James A. Cusumano

Alchymist – Entrepreneur – Author – Filmmaker – Hotelier

One Person’s Faith, Hope, And Love Started A Movement—Overnight!

Apr 29, 2021 by James A. Cusumano


One Person’s Faith, Hope, And Love

Started A Movement—Overnight!

“History has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.”

– Michelle Obama


Penelope Laingen was the wife and unofficial social secretary to her husband, Bruce, who was a Foreign Service officer for the U.S.  Government. For years, they traveled the world together as Bruce was stationed at various embassies. It was a great life. But then—trouble struck.


On November 4, 1979, Bruce was the highest-ranking official among 52 people taken hostage in Iran after student militants overran the American Embassy in Tehran. The Iran hostage crisis lasted 444 days and was a source of great pain and stress not only for the hostages and their families but also for the American people.


Penelope had no idea she would start a national movement when she tied a simple yellow ribbon around the white oak tree in the front yard of her Bethesda, Maryland home. She was inspired by the 1973 hit song by Tony Orlando and Dawn, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Ole Oak Tree.” The song had been written by L. Russel Brown and Irwin Levine. Brown had read a short story in Readers Digest Magazine about a Civil War prisoner, who on his way home after the war, had written to his girlfriend and asked her to tie a yellow handkerchief on a tree in front of her home if she still loved him after being so many years apart. If so, he’d be knocking at her door. If not, he’d ride on by.


Penelope’s idea appeared in a local newspaper. She told the reporter, “That yellow ribbon is going to be there until Bruce comes home.” Within weeks, yellow ribbons were everywhere across America. An 800-foot yellow sash encircled National Geographic headquarters in Washington. Girl scouts wore them on their uniforms. Yellow ribbons were everywhere! And so was the faith, hope, and love for the captured Americans that they would return home safely.


The hostages were finally released on January 20, 1981, and when Bruce arrived home, he celebrated by snipping the yellow ribbon from the tree in front of their house.


Bruce died in 2019 at the age of 96 and Penelope died at 89 on April 3.[1]


A simple idea based on faith, hope, and love—it works every time, more often than not, with great impact.


Enjoy your journey! Make a difference!


Chairman & Owner, Chateau Mcely



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[1] Some of the information for this post was taken from Penelope’s obituary.