Star Wars, George Lucas and Character Lessons

Character Education Home Articles  Illustrations/Activities/Ideas  Lessons Intercom Insights  Links Membership  Hot Stuff

Click Here for Subscription Information! 

George Turns His Trials into Gold

Hint: When telling this story, don't let them know up front that "George" is George Lucas. The intrigue of wondering who it is can pique their interest!

During high school, a lot of people considered George a loser who was headed nowhere. He never applied himself in school and dreamed only about racing cars. But his dreams all ended just a few days before his graduation. While driving home from the library in his Fiat, he prepared for a left turn by glancing in his rearview mirror. But as he started the turn, he heard the sound of another car, a blowing horn, and the impact of a speeding Chevy crunching into the driver side of his car. It should have killed him. The little Fiat turned four or five complete flips before it wrapped around a solid oak tree. The impact was so great that it actually moved the entire tree a couple of feet over.

But miraculously, George survived. Get this: during the Fiat's third flip, his regulation racing seat belt snapped, throwing him out of the open top and onto the ground. He was close to death, but recovered slowly through two weeks in the hospital and months of physical therapy. His Fiat didn't survive, ending up in the junkyard.

He knew his dream of racing had come to an end. Some people would have gotten discouraged after life dealt them a bad hand of cards. Instead, George decided there must be some reason that he was left on earth, so he set his mind to get his act together and make something out of his life. He left his racing dreams behind and decided to go to college. There, he developed an interest in literature and writing. And instead of driving racecars, he began filming them. I'm glad George learned to deal positively with adversity. You see, without giving up his old life, George Lucas would have never found his niche in the film industry, and no one would have ever seen "Star Wars." (Facts from Skywalking: The Life And Times Of George Lucas, by Dale Pollock, Harmony Books, 1983, pp. xiii-39. Wording by Steve Miller © Copyright 2002 by Legacy Educational Resources. All Rights Reserved.)

Action Point: For some of us this morning, our minds are consumed with a dream that's been  dashed. Perhaps a great relationship has just died. Perhaps you didn't make the team. Perhaps you're doing poorly in a subject you really want to excel in. Today, let's remember George Lucas, who knows the feeling of having his dreams dashed, but hung in there so that later he could know the feeling of success. 

Discussion Questions

1. How did George's wreck ultimately help him in the long run?
2. Without the wreck, do you think he would have ever become a great producer? Why or why not?
3. Sometimes,  when great people experience major setbacks, they keep their same dreams but go at them a different way. Other times, when encountering major setbacks, they reevaluate their dreams and pursue a different one. How can a person know when they should hold on to a dream and when they should trade in their old dream for a new one?
4. How can George Lucas' story help us in dealing with our setbacks in life?

(Hint: You could make these Lucas stories into a series, doing them consecutively over the intercom or school-wide TV.)

Lucas Learns From Criticism

Last week we introduced George Lucas, the producer of Star Wars and the Indiana Jones trilogy. Some think that when people find their niche, that their skills will come easily to them and everyone will recognize their genius. Yet, writing scripts didn't come easily for Lucas. While in college, he'd spend four early morning hours, from 5:00 AM till 9:00 AM, writing his first feature script. When he'd given it all he had, he dejectedly looked at the finished product and decided it was terrible. He showed it to filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, who agreed. "It is (terrible)," said Coppola, "You're absolutely right."

Many people would have been so discouraged and humiliated that they would have changed majors. George thought of hiring a writer, but Coppola disagreed. He said, "…if you're going to make it in this business you have to learn how to write."

I'm glad he stuck with it. I'm glad he learned how to write. If he hadn't, none of us would have ever seen Star Wars. George Lucas might have never made it as a producer had he not been able to take criticism, learn from it and move on. (Atlantic Magazine, March, 1979, pp. 47-50)

Action Point: Today we'll probably get some criticism that's unwarranted. We may get some that's positive. Like George Lucas, let's commit ourselves to learn from the good criticism and become better people. 

Discussion Questions

1. Why do you think it's so hard for us to take criticism?
2. Some criticism is helpful and some is destructive. How can we tell the difference between the two?
3. Why do many people refuse to learn from positive criticism?
4. What are the ways we benefit from positive criticism?

Lucas Endures Failure

In the last session, we learned how George Lucas bounced back from criticism. You see, many of us think that when a person has as much creative potential as George Lucas, his genius will be immediately recognized in his field and he'll quickly jump from success to success. But that's often not the case. Often, the road to success is paved with failures. 

Lucas worked on his first sci-fi film for three years at his own expense. After all that time, effort and creative energy, Warner Brothers rejected it, leaving Lucas with no film and deeply in debt.

But he didn't give up. He temporarily set aside his science fiction ideas and decided to produce a rock 'n' roll film set in the late 50's and early 60's. After being rejected by every company in town, many people would have given up. But he finally found one person who believed in the film, Ned Tannen of Universal Pictures. Unfortunately, some at Universal didn't like the idea at all, but Ned pushed it anyway over much opposition from angry executives. The film, American Graffiti, became a smash hit.

Action Point: This week, when the things we try to accomplish keep getting rejected, let's think of all George Lucas' rejections and keep plugging away. 

Discussion Questions

1. Why do you think Warner Brothers would have rejected Lucas' first film? 
2. In this case, most all of the top decision-makers in Hollywood were dead wrong when they rejected this film. How can we know when to hang on to our dream and when to trust the wisdom of the biggies in our field? 
3. Give some examples of how we could use Lucas' endurance in fields other than filmmaking, like academics or sports or auto mechanics.

Like these quotes and stories? We have hundreds! Click Here for Subscription Information! 

Star Wars and George Lucas