General Dempsey, thank you. And thank you, General Dempsey, Undersecretary Wright, for your leadership, not just in this effort, but all you do for our department. And to the leaders assembled here today and to the men and women of the Department of Defense all over the world, thank you for your service, your sacrifice, your leadership, and what you do for our country and what you mean to this country.
This ceremony, as has been noted, marks an important milestone in our efforts to ensure that the Department of Defense remains a place of progress, progress in opportunity for all people, military and civilian.
Today, we reaffirm that our most important resource is our people. I know all the leaders in this room and all over the world share our belief that you take care of your people first, and to fulfill that commitment, we must ensure that every man and every woman in this department has the opportunity to succeed, excel and reach their full potential. That is the purpose of DoD’s Human Goals Charter.
The values expressed in the charter are as old as America itself. They are at the core of DoD’s mission as well. [As] it says in President Truman’s 1948 executive order eliminating racial segregation in the military… “It is essential that there be maintained in the United States armed services the highest standards of democracy, with equality of treatment and opportunity for all those who serve in our country’s defense[s].”
Our nation has always benefited from the diversity of skills and experiences and backgrounds of those who serve it. By signing this charter today, DoD’s civilian and military leaders commit ourselves – all of us – to making DoD a model for equal opportunity and [fair treatment] for all; building a culture of respect for every service member and civilian professional; and, recruiting the kind of people that we need to succeed in our mission – talented, dedicated people with the capacity for growth and commitment to their country, and a belief in their nation and the ideals represented in our nation.
Achieving these goals not only makes our military stronger, it helps us to continue fulfilling the promise of our country.
What makes America unique, what gives us strength is our ability to self-correct. Our democracy is imperfect. All democracies are imperfect. But we have shown we can change. We have the process. We have the fiber. We have the people. We have the system to change for the better, and we have. We possess an ability and a system to correct our course. That’s why I’m very proud that the language of the charter has been updated to reflect the contributions of gay and lesbian military personnel, who now serve openly and proudly across America’s armed forces.
As the charter says, we will continue striving to make military service a model – a model of equal opportunity for all, regardless of race, color, sex, religion, sexual orientation, or national origin. That’s who we are. That’s who we are as a country and who we must be as a military. We have to live the values we defend. And America’s all-volunteer force is at its best when it reflects all the people of our nation.
And while there has been much progress made, all of us know there is still more work to be done. We must reinforce a culture of accountability, dignity, and respect across DoD and for all people. That is a top priority for all of us.
Every person who serves our country in uniform has stepped forward with courage and commitment. Their patriotism, their willingness to serve their country, and their qualifications to do so – that’s what matters, nothing else.
I now invite all the other signatories to join me on stage. And thank you again for everything you do for our country.