VIEWSnLEARNING GOODNESS by James Bond StockdalenWhy ]bstern Civ Is the Best Refuge innAdversitynIf is ironic that the thoughts of this essay, extracted from ancommencement address I gave at Claremont McKennanCollege in the spring of 1987, celebrate an old StanfordnUniversity tradition of submerging all students in thenclassical thought of the West as a precondition to graduation,nno matter what their major. This spring of 1988, thenStanford University administration threw that all out thenwindow and knuckled under to campus political pressure tonpermit students to ignore the writings and thoughts of thosenancient “white European males.” This came as no surprisento me. A full course concentrating on such thoughts, which Inhad taught on request, separate from my duties as a HoovernInstitution Fellow and free of charge, was mysteriouslynremoved from the catalog over two years ago. Ideas of thensort you read below do not fit on this campus any more. Inguess that’s what comes of leaving curriculum design tonthose who have known little but the easy life.n—James StockdalenThe best education, the best preparation for a full andnsuccessful life surely entails a proper blend of classicalnand contemporary studies. While we pursue the keys to thenkingdom of modernity—studies in political science andneconomics and high technology—we need to understandnthe importance of a broad background in the readings ofnantiquity, those readings that form the basis of our civilization.nIn times of duress, in war especially, is that classicalnbackground important.nAchieving that magical combination of ancient andnmodern grounding took me half a lifetime to improvise. Ingrew up as a veritable prince of modernity; as a young man Inwas a test pilot, flying supersonic fighters when they werenVice Admiral James Bond Stockdale served for 34 yearsnas a Navy officer, most of them at sea as a fighter pilotnaboard aircraft carriers. Shot down over North Vietnamnin 1965 during his second combat tour, he was the seniornNavy prisoner of war in Hanoi for eight years—torturedn15 times, in leg irons for two years, and in solitarynconfinement for four. He is a former president of thenNaval War College, currently a Senior Research Fellow atnThe Hoover Institution, and widely published. Among hisncombat decorations is the Medal of Honor. This articlenoriginally appeared in Parameters.nheadline news and sharing a schoolroom with futurenastronauts. Then, at 37, too late for graduate school in highntech, a turn in my life took me to the quite differentnatmosphere of the study of moral philosophy. By that Inmean old-fashioned philosophy—Socrates, Hume, Mill—nmixed with literature with moral overtones—Shakespeare,nDostoyevski, Camus, and the like. I was deeply exposed tonthe thoughts and actions of men of the ancient past, ofnmankind dealing with Ultimate Questions.nIn the course of my study of moral philosophy I havenbeen privileged to have had wonderful mentors. One wasnPhil Rhinelander at Stanford. He introduced me to the greatnstoic tract by Epictetus, The Enchiridion, and explained thatnFrederick the Great never left on a campaign without havingna copy in his knapsack. Three years later I was slapped in anpolitical prison for four years of solitary confinement—innthe very world of Epictetus. Another mentor was JoenBrennan of Columbia. He came to the Naval War Collegenwhen I was its president to help me introduce moralnphilosophy there. For 10 years he has taught a course inn”Foundations of Moral Obligations.” He has taught angeneration of Navy and Marine Corps leaders, and they arenbetter leaders for having taken his course. Those twonmentors, despite their differences, had a great deal inncommon; each had one foot in modernity, one in antiquity.nThey gave me much. They led me to a treasure of strikingninsights such as this one by Mark Van Doren: “Being anneducated person means that given the necessity [afterndoomsday, so to speak], you could refound your ownncivilization.”nThe Stoics said that “Character is fate.” What I amnsaying is that in my life, education has been fate. I becamenwhat I learned, or maybe I should say I became thendistillation of what fascinated me most as I learned it. Onlynthree years after I left graduate school, I participated in thenrefounding of my own civilization after doomsday, when thengiant doors of an Old World dungeon had slammed shutnand locked me and a couple hundred other Americansnin — in total silence, in solitary confinement, in leg irons, innblindfolds for weeks at a time, in antiquity, in a politicalnprison.nThat refounded civilization became our salvation.nStripped to nothing, nothing but the instincts and intelligencenof the ancients, we improvised a communicationnsystem dredged up from inklings of a distant past (actuallynthe tap code of Polybius, a second-century Greek historiannwith a flair for cryptography), and lived on comradeship in annnJULY 198819n