Gates Urges Graduates to Consider Public Service

WASHINGTON, May 7, 2011 — U.S. pub­lic ser­vants are the most ded­i­cat­ed, capa­ble and hon­est in the world, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates said today dur­ing a com­mence­ment cer­e­mo­ny at Wash­ing­ton State Uni­ver­si­ty, in Pull­man, Wash.
The sec­re­tary, on the eve of his own retire­ment, used the podi­um to urge the grad­u­ates to con­sid­er ded­i­cat­ing at least part of their careers to some type of pub­lic ser­vice.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates
Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates address­es the audi­ence dur­ing the Wash­ing­ton State Uni­ver­si­ty com­mence­ment cer­e­mo­ny, May 7, 2011.
DOD pho­to by Cherie Cullen
Click to enlarge

Gates choked up briefly when recall­ing his most recent tenure as defense sec­re­tary, say­ing he will be for­ev­er thank­ful for the oppor­tu­ni­ty to lead today’s military. 

And he was still vis­i­bly emo­tion­al in his clos­ing as he issued a chal­lenge to the 2,350 graduates. 

“And so I ask you … will the wise and the hon­est among you come help us serve the Amer­i­can peo­ple?” Gates asked. 

Gates’ plea came in con­trast to ear­li­er jokes about life with­in the Wash­ing­ton, D.C., belt­way, as he often does in his speeches. 

“It’s a spe­cial plea­sure to be with you here today, espe­cial­ly since it gives me an excuse to get about as far away from the oth­er Wash­ing­ton as one can get with­in the con­ti­nen­tal Unites States,” Gates joked. 

Gates also joked about par­ents who will con­tin­ue to shell out mon­ey even after their chil­dren grad­u­ate. And he acknowl­edged that he was the only obsta­cle between the grad­u­ates and their grad­u­a­tion parties. 

So Gates kept his promise to keep his speech short. But he packed the 15 min­utes he spoke, with praise for the sac­ri­fices of those who serve their coun­try in and out of uniform. 

He quot­ed bil­lion­aires and film direc­tors, an opera star and an actress, pres­i­dents and their parents. 

It was in his own words, how­ev­er, based on a life­time of pub­lic ser­vice, that the seri­ous­ness of the mes­sage crept. Now, more than ever, the Unit­ed States needs the tal­ents of its best and bright­est, he said. 

“You are grad­u­at­ing in chal­leng­ing times, of that there is no ques­tion,” Gates said, cit­ing a decade of war, a peri­od of wrench­ing eco­nom­ic tur­bu­lence and a huge bud­get deficit and nation­al debt. 

Gates said it is no sur­prise that recent polls show a sour­ing of the pub­lic mood, with many Amer­i­cans pes­simistic about the tra­jec­to­ry of our coun­try. But, Gates said, he has lived through times when such pes­simism was as prevalent. 

In 1957, when Gates was a fresh­man in high school, the Sovi­et Union launched its Sput­nik 1 into space, and Amer­i­cans feared being left behind in the space race. Even more cause for wor­ry was being left behind in the mis­sile race, he said. 

In the 1970s the nation went through anoth­er peri­od of ques­tion­ing its place in the world, brought about by the angst over the Viet­nam War and the OPEC oil embar­go, fol­lowed by sky-high infla­tion and equal­ly high inter­est rates, he said. 

And in the late 1980s America’s grow­ing fis­cal and trade deficits left many wor­ried that we would soon be tak­en over by Japan, Gates added. 

“I lived through each of these peri­ods of declin­ism when many were con­vinced Amer­i­ca was stuck in a down­ward spi­ral,” Gates said. “And yet, after meet­ing the many chal­lenges we faced head on, our nation emerged from each of these peri­ods stronger than before, and I am con­vinced we will do so again. 

“Indeed today, as through­out our his­to­ry, this coun­try remains the world’s most pow­er­ful force for good. The U.S. will, I am con­vinced, remain the indis­pens­able nation, and our coun­try will be able to adapt and over­come once again as it has in the past,” he said. 

How­ev­er, espe­cial­ly in times of fis­cal con­straint, the Unit­ed States must come up with inno­v­a­tive solu­tions to the chal­lenges it faces. 

“It is pre­cise­ly dur­ing these try­ing times that Amer­i­ca needs its best and bright­est young peo­ple from all walks of life to step for­ward and bring their tal­ents and fresh per­spec­tives to bear on the chal­lenges fac­ing this coun­try,” Gates said. 

“Because while the oblig­a­tions of cit­i­zen­ship in any democ­ra­cy are con­sid­er­able, they’re even more pro­found and more demand­ing as cit­i­zens of a nation with America’s glob­al chal­lenges and respon­si­bil­i­ties, and America’s val­ues and aspi­ra­tions,” he said. 

Gates encour­aged the grad­u­ates to find out what dri­ves them, to find their pas­sion and to pur­sue it with all of their ener­gy and com­mit­ment. But he asked that they con­sid­er spend­ing at least part of their careers in pub­lic service. 

“You will have a chance to give back to the com­mu­ni­ty, the state, or to the coun­try that has already giv­en you so much,” he said. 

Gates said that he under­stands that with today’s polit­i­cal rhetoric, pub­lic ser­vice may not be appealing. 

“I under­stand that it can be dis­heart­en­ing to hear today’s often ran­corous and even tawdry polit­i­cal dis­course,” he said. “Too often those who chose pub­lic ser­vice are dis­missed as bureau­crats or worse. And in many cas­es politi­cians run for office run­ning down the very gov­ern­ment they hope to lead.” 

“Cyn­i­cism about the peo­ple and the insti­tu­tions that gov­ern and pro­tect our coun­try can be cor­ro­sive,” he said. 

The sec­re­tary said he wor­ries that too many of bright­est young Amer­i­cans, nor­mal­ly engaged in vol­un­teerism, turn aside careers in pub­lic service. 

“There is anoth­er aspect of pub­lic ser­vice about which Amer­i­cans hear very lit­tle,” he said. “The ide­al­ism, the joy, the sat­is­fac­tion and fulfillment.” 

Gates, who served under eight U.S. pres­i­dents, said he has worked with polit­i­cal appointees and career civ­il ser­vants of the high­est qual­i­ty, act­ing with stead­fast integri­ty and love of coun­try and what it stands for. 

The sec­re­tary applaud­ed the efforts of today’s all-vol­un­teer mil­i­tary, say­ing that “over this past decade doing one’s duty has tak­en on a whole new mean­ing and required a whole new lev­el of risk and sacrifice.” 

But, he added, “to serve our coun­try you don’t need to deploy to a war zone or a Third World coun­try or be buried in a win­dow­less cube in goth­ic struc­ture by the Potomac River. 

“You don’t have to be a CIA spy, or an ana­lyst, a Navy SEAL who tracked down and brought down the most noto­ri­ous ter­ror­ist in the world,” he said. 

“What­ev­er the job, work­ing in the pub­lic sec­tor at some lev­el offers the chance to serve your fel­low cit­i­zens as well as learn the inner work­ings of our gov­ern­ment and build skills that will stand you in good stead in fac­ing oth­er chal­lenges in your career and in your life,” he said. 

Gates said the grad­u­ates live in a time of “great neces­si­ties” when the Amer­i­ca can­not avoid the chal­lenges of address­ing its domes­tic prob­lems, or the bur­dens of glob­al leadership. 

“The stakes are unimag­in­ably high,” Gates said. “If, in the 21st Cen­tu­ry, Amer­i­ca is to con­tin­ue to be a force for good in the world, for free­dom, jus­tice, rule of law, and the inher­ent val­ue of each per­son, then the most able and ide­al­is­tic of our young peo­ple — of you — must step for­ward and accept the bur­den and the duty of pub­lic service. 

“I promise you that you will find joy, sat­is­fac­tion, and ful­fill­ment,” he said. 

Gates’ wife, Becky, is a Wash­ing­ton State Uni­ver­si­ty grad­u­ate and mem­ber of the Col­lege of Lib­er­al Arts Advi­so­ry Coun­cil. Their son, Brad, is a 2003 grad­u­ate of the uni­ver­si­ty. Gates has plans to retire in the state. 

Source:
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefence.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →