Applying Past to Present
By PHILIP L. DUNMIRE, Navy League National President.
It was my great honor and privi- lege to participate in the presentation of the Navy League’s Alfred
Thayer Mahan Award for Literary
Achievement on Feb. 16 in Washington to Adm. James G. Stavridis,
Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, and Commander, United
States European Command.
Alfred Thayer Mahan (1840-
1914), a U.S. Navy flag officer,
naval theorist, geostrategist and
historian, is most well known for
his work “Influence of Sea Power
Upon History, 1660–1783” (1890).
Mahan’s ideas helped shape naval
forces of the world during his time
and they still permeate U.S. Navy doctrine today.
It was only fitting that this award be given to Adm.
Stavridis “for phenomenal and prolific writing of naval
theory and history to the benefit of the United States.”
He is the author or co-author of several books on
naval ship handling and leadership, including
“Command at Sea,” “Destroyer Captain: Lessons of a
First Command” and “Partnership for the Americas:
Western Hemisphere Strategy and U.S. Southern
Command.” His writings represent personal and professional reflection and how experiences and lessons
learned from them can be applied today and in the
Just as Mahan’s work continues to provide guidance
to those who share in the defense of this nation from
the sea, so too does the work of Adm. Stavridis,
whether it be a book, magazine article or an entry in
In his Dec. 5 blog entry, Adm. Stavridis recounted
being asked by a group of cadets and midshipmen
about his career and what he had learned along the way.
“I realized the three events that swam into focus
were all moments of failure,” he wrote. “Yet from each
of them I learned something valuable that I still carry
around in my mind.”
From the three instances he learned the “power of
second chances,” the importance of “peer support” and
“that there are times when you need to reach outside
your organization for expert help, and that doing that
sooner rather than later makes a
lot of sense. Outside help does not
connote weakness, but is instead
an indication of a full-spectrum
approach to problem solving.