National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.
May 21, 1996
"They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in
great waters; these see the works of the Lord." [107th Psalm]
Today we mourn the loss of an American who loved to go down
to the sea in ships, who did business in great waters in the
service of peace and freedom, and who will see the works of the
Lord. His name was Admiral Jeremy Boorda, Mike to all who
It has been said several times today, but is worth saying
again, that Mike was a sailor's sailor. The first seaman recruit
to become the Chief of Naval Operations. A Navy man who at every
stage of his career put the interest of sailors and their
families first. A Navy leader who helped make America's Navy the
best that the world has ever seen. And a family man who deeply
loved his wife Bettie and their children.
As Secretary of Defense I relied on Mike's advice. Indeed
we first met during a security crisis when the Bosnian Serbs
began shelling Sarajevo in defiance of a NATO ultimatum. As we
weighed the allied response, Mike's advice -- respond with force
-- carried the day. And it was Mike's combat leadership that
directed the air strikes that stopped the killing and started
Bosnia on the path to peace.
Under his wise stewardship of the Navy, Mike carried on the
legacy of his predecessor and role model, the late Admiral
Arleigh Burke. Like any great leader Mike's heart was with his
people. He was a seaman who became an admiral, but an admiral
who never forgot his seamen, and nobody -- nobody -- had more
pride in his sailors.
The hallmark of Mike's remarkable Navy career was a
heartfelt recognition that no ship, no battle group, is better
than the people who sail it. He knew we could not send our ships
on extended overseas deployments without also having
sophisticated and well-trained people with good morale. It is a
tribute to Mike's leadership that our Navy today has such people.
Their dedication and pride never fail to impress me everywhere
that I meet them -- on bases in the United States, on bases
overseas, and on ships at sea.
Shortly after Mike had arranged to open up assignments for
women to serve on combat vessels, he arranged for me to go to the
USS EISENHOWER, and meet and talk with some of the men and women
who are manning that ship.
One senior petty officer that I met had volunteered to delay
her retirement for the chance to be among the first women to
deploy on a combat ship. When I met with her, I asked her why
she had extended. She told me that her 20 years in the Navy she
had always been assigned to shore duty or with supply ships. And
she wanted to have least one tour on a Navy warship because she
wanted to be able to tell her grandchildren that she had been a
real sailor. That's what our Navy consists of today -- real
sailors -- and this is the Navy that Mike built.
Last month, in his annual State of Navy Address, Mike Boorda
talked about some of the difficult challenges facing the modern
Navy. But he concluded by saying, Do we have the best Navy in
the world? You can count on it! And under Mike's leadership, I
did count on it.
I'd like to close my remarks by expressing a hope and
prayer, for his family, and for Mike's colleagues in the Navy.
To his colleagues, my hope and prayer is that you will work to
preserve his memory, to pursue his legacy and to persevere in the
quest to sustain and strengthen the Navy Mike loved. To his
family, my hope is that your pain will be relieved by the grace
of God. This wish was expressed beautifully more than 2,000
years ago by the Greek poet Aeschylus, who wrote: "In our sleep,
pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until
in our despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful
grace of God."