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James B. Stockdale on Public Virtue

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Last night I was reading Thoughts of A Philosophical Fighter Pilot by Jim Stockdale (1923-2005). The book is a collection of Stockdale’s speeches and essays over the years. So much of his well thought out writings are words to live by and definitely worth sharing. Here is a timely quote from an essay titled “On Public Virtue” written in 1988:

Those who study the rise and fall of civilizations learn that no shortcoming has been surely fatal to republics as a dearth of public virtue, the unwillingness of those who govern to place the value of their society above personal interest. Yet today we read outcries from conscientious congressman disenchanted with the proceedings of their legislative body and totally disgusted with the log-jamming effect of their peers’ selfish and artful distancing of themselves from critical spending cutbacks, much needed belt-tightening legislation without which the long-term existence of our republic itself is endangered. p. 74

The quote also echoes a sentiment shared by South Carolina’s Governor Mark Sanford, interviewed in the upcoming issue of Religion & Liberty.

Ray Nothstine Ray Nothstine is Associate Editor at the Acton Institute, and Managing Editor of Religion & Liberty. In 2005 Ray graduated with a Master of Divinity (M.Div) degree from Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky. He also holds a B.A. in Political Science from The University of Mississippi in Oxford. Before coming to Acton, Ray worked as a free-lance writer for several organizations, including the Institute on Religion and Democracy. He gained ministry experience in churches in Mississippi and Kentucky. After college, he also served on the staff of U.S. Congressman Gene Taylor (D-Miss) in Gulfport in 2001-02. The son of a retired Air Force pilot, Ray has also lived in Okinawa, Philadelphia, New England, Hawaii, and Egypt.

Comments

  • Tracy

    From Stockdales essay section above the statement “Those who study the rise and fall of civilizations learn that no shortcoming has been surely fatal to republics as a death of public virtue, the unwillingness of those who govern to place the value of their society above personal interest” reflects one reason for the budget crisis in the State of California. Because the state is in bad shape, as a state worker of California I am forced to take a 10% paycut but legislatives are exempted from any paycuts.
    As any legislatives in any state they are paid a very nice salary,provided a travel expense account and many quirks that I feel prevents legislatives to think of the State’s needs but rather their personal interest. Just like any upper class citizen, who have money tend to not think the state’s economy is in bad shape because they are not affect by state’s economy and reap the consequences such a job loss or a pay cut. Instead the legistlatives take a personal interest in environmental issues especially global warming have convinced residents that billions of dollars should be spent on birth control pills to prevent unwanted births for fear of overpopulation that could contribute to global warming. In my opinion, legislatives should receive the consequences just like all the state employees that way they actually might cut back expenses.