Ray [DuBois, Director, Washington Headquarters Services] thank you, and I’d first like to thank Master Sergeant McDonough for that marvelous rendition of our National Anthem. I think we’re all going to feel a little better about being in this ceremony today. Thanks for that beginning.
I look around and I see quite a few distinguished people in the audience, so I think I’m going to stay out of trouble by not recognizing anyone else individually. But, on this occasion that celebrates public service, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a lifetime that defined public service, a life embodied in that great man whom we buried not long ago, Doc Cooke [previous Director, Washington Headquarters Services]. I know he’s here in spirit, and, Ray, I know he’s looking on you kindly, maybe a little bit critically [laughter], but wishing you the best.
Talk about distinguished public service. Since the day that Secretary Rumsfeld returned to this building for his second tour, Ray Dubois has been on the job, day and night, I know. And now we’ve asked him to take on the really big job of running this building—a position that we loosely describe as "being all things to all people." And that is tough.
Of course, it isn’t always possible, as even Doc Cooke himself understood. I understand that Vice President Cheney still marvels at how Doc Cooke was always able to deliver bad news with a very gentle touch. And recalling his days as Defense Secretary, Dick Cheney has remarked, "Doc didn’t always give me what I wanted, but he never actually said, ‘No.’" [Laughter]
I, on the other hand, learned that whenever Doc asked you to do something, the only right answer was, "Yes … when, how soon." And, in fact, it was Doc Cooke who signed me up for this ceremony, although, Ray, I would have said "yes" to you also. [Laughter] I’m not the only one who thought so, apparently. One of Doc’s favorite photos was the one that had him seated in a chair with nine former Secretaries of Defense standing behind him. And that’s a photo that Don Rumsfeld has referred to as "The Godfather and his Henchmen." [Laughter]
Ray, think of what you can aspire to in this job [Laughter]. We may have made you an offer you couldn’t refuse, but thanks for taking it in any case.
Today, we’re privileged to pay tribute to six men and women for what they’ve given to this Department and to our country. On my first day back in the building, Don Rumsfeld, swearing me in, remarked that this was my third tour in the Pentagon and, as he said, "we’ll keep bringing you back, Paul, until you get it right." I felt like saying, "Mr. Secretary, you’re back for your second try, what can we infer from that?" [Laughter] But, needless to say, I wasn’t as dumb as to say that. [Laughter]
This is a distinguished group that we’re going to recognize today that’s been getting it right over and over and over again. You’re excelling in government service … a pursuit that President Reagan once defined more precisely as "a relationship between political leaders, who," the former President said, "do most of the talking, and career employees who do most of the work."
But, we’re about building some new paradigms here. So in that spirit, I won’t talk too long, so that all of you can go back to work. But, on behalf of Secretary Rumsfeld first of all, let me congratulate each one of our recipients on this impressive milestone in what are already impressive careers.
While we have here today a wide range of talents and expertise there’s one thing that all of our recipients share, and that’s a commitment to public service that advances the cause of freedom.
Through your work, you contribute to the enduring values that America stands for: the right to live in safety and security, the right to enjoy peace and prosperity, the right to self-government that we prize so much in this great country. The contributions that you’ve made reflect ideals that have inspired patriots to public service since the very beginning of this nation. It was, admittedly, more hazardous duty back at the time of the founding when Ben Franklin remarked famously, "Gentlemen"—sorry, it was "gentlemen," then—"gentlemen, we must all hang together or assuredly we will all hang separately." But, I’m sure there are days when all of you must feel that you’ve earned a little bit of combat pay around here, too.
Our Founding Fathers indeed recognized that this new experiment in self-government demanded bold and innovative thinking. Only then could they fashion a republic like no other that had ever come before. And there was no one more celebrated for his ability, in our words, to think outside the box, than that Renaissance Man Ben Franklin.
It may not be widely known, but along with his other remarkable achievements, Franklin once boldly ventured from the side of government that did most of the talking to the side that did most of the work—indeed the dangerous work. By that I mean, he left his job as leader of the Pennsylvania Assembly to join the Pennsylvania Militia during the French and Indian War.
And, it probably won’t surprise you that this new citizen-soldier approached his military career with that same spirit of innovation that he applied to so many other aspects of his life. One day a chaplain of Franklin’s company presented him with a vexing problem. The men, it seemed, weren’t very interested in turning up for the chaplain’s sermons or his prayers.
Now, upon enlistment each man was promised four ounces of rum every day. So Franklin suggested this to the chaplain. He said, "Reverend, you may think it below the dignity of your profession to act as steward of the rum, but I would suggest that if you were to deal it out, but only just after prayers, you would have the men all about you." [Laughter]
Well that was definitely out of the box advice. But, upon careful and, no doubt, prayerful reflection, the chaplain must have been inspired by this logic, because he followed Colonel Franklin’s plan to the letter. And need I tell you that history records that attendance at the chaplain’s prayers improved at once? [Laughter] It does not record whether the men’s attention during the sermons showed a similar improvement.
With that same inventiveness, each one of you that we honor today has achieved results Franklin would admire. You’ve looked for ways to save lives, from better patient care and Pentagon recovery operations to better human intelligence that can help our troops on the battlefield, and you found those new ways. You’ve searched for ways to improve our operations—from moving tons of mail overseas in the face of anthrax threats to improving business initiatives that can save money and improve our combat capability, and you’ve succeeded. You’ve been inspired to use your impressive talents to chart the strategy for the way ahead to better serve our forces and our nation, and you’re doing it—magnificently.
Your efforts—and those of the thousands of civilians who serve throughout this great Department—ensure that our warriors in Afghanistan, our men and women here in America and around the world, have the weapons and support that they need today. Your vision and dedication will help us to fulfill this Department’s responsibility to ensure that our military men and women have the tools they need to defend our nation this year and in the years and decades to come.
We are proud of you. And we will continue to count on you in the days ahead, for there is much work yet to do as we wage this global war on terrorism and, at the same time, undertake a major transformation of our forces for the 21st Century. But, we work for a truly noble goal. For as President Bush told a similar group of distinguished public servants, when we do our duty, and hold ourselves to the highest of standards, we’ll leave this government—and indeed this world—"better than we found it."
That’s an achievement that would inspire Ben Franklin—and honor those who’ve gone before us. Once again, congratulations, to our recipients, and thank you. And now let me follow the sound strategic principle of reinforcing success. Let’s get on with honoring our honorees. [Applause.]