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Building Bridges of Honor

 

 

as presented to:

 

 

The AVG Flying Tigers Association

73rd Anniversary Reunion Grand Banquet

 

 

By: Tieman H. Dippel, Jr.

 

 

 

Intercontinental Hotel Dallas

September 27, 2014


 

 

Building Bridges of Honor

 

A Presentation to

The AVG Flying Tigers Association

73rd Anniversary Reunion Grand Banquet

 

September 27, 2014

 

 

 

It is an honor to be with you tonight as part of an event that commemorates the legacy of The Flying Tigers’ achievements and their character.  Their efforts in shooting down 299 enemy planes and destroying 200 on the ground, often outnumbered 15 to 1, stand as a unique achievement.  However, there is another legacy of which I would like to speak and for which they equally must be credited, and that has been the very unique bridge their actions created with China for the United States and its people.  As I have traveled China over the years, I have been amazed at how many people remember the Flying Tigers as a symbol not only of courage, but of compassion, of honor, and of standing with China at a time of need.  It is that legacy of the ideals of honor in a culture that appreciates honor, which I feel has contributed even more to the positive effects of their actions.

 

This second legacy is a concept that they engrained within their families, and those of you who are here tonight not only in the Association, but in the related groups that are the core of this legacy of ideas that I would define as the acceptance of responsibility which is character and is ultimately driven by conscience.  What was done by the Flying Tigers in China is important, but why they did it and the principles that motivated their actions are perhaps even more important today.  Few people in America understand the difficulties in China at the time they went to her assistance, but the families of those in China do remember and have passed the history down just as your family has to you.

 

I have always been impressed by Will Allen Dromgoole’s story, The Bridge Builder, because it captured the essence of this conscience.  It was descriptive of how ideas had to be passed on to the next generation.   It tells a story of an older man who, even though it was no personal benefit to him, took the time to build a bridge over a  treacherous stream to benefit the less experienced youth that would follow.  He had already crossed the chasm, but re-crossed to build the bridge.  He took the risk in his old age because he saw life beyond himself.  When an onlooker asked why, he noted that a younger man crossing might not have the experience to know how, age taught him that you need to pass on wisdom and compassion.

 

There is no relevance to great acts if they are forgotten and it is the power of history that shapes the culture that is taught to children and keeps ideas and concepts not only relevant, but in power.  So the continuation of the history and principles of the Flying tigers is important far beyond just this organization.

 

The world has become far more materialized where the character of heroes is often not focused upon as much as the celebrities of the culture.  We all seek to understand what has happened to the value systems that both the East and the West used to have far more clearly defined.  You are here today because you, like me, believe intensely in the concepts and the values of those that preceded you and that were so well defined earlier in the program.  Ollie was kind enough to focus on a statement that I gave when The Language of Conscience  was publically presented after its translation and publication by the Central Party School in Beijing which provides executive training for many of China’s highest officials.  The presentation described this book as a bridge with the West on ethics, on morality, and on cultural values.   In my response I noted, “The most durable and best cultural bridges are built, not just upon the words and actions of men, but upon the honor and wisdom of their ancestors and the concern for the future of their children. For wise men understand that the lessons of history are also the strategic forces shaping destiny.”       

 

It has been an observation used on numerous occasions since to point out that the immediate pressures of the times are often emotional and wisdom needs to encompass a recognition of the power of history and the wisdom to choose what is best for our children in the future.  There is no greater example that I have used than the Flying Tigers and their relationship to China when I have had these discussions there.  The concept of a Warrior’s Honor that gives dignity to discussion sets tone.  It is not the appearance of the handshake and smile that is determinative of relationships, but the heart and mind.  Those are defined by actions.

 

Several people had recommended to the Association that The Language of Conscience book series represents in many ways the core ideals of the Flying Tigers and in many ways captures their relevance moving forward.  I would agree totally.   While it is a six book series, it represents the work of a great many people from many countries, particularly Ms. Vivian Lee and Omega International Group who has helped develop and promote the book concepts for twenty-years.  Most significant was a five-year collaboration of the Texas Lyceum and the Central Party School leadership.  Through delegations and discussions many of their leaders and scholars participated in helping me write a number of the books in the series, and helped us all  to understand what the East and the West had in common.  It isn’t until you have serious discussion and candid reviews of ideas that protocol becomes secondary to the wisdom of candid discussion.  Later contributions by the Chancellors of the State Council and the Chinese National Academy of Sciences’ refined thought.  The University of Texas at Dallas assisted in many ways.  It was clear values as opposed to interests were the best bridges.  Confucius and Christ both taught the concept of reciprocity.  They both taught that man should diminish self and look to concern for others and how he can serve them. Both philosophies and religions, as well as those of Buddha and Mohammed, look to this same distinction of a minimization of self.  It became the common core of discussion.

 

What we learned in these efforts and are reflected in The Language of Conscience Concept which is a helpful bridge of how to think about relationships such as America and China.  This has been the focus of your Association for the last seventy plus years, and through good times and bad, it has been devoted to the concept of a positive relationship between two powerful nations.  It has never been more important than it is today.  The most recent book in the series, The Wisdom of Generations, talks of the lessons of history that the greatest periods of difficulty and risk are when you have a rising power engaged with an existing power on the world stage. How relationships are built and issues decided greatly affect ultimate outcomes for both countries and the world.

 

The Language of Conscience Concept in brief, is that there are two forces in society and the world.  One is change, the other is the existing status quo that is brought forth by the power of history.  The balance between those two is the concept of personal dignity.  Because the nature of man is that there is a recognition of the need for change, but there is also a recognition for a need for stability of the existing structures and balance is how each individual thinks about the issue in judging his level of satisfaction.  How you think about the issue determines what you think about an issue.  The cumulative effect of all of the individual thought becomes that of a society, so how we think about things becomes increasingly important, and how we are willing to process information in dealing with others where we often have preconceived ideas is also extremely important.  One of the strongest desires within an individual is to be proved correct so there is often a predetermination of how information is received.  My Father used to tell me that even The Lord’s Prayer could be interpreted very differently if it did not begin “My Father” but “My Judge”.  This overall perspective is determined by an organizing principle of thought that sets how we think.

 

In determining this personal dignity or satisfaction with events, there are three pure powers that affect that concept.  They are economics, politics, and culture.  Economics today is often nationalized and within nations is divided into rich versus poor.  Politics is also nationalized with nations and within nations is often small government versus large government.  These are both interests and they are difficult concepts upon which to build bridges outside of common transactional interest.  The third power, and often the greatest one in affecting thought, is culture.  It is in effect conscience versus convenience and can be transformational.  Conscience is caring about others and caring about the future, while convenience is caring about self and now.  This distinction provides the definitions for responsibility and for honor.  The Flying Tigers may have had adventure, but they did so with a dedication of character at the core.  They exemplify the concept.

 

As we worked on the Collaboration Agreement’s exchanges and books, it became clear that the West looks at issues in a much more legalistic or political sense. We are a nation divided into different political states each of which has its own culture.  China is different in that it is more a common culture that has political divisions.  They each have differing characteristics, but a more uniform culture.  America was developed by diverse immigrants, China by expansion of existing groups.   In America we look at everything from our individual perspective much like the owner of suburban house that feels this is his world and it centers with him.  Chinese philosophy has a greater appreciation of the group somewhat similar to a condominium in that there may be individual ownerships, but there is still a significant recognition of the necessity of coordination between all because of the common services within the building so external forces such as the government which provides them are viewed more like a building manager.  So perspectives on government differ from how you see function.

 

What we found is that if bridges were to be built they needed to be built culturally on the values that both sides held dear.  Eastern culture greatly recognizes the importance of personal dignity, of honor, and the concept of shame and dishonor is significant.  Western culture to many such as us hold those same ideals, particularly the military and law enforcement, although in some cases with the modern world in a diminished state. Media often changes culture, and what you value is what you pass on, so today we need to sensitize the coming generations as to what is truly important.

 

My Father was the basis of many of the values that are conveyed in the books and fit closely with the value systems of the Chinese and the Flying Tigers.  He was nicknamed the “Peacemaker” and carried what was called the “Light of Enlightenment”,  but the nickname was given to him as a Sheriff by the Texas Rangers because he was 6’3”, 240 pounds, and is honored by the Texas Sheriffs’ Association for his integrity and toughness in rallying the community to look upon law enforcement as a supporting friend rather than a threat.  His “Light of Enlightenment” was an eight cell flashlight that replaced a billy club that he used for self-defense.  He resigned as Sheriff during World War II because they would not draft him in the position and he felt he needed to follow in the footsteps of three previous generations and serve.  His values moved forward that we have another two generations of our family that have had the same concept of the military just as I am sure there are many of you in this room that understand the concept of obligation.  I would have greatly enjoyed wearing my Formal Whites tonight as a Naval Lieutenant Commander, but my last time was the Vietnam era when I was 160 pounds.  Times and people change, but values should not.

 

When many of the Chinese read about Dad, a comparison was often made with the Flying Tigers, which was a part of their image of America.  It was also often with their parents who taught them these concepts of honor and “face”.  In the family is where bridges between nations have to be built.  These are the ideas of the ancestors that we need to continue and to honor.  The challenge for this Association and  the challenge for our books is to find how to build a better bridge on this concept of honor that sensitizes an appreciation of the power of conscience and sacrifice for others.  It is our job to find ways not only to carry forth an appreciation of the legacy of the activities of the past, but to build a future that is the best for all of our children and gives the greatest opportunity with dignity.  It is toward that end that I think we are all united in realizing that the legacy of the Flying Tigers is not necessarily the greatest American military kill ratio in history, but is instead a symbol of the power of responsibility and the essence of conscience which can be a bridge and a guide to how we make the world better for our children which is where conscience ultimately focuses.  Our mutual bridge with China is the most significant issue facing the world, and like the bridge needs solid ties at both ends.  That only occurs with trust and wisdom which gives an appreciation of the concern for our children and the future. 

 

It has been an honor to be with you and a small part of a program that defines a group that faced a situation appropriate to the playing of the Deguello, or the “No Quarter” bugle call of the Alamo, and responded instead with Cervantes’ Man of La Mancha’s ultimate “The Impossible Dream”.

                            

                                      

 

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