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Pulling Rank

Two battle ships assigned to the training squadron had been at sea on maneuvers in heavy weather for several days. I was serving on the lead battleship and was on watch on the bridge as night fell. The visibility was poor with patchy fog, so the captain remained on the bridge keeping an eye on all activities.

Shortly after dark, the lookout on the wing of the bridge reported, “Light, bearing on the starboard bow.”

“Is it steady or moving astern?” the captain called out.

Lookout replied, “Steady, captain,” which meant we were on a dangerous collision course with that ship.

The captain then called to the signalman, “Signal that ship: We are on a collision course, advise you change course 20 degrees.”

Back came a signal, “Advisable for you to change 20 degrees.”

The captain said, “Send, I’m a captain, change course 20 degrees.”

“I’m a seaman second class,” came the reply. “You had better change course 20 degrees.”

By that time the captain was furious. He spat out, “Send, I’m a battleship. Change course 20 degrees.”

Back came the flashing light, “I’m a lighthouse.”

We changed course.

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Like lighthouses, principles stand rock-solid, and they can guide us. In this rapidly changing world, where it seems there are not many things we can solidly rely on, principles are ageless and foundational. They have a guidingproperty: like the evening star that sailors could rely on to show them the way.

Timothy Schoorei

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