David vs. Goliath

I can only hope that the next President would appoint qualified leaders at the U.S. Fire Administration that "want to do something, not be somebody."


Most likely, you have heard about the biblical story of the historic battle between David and Goliath; scripture reference 1 Samuel, Chapter 17. Briefly, the story goes that the Philistine army had gathered for war against Israelites. The two armies faced each other, camped for battle on opposite sides of a steep valley.

A Philistine giant measuring over nine feet tall and wearing full armor came out each day for forty days, mocking and challenging the Israelites to fight. His name was Goliath. Saul, the King of Israel, and the whole army were terrified of Goliath. One day David, the youngest son of Jesse, was sent to the battle lines by his father to bring back news of his brothers. David was just a young teenager at the time.

While there, David heard Goliath shouting his daily defiance and he saw the great fear stirred within the men of Israel. David declared that he was not afraid and volunteered to fight Goliath. It took some persuasion, but King Saul reluctantly agreed to let David fight against the giant. Dressed in his simple tunic, carrying his shepherd's staff, slingshot and five stones, David approached Goliath. As Goliath moved in for the kill, David reached into his bag and slung one of his stones at Goliath's head. David's well-aimed shot at a hole in Goliath's armor sank into the giant's forehead and brought him face down to the ground. David then took Goliath's sword and killed him.

Against all odds the enemy's fiercest warrior, dressed in full armor, was killed by a young lad armed only with a slingshot. There are many points of interest and valuable lessons in this epical story. The angle that I want to focus on in this article though, is preparedness.

Obviously a few inches off, and the story could have had a much different ending. But, then David was quite skilled with his slingshot. Was that a lucky shot? Maybe, but then they say that luck also plays a part in any battle, doesn't it? Rather than luck though, I strongly believe in abilities, preparations, and enhancing the probabilities of success in our favor instead.

Even with similar odds of hitting the target, due to the lack of expertise, the same simple slingshot in the hands of a novice, would not have yielded successful results, would it? For David though, the many years of hard work and practice improved his marksmanship and abilities, and better prepared him in maximizing even that slightest probability of success in his favor.

Such is the case for the David in my story; David Paulison, the former United States Fire Administrator who has been leading the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) since 2006. The Goliath of this story is neither Hurricane Gustav, nor is Hanna, or Ike, or Josephine, or any others lined up to hit our coasts. The Goliath of my story is the revival of FEMA that David has been successful in accomplishing since taking over after Mike Brown's less than graceful departure in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, three years ago.

Remember Hurricane Katrina and FEMA's not too stellar performance that prompted a Congressional investigation, resulting in the resignation of Mike Brown, FEMA's director back in 2005?

Hurricane Gustav hit the coast of Louisiana as a Category 2 storm two weeks ago. Maybe it is not fair to compare Gustav with Katrina, which was a stronger storm with a direct hit on a major metropolitan area. But then I am not focusing on the individual storms; my focus is on FEMA's preparedness this time around. The difference between now and three years ago, is the degree of poise and preparedness that has been depicted in FEMA's performance this time around.

Call it luck that Hurricane Gustav wasn't a direct hit. Yes indeed, as I mentioned before, luck plays a part in all battles. But then you don't leave everything to luck, do you? What makes the difference between triumph and failure is the degree of preparedness?

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