Editor’s Note: This post was originally written for publication on FEMA’s blog.
Editor’s Note: This post might contain spoilers if you haven’t seen the first film in the original Star Wars trilogy (A New Hope).
“Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.”
When many think of Star Wars, that line is one of the first things they think of. And it’s one of the most iconic quotations from a character that is near and dear to my heart—and the hearts of millions of others: Princess Leia Organa.
Princess Leia, played by the late actress and writer Carrie Fisher, has been a staple for now over 40 years. Diehard fans of hers will mark this May 4th by donning their cinnamon bun-esque hairdos and their ethereal white robes.
Across social media that day, #StarWarsDay and #MaytheFourthBeWithYou will trend, complete with memes and GIFs and brands hopping into the discussion, all to share their appreciation for this long-enduring and well-loved film franchise.
But why am I writing about this? What does it actually have to do with FEMA?
In my opinion, Princess Leia’s essentially an ideal member of our team. Her ingenuity and creativity, her bravery, and her dedication prove that she would be a valuable addition to our humble ranks.
When it comes to quick-thinking and response to life-threatening situations, nobody’s done it better than Leia.
In the very first film, “A New Hope,” she proves this point on multiple occasions (and continues to do so throughout the entire original trilogy).
While having the technical readouts of the Empire’s space-station-slash-planet-destroying weapon, the Death Star, can be considered dangerous at the very least, some of Princess Leia’s bravest and most creative moments come out of that instance.
Possessing the plans, she knew the kind of perilous situation she had managed to get herself into.
When the iconic villain Darth Vader boards her starship after intercepting it, the situation becomes even more dire.
However, through a quick series of actions, the readouts and a holographic message addressed to Obi-Wan Kenobi (containing the quotation referenced earlier) are stashed in the memory banks of a small service droid—R2-D2. Leia ships R2 and a protocol droid, C-3PO away in an escape pod that luckily makes it past enemy sensors due to there being no signs of actual human life aboard.
Fast forwarding a bit, through a few extremely narrow escapes, the plans are recovered and ultimately cause the explosive demise of the Death Star. (But of course, all of that happens after some of Leia’s other extraordinary work.)
One of the things we do as an agency is try to find new and unique ways to effectively respond to disasters and over the 38 years we’ve been an agency, we’ve worked to fine-tune and adjust the ways we respond, becoming more and more innovative.
We’ve started leveraging national service volunteers, young people with profound dedication to their communities, in our response—to augment and supplement our full-time and reservist staff.
This program, FEMA Corps (of which I am an alum and huge fan), has made a difference in multiple scenarios. From their debut as part of our response to Hurricane Sandy, to the historic flooding in Colorado in 2013, and our more recent responses to flooding in Louisiana and Hurricane Matthew, they’ve become an invaluable resource for us.
While backed into a corner facing Stormtrooper fire with a young, fresh-faced Mark Hamill and a medium-young Harrison Ford (portraying the iconic characters Luke Skywalker and Han Solo respectively), Leia has the split-second instinct to fire a blaster into the wall, breaking into a garbage chute to escape. “Somebody has to save our skins,” she says. They succeed and continue on, effectively escaping from the Empire’s forces.
While we may have tried to employ a potentially less fragrant solution, her ingenuity does not go unnoticed.
Not only was the blaster-to-the-garbage-compactor move effective and creative, it was also exceedingly brave. It was an escape that wasn’t completely guaranteed. After falling into the compactor, the motley crew discovered it to be inhabited by a monster.
When facing uncertainty, like potentially critter-infested floodwaters, our Urban Search and Rescue teams, like Leia, are unafraid. Through intense training and exercise scenarios, these teams, all 28 of them, are primed and prepared for whatever hazards they may face while deployed.
All that having been said, I think the qualities that make Princess Leia the most likely to be an excellent emergency manager are her dedication and service.
Not only has she served as her planet’s princess, she also served as a Senator and the leader of the Rebel Alliance—filling multiple roles and wearing multiple hats (and of course her quintessential cinnamon bun hairdo) to serve her community, her planet, and the galaxy at large.
Among our ranks, you’ll find veterans of the military as well as current and former emergency responders, all coming to FEMA looking to extend and continue their service. Wherever you might find yourself, in a field office, in one of our regional offices, or even here at headquarters, you’ll find people who truly embody the spirit of service and dedication.
Princess Leia’s qualities would help her to fit right in here and make her a truly exceptional emergency manager. If she weren’t out saving galaxies and planets from those who have been corrupted by the Dark Side, we’d be welcoming her to our ranks with open arms.
A Note from the Lawyers: The characters and films mentioned in this blog post are the property of Disney and LucasFilm and we appreciate them very much.