How Tragedy Shaped Our 41st President

On September 2, 1944, a young 20 year old George H. W. Bush’s plane had just been shot. It was exactly a year before the end of World War 2, and with engines on fire he still completed his mission of releasing bombs over their Japanese target.  Mr. Bush’s parachute glided him to the water, where he would spend the next four hours waiting to be rescued.¹

Nine men were shot down by the raid. Eight were captured and killed by the Japanese. Four of those were horrifically served up to Japanese officers to be eaten. The only one who escaped was George H. W. Bush. “He recalled that while on the submarine he asked himself why he had survived. ‘Why had I been spared and what did God have in store for me? In my own view there’s got to be some kind of destiny and I was being spared for something on Earth.'”²


Official White House Portrait of George H W Bush (41st President)

This week I’ve been reading David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell. I came across this quote about disadvantages. “Conventional wisdom holds that a disadvantage is something that ought to be avoided – that it is a setback or a difficulty that leaves you worse off than you would be otherwise. But that is not always the case.”³ Sometimes life experiences, some of even the most horrible ones, can shape us and help define our values. They can take our path and cause the trajectory to completely change.

Why is it that two separate people who had similar life experiences can have two completely different reactions to them? Malcolm Gladwell reasons as well, “…traumatic experiences can have two completely different effects on people: the same event can be profoundly damaging to one group while leaving another better off.”4

The lesson I believe that George H. W. Bush gives us is that those individuals who learn  to use tragedy as a purpose to serve others from a real place of  gratitude will do better than those who continue to relive tragedy’s darkness. Which path will you choose?

Sarah Jackson

Vigilant Poster Girl



  1. “This Day in History Sept 2” History.com
  2. “George HW Bush narrowly escaped comrades’ fate of being killed and eaten by Japanese captors” Telegraph.co.uk
  3. David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell Pg 102
  4. David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell Pg 134


  1. Pingback: David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell ~ Wednesday’s Book of the Week – Vigilant Poster Girl

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