As a fighter pilot in Vietnam, Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale (1923-2005) was shot down in 1965 and he spent eight years as the ranking prisoner of war. For refusing to broadcast anti-American speeches, he was denied treatment for a broken knee and he spent four years in solitary confinement. At one point, under pressure to betray his fellow prisoners and his country, he inflicted near fatal wounds on himself rather than endanger others. He knew that with his visible wounds, the enemy could not display him on television. His efforts led to better conditions for prisoners and disrupted Hanoi's extortion policy. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.
Admiral Stockdale retired after 37 years in the Navy and, since his retirement, he has been a college professor, a college president, a senior research fellow at Stanford University, and a candidate for Vice President. Some years ago, he introduced a course at the Naval War College, entitled "Foundations of Moral Obligation," which was designed for mid-career military officers and government executives. Admiral Stockdale felt that most leaders were merely "pedestrian functionaries" who had no problem with routine business, but could not handle the unexpected.
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