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Presidential Election 2016: A Monmouth connection

September 16, 2016

Although all Monmouth students walk through the Stockdale Center every day, few know who it is named after and its connection to presidential politics. With third party candidates like Gary Johnson all the rage this cycle, James Stockdale is one to note in the history of elections.

Born on December 23, 1923 in Abingdon, Stockdale grew up in the Knox County area for most of his childhood. He would then attend Monmouth for his first year of college, where he played football and was involved with Greek life. With the Second World War at full bloom, he would receive an appointment to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Stockdale would graduate from Annapolis with the class of 1946.

After graduating from the Naval Academy, Stockdale began his service as a Surface Warfare Officer before being accepted into flight school in Pensacola, Florida. He would serve as a Naval Aviator for the rest of his career.

In 1964, Stockdale would walk into history for the first time when he was involved Gulf of Tonkin incident, when torpedo boats from the Vietnamese Navy attacked the USS Maddox. This would be the event that would start the Vietnam War, changing the course of history.

On September 9, 1965, the A-4 Skyhawk aircraft that Captain Stockdale was piloting was shot down over North Vietnam. He was subsequently captured, starting the seven and half year ordeal of being confined and tortured as a prisoner of war camps. He would spend time in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton,” where he was brutally tortured to the edge of death. As the most senior officer held in captivity, he would lead escape and resistant efforts for the other prisoners. When told that he would be used for propaganda purposes, Stockdale slit his own scalp and beat himself with a stool so that they would not be successful in their plans. He would finally be released on February 12, 1973. In 1976, Stockdale was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Gerald Ford for his actions while held prisoner in Vietnam and would rise to the rank of Vice Admiral before retiring from the United States Navy.

In 1992, Stockdale would be contacted by Ross Perot about the possibility of being Perot’s running mate as part of an independent ticket. Stockdale was initially supposed to be a temporary vice presidential candidate but was never replaced before Perot suspended his candidacy. He would gain notoriety during the 1992 Vice Presidential Debate against Dan Quayle and Al Gore. At the beginning of the debate, Stockdale opened with “Who am I? Why am I here?” which was supposed to highlight his relative obscurity and lead into him explaining his life story. However, it was quickly lampooned and led to Stockdale being viewed as confused.

Although Perot and Stockdale did not get close to winning the 1992 Presidential Race, they did receive 19% of the national vote. This percent of the national vote received is still the highest independent result of American history.

Jacob Marx
Staff Reporter

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