Mr. President [George W. Bush], welcome. Thank you for coming. We appreciate your being here and we appreciate your leadership. Members of the House of Representatives; members of the Cabinet; senior civilian and military leadership, all of which is here today; General Myers, Mary Jo, and the Myers family; General Pace, Lynne; and the Pace family; distinguished guests; members of the diplomatic corps; men and women of the Armed Services.
We are here today to officially welcome General Dick Myers and General Peter Pace as our new Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And a pleasure it is.
These two men you have chosen, Mr. President, are charged with providing military advice and leadership in the new and urgent cause you lead. These are grave responsibilities, but it has always been so.
Like the first Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Omar Bradley, Dick Myers is a man of America’s heartland, well grounded in the hard work and solid values nurtured there. Genial and self-effacing, his quiet self-confidence is forged from long familiarity with responsibility—accepted willingly and discharged with great skill.
His career has spanned the globe and beyond. A combat pilot in the skies of Vietnam, more recently responsible for the vast domain of space as Commander of the U.S. Space Command. As a former commander of our Pacific Air Forces and of all U.S. forces in Japan, Dick is an expert in a region that will be of critical importance to us in the years ahead. As Vice Chairman, Dick Myers has helped us think through how we transform our Cold War forces to meet the challenges that were brought home so vividly on September 11th.
We’ve worked closely together, for hours and days on end, analyzing, anticipating, discussing, debating how we might best transform our Armed Forces to meet the threats of a dangerous new century, as you, Mr. President, charged us to do last January. Now our task is to achieve that transformation. And we will.
But Dick Myers was selected not just for his past performance, but for what that performance promises for the future. He knows that the decisions we make today will shape the security of our country for decades to come.
General Myers’ public presence, as America is beginning to learn from his press briefings and his remarks at the Memorial Service last week, is reassuring. One earlier Air Force Chief has noted his "Gary Cooper" persona [laughter]. It’s true—his integrity shines through [laughter and applause].
I want also to recognize Mary Jo Myers. Mary Jo, you have also answered the call to serve. For all the good counsel to Dick and your personal sacrifice for our country through so many years, we thank you. You are a bright star and we most enthusiastically welcome you in your new role.
General Myers and I will have the able support of General Peter Pace, who assumes Dick’s former post as Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. From the jungles of Southeast Asia to the streets of Mogadishu, General Pace has fought the country’s fights, large and small. Smart, tough, he has demonstrated an extraordinary capacity for leadership every step of the way.
Deputy commander of U.S. Forces in Japan, and, for the past year, the combatant commander of the U.S. Southern Command. In this region, terrorism has been a persistent threat, and Peter Pace is well prepared for our campaign against global terrorism.
And military history is being made today. Pete becomes the first Marine to serve as Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. A fact that all Marines who enjoy the rigors of recruit training will, no doubt, now be required to recite to the drill instructors, over and over and over again [laughter and applause]. There must be a few Marines here [laughter].
Of course, history is never made alone. And this talented Marine has had the able and unwavering support of his wife, Lynne. Lynne, welcome back to Washington. We’re delighted to have your spirit and your energy back in this key role.
Mr. President, destiny has called you to meet a new and different challenge. And an urgent challenge it is. Your words and your example, in the days since the attack here at the Pentagon and on the World Trade Center, have drawn Americans together.
As you have reminded us, "this is not just America’s fight. And what is at stake is not just America’s freedom…. This is the fight for all who believe in progress and pluralism, tolerance and freedom."
Your emphasis on freedom finds a distinguished lineage in the Department of Defense. As we welcome our fifteenth Chairman to that cause, I would remind us of the words of the first Chairman, General Omar Bradley, who said about freedom that, and I quote: "No word was ever spoken that has held out greater sacrifice, needed more to be nurtured, blessed more the giver, damned more its destroyer, or came closer to being God’s will on earth. May America ever be its protector," unquote.
In these men, at this moment, freedom has able protectors. With their leadership, America will be the protector of freedom—here at home and throughout the world.
General Myers, General Pace: on behalf of the men and women of the Armed Forces I welcome you. The President and I are counting on you. Indeed, America is counting on you. And I know you will meet the test. [Applause.]