Louis Zamperini: A Life Full of “Inspiring Stories”

Aligning perfectly with the 2015 theme, “Inspiring Stories,” this year’s grand marshal comes as no surprise – Louis Zamperini. An Olympic runner turned World War II Airman and prisoner of war, Zamperini is a living inspiration having overcome multiple hardships, and leading a quest for forgiveness through his career as an inspirational speaker.

As Tournament of Roses® President Richard L. Chinen noted in his speech this morning, “There is no one more qualified to serve as grand marshal with the 2015 theme ‘Inspiring Stories’ than Louis Zamperini. His life story illustrates the strength of human spirit in so many ways.”

At the young age of 19, Louis ran the 5,000-meter race for the 1936 Olympic team in Berlin, but that was just the start of his inspirational journey. When World War II began, he retired from running to serve his country. Following a plane crash during a routine reconnaissance run, Zamperini and a fellow crewmember survived an astounding 47 days adrift at sea before being captured as prisoners of war by the Japanese navy.

Following his two years of torture as a prisoner of war, Louis Zamperini began his quest for forgiveness. He became a missionary in Japan and, in a true act of compassion and humility, he preached forgiveness to the very guards who tortured him during the war. In 1998, he was asked to carry the Olympic torch at the Winter Games in Nagano, Japan – close to where he was held captive years before.

2015 Grand Marshal Louis Zamperini

2015 Grand Marshal Louis Zamperini. Photo credit: Brad Graverson, Los Angeles News Group

Despite all the hardships in Zamperini’s life, the twinkle in his eyes is undeniable. His unwavering optimism and his ability to elevate the human spirit are what define him best.

Zamperini’s story is the focus of two books: an autobiography entitled “Devil at My Heels” and “Unbroken”, a biography by Laura Hillenbrand – soon to be a motion picture directed by Angelina Jolie and released December 2014.

facebooktwitterpinterestmailby feather

The Lone Star’s Dragon Band returns after three decades

This December, 330 dragons will fly into Pasadena, California from Round Rock, Texas to perform in the 126th Rose Parade. While these may not be mythical creatures – Round Rock High School’s Dragon Band promises to leave an equally lasting impression on parade audiences.

Returning to Colorado Boulevard for the first time in 30 years since the band’s first appearance in 1984, the Dragon Band recently welcomed Tournament of Roses President Richard L. Chinen and his wife, Kim, to share their excitement and preparations for their trip to Pasadena.

“Being a part of the Rose Parade gives the students an opportunity to represent themselves, their school and our city in an incredible way that they’re going to remember for the rest of their lives,” said Band Director David Mobley.

“The history of the parade, its tradition and pageantry really give the event deeper meaning for us and for all participants. You get the sense that you’re taking part in history.”

Katie Frock

Drum Major Katie Frock sleeps with her roses on the trip home after receiving them at the Bands of America Grand National Championship – where the Dragon Band was notified of its selection for the 126th Rose Parade. Photo courtesy of Jim Machajewski

Extending true Southern hospitality to the Tournament’s president and first lady, Dragon Band parents and community members kept the Chinens busy with concerts and the band’s Boots & BBQ fundraiser, where President Chinen presented Mobley with the official Tournament flag.

“A band’s participation in the Rose Parade doesn’t just affect its members and their families – but an entire community,” said Chinen. “Kim and I experience the excitement and pride each band’s participation brings from the community’s point of view.”

The Dragon Band is one of two bands from Texas selected to perform in the 126th Rose Parade. Can’t wait until January 1 to see and hear them? Watch their performance at the 2013 Westlake Marching Festival and tell us what you think!

facebooktwitterpinterestmailby feather