The Accidental Admiral

Today, I had the pleasure of attending a talk by James Stavridis, Dean of Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Previously, Dean Stavridis, a retired Admiral in the U.S. Navy, served as the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO.

So he’s kind of a big deal.

Dean Stavridis discussed a range of issues, including his book, The Accidental Admiral. As the name implies, the book traces his unexpected life journey.

So much of our lives are accidental, Stavridis mused as he described his rise to “Supreme Allied Commander of NATO” – a title which doesn’t sound like a role a real person would have.

Someone asked him how – before he found himself in a position of such power – he dealt with that sense of individual effort being futile in the face of such great challenges. How did he answer the question, what can I do when I’m just one person?

Stavridis responded with a Russian proverb – it’s better to light a candle than to curse the light.

One person can make a difference, he argued. But for one person to make a difference it takes collaboration. We each have the power to generate change, but to do so effectively, to do so in a good way, we need to work together.


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