Self-Proclaimed Hero Scott Shields: Lessons in Humility

SEE IMPORTANT OCTOBER 15, 2008 UPDATE HERE.

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.

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6 thoughts on “Self-Proclaimed Hero Scott Shields: Lessons in Humility

  1. Great article. Your last paragraph is spot on. You don’t find the heroes by looking for people announcing themselves. You look for other people talking about them.

  2. My goodness, Matt, I am honored that you have not only found my article within moments of my publishing it, but have given it your approval. How did you find my blog? Are you a dog (simply kids of the furry persuasion) lover besides that of being a great inspiration for kids?

  3. As you may know Scott Shields is scheduled to be sentenced on October 14, 2008 (next Tuesday) The Assistant US Attorney handling the case is soliciting witnesses to testify at the sentencing hearing to rebut Scott’s testimony.

    If you would like to participate it is suggested that you contact:

    Jenna Minicucci Dabbs
    United States Attorney, Southern District New York
    One Saint Andrew’s Plaza
    New York, NY 10007

    (212)637-2212 ; (212)637-2937 (fax) ; jenna.dabbs@usdoj.gov

    Thank You

  4. Excellent!

    I’v always thought of McCain as fraud, and you pointed wy much more eloquently than I could manage in my vert best effort.

    “Self-proclaimed hero” is a contradiction in terms. What makes a hero a hero is the selflessness, humility, and concern for others that their heroic act entails. McCain, on the other hand, is simply a pilot who was unfortunate enough to get shot out of the sky.

    One might say, that, and his horrific experience as a POW thereafter was enough in itself to be proclaimed a hero. that might be true if it were not for several isses.

    First, as so insightfully pointed out in your article, McCain lacks the humility of a hero – Audie Murphy he’s not – he proclaims himself a hero, if not explicitly, ad the very least, by implication.

    Second, His act of “heroism” was not purposeful. he simply happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. In addition, his actions that were purposeful in response to the situation thereafter, is up for serious debate.

    And finally, even if we relent and grant him the status of hero (of a lesser status), the nation hasmore than paid our debt to him by eduring having it continously shoved down our throats for his own personal gain, and having granted him a pass after the Keating 5 scandle.

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