Texas Liberal

All People Matter

The Big Issues In The 2012 Presidential Debates—Who Am I? Why Am I Here? What Is Reality?

The first debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama will be held this evening.

Voters merit discussion of the most important issues.

Above is a short clip of Vice Admiral James Stockdale asking the most essential questions of “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?’ in the 1992 Vice Presidential debate.

Admiral Stockdale—A Vietnam War hero—was the running mate of Ross Perot in 1992.

People made fun of Admiral Stockdale, but I’m not sure what questions are more central to how we should conduct ourselves in life. Admiral Stockdale spent seven years in a Vietnamese prison. For much of that time Admiral Stockdale was in solitary confinement.  I’m certain he had plenty of time to think in his years of confinement.  It is no surprise that a reflective leader such as Admiral Stockdale asked the most relevant questions I’ve ever heard in a politcal debate.

The excellent New Scientist  magazine has a series of articles in a recent edition that discuss the nature of reality. (You have to register with the website to read the articles.)

I think a discussion on the nature of reality would be a fine topic for the debate tonight.

In any case, after you hear the prepared answers to the predictable questions in the debate tonight—Be sure to recall that the work of freedom and creativity and of an open hopeful society is up to each of us.

Your conceptions of the work to be done will surely be informed by your ideas of who you are and what your purpose is in the world.

Everyday people are fully capable of figuring complex stuff for themselves. This is the case even though we so often seem to forget this fact in our often silly and mean-spirited society.

Everything we need to understand the world is around us and is accessible with discipline, imagination and some luck. 

Don’t let prepared answers to predictable questions define what you are going to do with your life.

If we allow our lives to be defined by prepared answers to predictable questions, we will end up cheating ourselves out of our abilities and out of our own understanding of the world.

October 3, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , ,


  1. Neil, I was impressed with your blog and thought you were starting to see the light….but….then it hit me. “Why does it sound like Neil is waking from the trance the media has had him in?” Then I realized, you have been listening to the media again. Its everywhere and anywhere inside the political media that Obama is ill prepared for the debate and has never been a good debater in the first place. I think you are laying the groundwork for what the media expects to be an embarrassing performance by the president. Wasn’t there a huge change in the polls in the last two days? I think there was a double digit gain for Romney on Obama wasn’t there? I wonder if it was always that close or if the poll numbers were biased????

    Comment by Mike | October 3, 2012

  2. Mike–I can tell you for 100% that the motive you suggest was not a glimmer of thought in my mind when I wrote this post. The idea that we should ask deeper questions and not accept prepared answers to predictable questions is fully consistent with what I often say here that the work of freedom is up to each of us. Folks frustrated with me for endorsing the Green nominee in 2012 don’t feel I’m in some sort of Obama trance.

    While it seems clear that Mr. Obama lost the debate last night, it was not so that the polls were moving closer. National polls in the past 2 or 3 days were anywhere from a tie to Obama +7. Mr. Romney led in none of them. State polls in swing states were solid for Obama. I can’t tell you if the debate will impact these numbers, but that is where we were before the debate yesterday.

    I appreciate your ongoing comments here.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | October 4, 2012

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