WASHINGTON, DC – Greek-American Retired Admiral James Stavridis talked about his naval career, global security, and leadership on C-SPAN’s In Depth on July 5. Admiral Stavridis, former Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, is the author of Command at Sea, The Accidental Admiral, and Sailing True North: Ten Admirals and the Voyage of Character which was published last year. In the interview, Admiral Stavridis talks about his career and quotes from renowned Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis.
When asked why he referred to himself as “The Accidental Admiral,” Admiral Stavridis told C-SPAN host Peter Slen, “First of all because at a certain level all of our lives are accidents. You can choose to steer a particular course, but the sea will come, wind will come, you’ll move ultimately in a different direction. More prosaically, it comes from a period in my career when I was a four star admiral […] and I was very hopeful of going to the Pacific next as a commander of U.S. Pacific command, which is a very traditional position for a senior admiral. My boss, wonderful boss, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, called me up and said, ‘Stavridis, we're going to send you to NATO.’ I was the first and thus far the only admiral to be Supreme Allied Commander in NATO and just an accident of timing and fate and Secretary Gate's decision. So from a NATO perspective I was kind of the accidental admiral who became the Supreme Allied Commander.”
Asked about the Navy being “an accident” as a career, Stavridis said, “Somewhat … I grew up in a Marine Corps family. My father, George Stavridis, proud colonel of Marines, fought in Korea and Vietnam. I grew up in that environment, and so went to Quantico High School, south of Washington, DC, went off to the Naval Academy thinking I would be a Marine Corps officer and here's the accident. After my first year … the Navy sends everybody out on a cruise and so you go out on a ship. I went out on a beautiful cruiser out of San Diego, and I walked up on the bridge of that ship in the evening, gotten away from the pier late in the day and I got up there and the sun was setting and I looked out on all that ocean and all that light and I was like St. Paul on the road to Damascus, I just wanted to be a sailor at that point and be in ships. So I went home and told my dad and my mom, Shirley, and they were kind of hoping I would be a Marine, but they got over it. Years later when I put on my first star as an admiral my dad said, I think that came out okay for you, Jim.’”
Later in the interview when asked what is on the back of his business card, Admiral Stavridis noted that “the back of my business card is blank and perhaps I should think about putting something clever back there.” He then mentioned Kazantzakis whom he called “the greatest of modern Greek writers” and the inscription on the famed Greek author’s tombstone, “I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.”
Admiral Stavridis pointed out that “I would want it there because I think we need to be fearless in our lives. We need to do what we think is right.”
The full interview is available online: https://www.c-span.org/video/?472952-1/depth-admiral-james-stavridis.