Self-Proclaimed Hero Scott Shields: Lessons in Humility


So much is going on right now, with a complicated election, touching us all. But the attacks on one’s character and patriotism have been particularly repugnant. It seems that within the divisiveness of McCain’s pursuit of the presidency, the integral constructs of both honesty and humility have been lost.

Matt Langdon, creator of the Hero Workshop program, recently asked the pivotal question, Is John McCain a Hero? Yet, he admits that “an American presidential election is not the place to look for the truth about people.”

McCain’s public persona is very much steeped in the idea that he is an American hero. He leads with his character out front and his service to his country right along side. So, what makes him a hero? McCain’s focus on character first is another possibility for claiming the hero status. His own words describe a desire to act as an example of honour and service for everyone, especially his children. Those same words describe some quiet, everyday heroic behaviour from one of his captors. And yet many would tell you McCain lacks those very qualities. In general, the POW/MIA activist community hates him as pointed out in depth in the Phoenix New Times. Patty O’Grady of University of Tampa lays the cards on the table with some open questions. Her father was in both prison camps that McCain was in.

  • In the interest of full disclosure why do you refuse to release your Department of Defense POW debriefing?
  • In the interest of full disclosure why have you failed to release all military medical records including psychological studies – 1973-1993?
  • Why do you only reference the time spent as a prisoner in the Hanoi Hilton”?
  • When will you provide details about the time spent in the prison referred to as “Plantation Gardens”?
  • Did you ever receive any preferential or atypical treatment while a POW in any location where you were held? How soon and when did you reveal your true identity to your Vietnamese captors – did you simply give name, rank and serial number?
  • Has any other former Vietnam Prisoners of War or Vietnam veteran questioned the record that you claim particularly your claims of “torture”?
  • What was your connection to the “Peace Committee”?
  • Have you ever referenced the “blue files” in any speech that you have given? What are the “blue files”? Where are those files housed? Why do you not want those files released?
  • Have you ever lost your temper with military families who challenged your position?
  • Have you ever acted in an inappropriate way or in a less than gentlemanly manner with any female spouse of any active duty military personnel member?

Eric Wattree says, “A hero is one who acts with nobility of purpose, and selflessly sacrifices his life, or places his life in imminent danger to promote the interests of the nation or his comrades. That doesn’t define McCain…”

In Dr. Mark Strom’s chapter, Humility, from the 2003 book, The Seven Heavenly Virtues of Leadership, he discusses humanity with nobility:

Clearly, humility does not exist in isolation from the other virtues, qualities and arts of leadership. When it comes to leadership there is perhaps one characteristic manner of being that stands out as the natural twin of humility. Humility and nobility. Humility with nobility:

Honor is not the same as public acclaim. Virtue is not determined in moments of public attention to our behavior. Courage, devotion, compassion, humility — all the noble human qualities — are not practiced in pursuit of public approval. They are means to much nobler ends. And they are ends in themselves. Senator John McCain

According to the Concise Macquarie Dictionary, to be noble is to be: Admirable in dignity of conception, or in manner of expression, execution, or composition; imposing in appearance; stately; magnificent; of an admirably high quality.

We are not talking about nobility in the sense of ranks made elite by birth or decree, but of nobility of purpose, and of a personal bearing that befits that purpose.

While I believe the Senator’s statement is merely words put to paper, rather than revealing his true character, Dr. Strom’s article in its entirety is a MUST-READ. I particularly enjoyed his discussion of humility as it relates to other virtues and qualities.

Humility needs to be seen in relationship to our other virtues and qualities. It is inward looking in a way most other virtues are not. Humility is a stance I take towards myself before it is a stance I take towards others. With the possible exception of integrity, the other virtues are mostly a stance we take towards others and the wider challenges of life. I’m not saying that humility is the most important. The virtues need to be seen as interdependent. Each needs to be seen in the light of the others. Humility without compassion, courage or integrity is hollow. Without humility the other virtues may become parodies: Compassion without humility is likely to be patronising. Courage without humility is likely to be foolhardy. Humour without humility is likely to be cruel. Integrity without humility is likely to be self-righteous. Passion without humility is likely to be overbearing. Wisdom without humility is likely to be pompous.

Tim Dickinson, in his breathtaking new MUST-READ October 2008 Rolling Stone article, Make-Believe Maverick: A closer look at the life and career of John McCain reveals a disturbing record of recklessness and dishonesty, has truly addressed the character of this man. His lead anecdote and beginning “McCAIN FIRST” story premise frame the tale perfectly:

This is the story of the real John McCain, the one who has been hiding in plain sight. It is the story of a man who has consistently put his own advancement above all else, a man willing to say and do anything to achieve his ultimate ambition: to become commander in chief, ascending to the one position that would finally enable him to outrank his four-star father and grandfather.

It seems that this backdrop so perfectly frames a story that I have been pursuing since shortly after September 11, 2001, as we were jolted by a coordinated attack upon our country—carried out by nineteen hijackers who took control of four commercial airliners. It is hard to believe that it is already two years since I wrote the article, TRADING IN ON TRAGEDY FOR FAME: Succumbing to the Lure of Truthiness. And, looking at this title, it is spookily prescient when we look at the McCain campaign’s incessant POW story push.

But my article is one that detailed a sad case of 9/11 fraud from self-proclaimed Search & Rescue hero, Scott Shields. While I do not believe that the wheels of justice will ever turn in this case, sentencing is scheduled to proceed at the US District Court for the Southern District of New York on October 14, 2008. Unfortunately, I’ve had difficulty generating mainstream interest in this story, and Mr. Shields has caused irreparable damage to the typically unheralded Search & Rescue heroes who are always there for us at devastating urban disasters …. such as that at Ground Zero following the infamous 9/11 attacks. And, he has continued to take money from unsuspecting folks as he touts his purported heroic deeds at trade shows, elementary & middle schools, Boy Scout Group meetings, and more.

Besides his theft of government funds, mail fraud & conspiracy to defraud the US after receiving almost $50,000 from FEMA and the American Red Cross, Scott Shields continues to collect disability for his Ground Zero injuries. Interestingly, despite claims of breaking both knees and an ankle, he was doing just fine about a month later while walking behind Hilary Clinton in the October 8, 2001 Columbus Day parade.

Lt Dan Donadio, head of the NYPD’s canine teams in 2001, had 25 teams on the site round the clock for nine long months, scraping through the pulverized concrete. Scott Shields was down at Ground Zero for a little over a day, but managed to spin his experience into an epic. And, always on the look-out for the next big disaster, he further tried to benefit from the Katrina disaster.

Mr. Shields claimed 847 live rescues, evacuating under 6000 people, and that 11,000 people are alive today because of his group. Yet, rescuers who were there indicated the following: “His numbers exceed the entire 82nd Airborne’s numbers including the Superdome evacuation. So even if he took credit for all of their hard work, his numbers are still an aberration.” … Scott was escorted out of LA and was on the water only ONE DAY. I spoke to the Chief and Superintendent of NOPD. They told me they never heard of Scott and there was NO WAY he rescued 5,000 or 11,000. … In those pictures, if you look, he is in shorts and just shoes, looks like he is on vacation while everyone else has knee pads on and is working, and that was just at camp.”

I have learned that the true heroes out there are not easily found. They do not do this job for the fanfare. They do not have media agents working on getting them mentioned in endless news articles. They are not obsessed with gaining notoriety. In fact, they’d rather not be in the spotlight. Rather, they struggle and train and work hard because they can, because they know they can help a fellow human being. These folks are a gifted bunch, and we do depend on their spirit of giving . . . for that time when it may be our lives hanging in the balance.


Golden Guide Lucky a first in China – Updated

I originally posted the following story on January 17, 2008.
0013729e4abe08d3ebd20e.jpgIt is amazing that some things that we so easily take for granted are not available to many other nations in the world. It has taken over 20 years for China to have Guide Dogs despite there being over 12 million people there suffering from some type of visual impairment.

Sadly, the country does not allow open access for larger dogs such as Goldens so Ping Yali, shown here, cannot take full advantage of Lucky’s abilities.

For example, he cannot enter public places. And the city of Beijing does not allow him taken outside unless he is in the company of an able-bodied (rather than blind) person.

Lucky guides Ping across roads, not by recognizing the color of traffic lights, but by watching traffic flows. Lucky recognized the word “Gongyuan”, which means park, after being shown it only a couple of times.

Golden retrievers are considered one of the best breeds for guide dogs because of their intelligence and friendly disposition. The Dalian Medical University Center, where Lucky was trained, was established two years ago. It is now training some 30 canines for visually impaired athletes to raise awareness about facilities for the blind. It takes eight months and costs about 100,000 yuan ($13,500) to train a guide dog.

Ping’s first exposure to guide dogs was at the New York Paralympics, where many blind athletes from European countries and the United States had their own seeing dogs.

On September the 20th, the temporary permission that allowed guide dogs in public places came to an end. The permission, that dated from June 20th was issued due to the Paralympics. Now, again, guide dogs are regarded as ordinary pets and are not allowed on public transportation.

Since there is no accredited organization in China for guide dogs, Ping cannot register him as such. Golden Lucky is taller than Beijing’s current pet standards of 35 cm, and registering him is complicated as ownership of large dogs is restricted. Only seven disabled people in China have seeing eye dogs.

After Paralympics, what´s next for China´s guide dogs?
Xinhua Special Report:  Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, September 17, 2008

BEIJING, Sept. 17 (Xinhua) — “Lucky; Hou Bin! Lucky; Hou Bin!” yells Ping Yali, a partially blind Chinese woman. “Lucky” is her 30-month-old guide dog. She holds on to his harness with her left hand. In her right, Ping proudly lifts up the Paralympic torch.

Ping cannot see the bright lights beating down on her; she can’t even see the torch she is holding, but she can hear thousands of cheering fans. Their screams get louder as she and Lucky make their way toward Hou Bin, the last torch bearer in the Paralympic’s opening ceremony.

This time the hand-off from one disabled athlete to another is seamless. That was not the case just one month ago. Ping did not bring Lucky with her to the torch relay for the Beijing Olympics. As she made her way through Tian’anmen Square, the torchbearers in front of and behind her did not know she was blind. A passer-by had to tell her when to grab the flame. Ping then ran in zig-zags to hand it to the next person.

“If Lucky were with me, it would never have happened,” said Ping. “He would definitely have led me to the destination.”

Lucky is one of only seven seeing-eye dogs in China. Ping was chosen as one of the first recipients of a guide because she won the country’s first gold medal in the long jump at the 1984 New York Paralympics.

During their first walk together, Lucky helped guide Ping down stairs, which is one of the most challenging tasks for a blind person.  “At that moment, I burst into tears,” she said. “Lucky reduces the risk of injuring myself when I go out.”

The golden retriever graduated from China’s only guide dog training center at Dalian Medical Science University in the northeastern Liaoning Province.  Ping received Lucky last December and will live with him for the next ten years.  The pair go out for morning exercise, shopping, wandering in the park and also to various Paralympic venues.  “I was quite impressed when people struggle to stroke and soothe Lucky when I was with him outside. They truly liked him,” she said.

But Lucky can’t go everywhere. Taxi drivers refuse to give Pinga ride if she has her dog. She is also turned away on public transportation like buses and the subway.  In China, guide dogs were allowed in public places from July 20 to Sept. 20 thanks to a temporary certificate issued by the authority for the Olympics. Now that the Games are over, Ping worries about getting around with her guide dog.

“It is heart-wrenching thinking of Lucky’s fate after the deadline,” she said.

Ping doesn’t want him trapped inside her house all day so she tried to register Lucky with the Office for Dog-raising in Beijing. Her request was denied because she didn’t have a certificate proving Lucky was a guide dog.  So far, there are no accredited organizations for guide dogs in China. Lucky is also bigger than Beijing’s current pet standards of35 cm high. He stands at 80 cm.

An amendment to the Law on the Protection of Disabled Persons in April, granted the blind the right to take guide dogs to public places, provided they obeyed the ‘relevant regulations’.

Just what ‘relevant regulations’ mean is unclear to Wang Jingyu, the director of China’s Guide Dog Training Center.  “The article is too vague. Detailed rules are need to help its implementation,” said Wang.  He suggested the central government allow guide dogs in all public places and give more financial support to train more dogs.

The China Disabled Persons Federation estimates there are 12 million people with visual impairments in the country. Yet there are only 20 guide dogs currently receiving training in Dalian.  “Not every blind person needs a guide dog, but if he needs it,I hope I can give him the choice,” said Wang.

The cost to train a guide dog is more than 100,000 yuan (14,663U.S. dollars). Golden Retrievers, Labradors and German Sherpherds are the breeds most likely to be chosen and only 30 percent of those trained end up working with blind owners.  “Guide dogs should not be afraid of sounds, lights, fires and cars,” said Wang. “They should be calm and not invasive.”

China’s Guide Dog Training Center was established in May 2006.  The facility operates on a small government grant along with company and private donations. It employs 17 people, most of whom are young female university graduates. Wang said the future of the center is uncertain.

It’s not news Ping wants to hear.  For a divorced mother whose son has gone to university, Lucky helps not only with day-to-day tasks but also with her loneliness.  “Guide dogs are eyes for the blind. They can help us go out of rooms and integrate into the society. I hope more people could enjoy the benefits brought by the guide dogs,” said Ping.

An American donor gave Lucky his name. Ping says he’s already lived up to it.

Only six other blind people in China are as lucky as Ping to receive a guide dog, and she hopes her appearance with Lucky in the Paralympics will change those statistics.  “The Chinese people now know guide dogs are not pets. They are working dogs just as police dogs are,” she said. “Guide dogs are intelligent and friendly. They won’t cause any safety issues.”

As the spirit of inclusion lingers in China after the Paralympics, Ping hopes society will find a place for not only the blind but also their new four-legged companions.