Vice Admiral James Stockdale, one of the most highly decorated officers in the history of the United States Navy, was shot down over enemy territory and was the highest-ranking naval officer held as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
In his book "Good to Great", a true classic of business literature, James C. Collins wrote about a conversation he had with Vice Admiral Stockdale regarding the coping strategy Stockdale used during his period in the Vietnamese POW camp.
"I never lost faith in the end of the story, I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade."
When Collins asked who didn't make it out of Vietnam, Stockdale replied: "Oh, that’s easy, the optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, 'We're going to be out by Christmas.' And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they'd say, 'We're going to be out by Easter.' And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart."
Stockdale then added:
"This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
Witnessing this philosophy of duality, Collins went on to describe it as the Stockdale Paradox.
As we go forward in our struggle to return Wisconsin to the great state Bob LaFollette destined us to be, Stockdale Paradox is an important concept to remember. August 9, 2011 did not turn out to be the magic date many hoped it would be. A powerful message was sent and we hope will be heard; if not by Scott Walker and his backers, then by politicians who today feel a little less secure about their employment then before. Still, the State Senate remains under Scott Walker's control.
Not every battle will be won, not every effort will have the desired outcome, but in the end we will prevail. Following the lessons of Vice Admiral Stockdale, we simply cannot anticipate to be free of Scott Walker and his ilk by any certain date. That is a recipe for disappointment and a broken heart. We must remain disciplined to confront "the most brutal facts" of our current reality yet we must never lose hope!
Remember not that victory will come on a certain date but that it will come. Because we know that we must succeed, as long as we believe that one day we shall overcome, we will.