Notes on the Journey

Friday, October 12, 2012


I saw "Argo" tonight.  What a great movie!  And, so timely, considering everything that's going on in the Middle East and the issues of security for our embassies.

It's based on the true story of how a CIA operative named Tony Mendez came up with and executed a plan to rescue six escaped American embassy workers who were hiding in the Canadian Embassy in Tehran after the takeover of the American Embassy during the hostage crisis of 1979.

The plan was that Tony would fly in to Tehran as a movie producer meeting up with six of his crew members for a location scout and they would all fly out together.  As they say in the movie, it was the "best bad idea" they could come up with to extricate six stranded Americans who, if left there, would most probably be killed.

This was the first time that such a plan was put into action, but it was an extraordinary circumstance that required special creativity to find a solution.  It took vision and daring and balls of steel.  Tony Mendez was a family man with a young son, and he risked his life to save six stranded Americans.  The files on this operation were kept classified until 1997.

The amazing thing is that this rescue almost didn't happen.  If Tony Mendez hadn't been the person he was, those six people would probably have never made it home.  One person.  One person who made all the difference.  One person who was willing to put it all on the line.  One person who was willing to take responsibility.  One person who didn't back down.

Where someone gets the core strength, courage and commitment of a Tony Mendez is a mystery.  And, not all of us are called upon to put our lives on the line in the way that Tony Mendez was in order to find out.  We would all hope that we would be strong and brave and committed if tested, but that hope might crumble in the face of real adversity.  I've internally collapsed if someone gets angry with me or raises their voice in conversation.  I've historically run from confrontation, unable to deal with it.  I'm better with these issues at this point in my life, but I still wonder, in the same situation Tony Mendez took on, would I have succeeded.

"Argo" is inspiring.  Tony Mendez is inspiring.  The movie and the man both make me want to be better, stronger, braver.  And, of course the CIA makes mistakes, but they also have many successes we never hear about.  There are men and women risking their lives for all of us on a daily basis who we will never know and who will always remain invisible.  But, they are there.  And, I'm grateful.

So, if you're wondering which movie to go see, make it "Argo."  You won't be sorry.

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