkraushar.net.