Saturday, July 16, 2005

Without him, my blog would have no title

A belated tribute to Admiral James Stockdale, who died a few weeks ago at 81. Stockdale was famous as Ross Perot's running mate in 1992 who had a reputation for being a bit out of it.

It is also Stockdale who I credit for the title of my blog, "Who am I? Why am I here?" Here's what Stockdale had to say about that famous line from the '92 campaign in an interview with Jim Lehrer:

JIM LEHRER: That line, "Who am I?" and "Why am I here?" of course, got great publicity. Was that something that you just said spontaneously, or had you thought about it before the thing began?

ADMIRAL JAMES STOCKDALE: I had thought about it a little bit, and I thought it would come to me in a way that I could explain the idea of building a prison civilization. You remember, I really remembered Mark Van Doran's quote. He said, "An intelligent person is one who should a catastrophe strike, say doomsday... he could refound his own civilization," and I said, that's what I'm here to do. And we had our own laws. I mean, I wrote them. And we had our own customs, and traditions, and proprieties.

I believe he was talking about civilizations like those of when he was in a war prison in Vietnam.

Actually, Stockdale did do some amazing things in Vietnam:

During his 7 and half-year imprisonment, he was tortured numerous times, forced to wear vise-like heavy leg irons for two years and spent four years in solitary confinement. While imprisoned, he organized the prisoner culture in defiance of regulations forbidding prisoner communication and improvised a cohesive set of rules governing prisoner behavior.

All I really did was take his quote.


Chris said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Chris said...

In light of your previous post, I'll comment on this one.

I want to be careful not to knock the title of your blog because it's one of the most basic queries of philosophy, especially in the West. But it is precisely for that reason that I think Adm. Stockdale gets more credit than is due for asking rhetorical questions that have been asked since before Socrates. On the other hand, perhaps the man should be commended for reminding us how essential those questions really are, have been, and should be.

Elaine said...

I think what Stockdale deserves credit for is asking this age-old question in a vice-presidential debate of all places. It kind of put perspective on the whole thing (or made him seem nuts).