President Bush; Secretary [of State] Powell; [GSA] Administrator Perry; Susan Eisenhower and members of the Eisenhower family; distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
It is an honor to be able to join you today in paying tribute to Dwight David Eisenhower-a man whose courage, dignity and character exemplified the spirit of that "Greatest Generation," which sacrificed so much to preserve peace and freedom for our generation and generations to come.
The windows of the Pentagon, where I work, frame a view of the Arlington hillsides where so many of those heroes sleep. Images of that great leader known as "Ike" line the Eisenhower Corridor just outside the Pentagon office of the Secretary of Defense. His is the first face—the face of the young cadet, the Supreme Allied Commander, the President of the United States—that many of us see on the start of our day and which sends us on our way each night.
Dwight Eisenhower’s vision, determination and courage to change continues to inspire and serve as a model for us, Mr. President, as we carry out your instructions to transform America’s Armed Forces and prepare for the new and different challenges of the 21st Century.
When Dwight David Eisenhower was still a young officer between the world wars, he and another young officer by the name of George Patton began writing about the future of armored warfare. He was called in by his commander and told if he published anything else contrary to "solid infantry doctrine," he would be court-martialed.
But Major Eisenhower persevered. Later, Supreme Allied Commander Dwight David Eisenhower put George Patton and the Third Army to work. The rest is history. The history of victory in Europe-victory over Nazi oppression—the foundation of a new and stable peace in Europe that has lasted more than half a century and led to the peaceful triumph in the Cold War.
Like all great leaders, Eisenhower had a sense of proportion about himself and a deep humility. Addressing the British Parliament, which honored him after the triumph of the Allied Forces, he said that he was merely a symbol—a symbol of the "great human forces that have labored arduously and successfully for a righteous cause."
Today, under the leadership of President George W. Bush, we are embarked on another righteous cause, and we remember the example of Eisenhower. We know, as he often told us, that the great fight for freedom did not end at the beaches named Omaha and Utah. It continues today. It continues within the walls of this building that we dedicate to him.
And for those who labor here for freedom, let them find inspiration in this building’s namesake, a man of responsibility and vision, one of freedom’s greatest warriors and a great champion of peace.
That inspiration is the realization that doing great things requires more than detailed plans-though detailed plans there must be-it requires a great cause and great ideals and, above all, a sense of what is important in this world and the next. No one knew that better than Dwight Eisenhower.
There is a story that Eisenhower once went to buy a piece of land in Gettysburg and the local clerk said to him, "Well, President Eisenhower, you’ve done everything, you’ve lived everywhere, why would you want this little piece of land in Gettysburg?" He answered saying, "Sir, all my life I have wanted one time to be able to take a small piece of America and make it better."
He made America-all of America-better. And today, we dedicate a small piece of America to Dwight David Eisenhower. May all who work here work to make America better, as he did.
And may they remember, as he did, what matters in life. His last words were these: "I’ve always loved my wife. I’ve always loved my children. I’ve always loved my grandchildren. I’ve always loved my country."
Now it is my privilege to introduce another leader who loves his country deeply and has devoted his life to making America better, Secretary of State Colin Powell. You no doubt remember, Mr. President-when you announced the appointment of your Secretary of State at a school in Crawford-it was very moving for all of America to see another distinguished soldier, General Colin Powell, come into that office which is so important for the peace of the world.
I also remember when Colin said that he didn’t "yet do ranch wear very well" since he was from the South Bronx. And many of us, especially those of us from back East, secretly agreed with him when he declared, "I don't care what you say. Those cows look dangerous."
Only a man of integrity and humility could admit that to America.
Those are qualities, along with statesmanship and true leadership, that he has brought to every position that he has held. And today he enjoys the gratitude of all Americans and so many others around the world-and I know your gratitude, Mr. President-for his courageous and tireless efforts, not only to make our country safer, but to make the world more peaceful.
I am proud to present to you a man of whom Dwight Eisenhower would be proud today-another soldier, statesman and leader-our Secretary of State, Colin Powell.