Who am I? Why am I here?

I'm not a politician -- everybody knows that. So don't expect me to use the language of the Washington insider. Thirty-seven years in the Navy, and only one of them up there in Washington. And now I'm an academic.

The centerpiece of my life was the Vietnam War. I was there the day it started. I led the first bombing raid against North Vietnam. I was there the day it ended, and I was there for everything in between. Ten years in Vietnam, aerial combat, and torture. I know things about the Vietnam War better than anybody in the world. I know some things about the Vietnam War better than anybody in the world.

And I know how governments, how American governments can be -- can be courageous, and how they can be callow. And that's important. That's one thing I'm an insider on.

I was the leader of the underground of the American pilots who were shot down in prison in North Vietnam. You should know that the American character displayed in those dungeons by those fine men was a thing of beauty.

I look back on those years as the beginning of wisdom, learning everything a man can learn about the vulnerabilities and the strengths that are ours as Americans.

Why am I here tonight? I am here because I have in my brain and in my heart what it takes to lead America through tough times.
- Vice Admiral James Stockdale's opening statement in the October 13, 1992 Vice-Presidential Debate

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