Gail, Sarah, and John Kruzel; Gail’s parents, Mr. & Mrs. Chipman; Sandy Drew; Kathy Frasure; Walt [Slocombe] and Ellen [Seidman], daughters Sasha and Merrin, and son Will; Deputy Secretary [of State Strobe] Talbott and Deputy Secretary [of Defense Rudy] de Leon; Under Secretary [of State for Political Affairs Thomas] Pickering and Under Secretary [of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Jacques] Gansler; [Marine Corps Commandant] General [James] Jones; [former Supreme Allied Commander, Europe] General [Wesley] Clark; [former Supreme Allied Commander, Europe] General [George] Joulwan; distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen.
Over the past several weeks, we have gone to great lengths to keep this award a surprise to its recipient. [Laughter.] Those of you who know the Pentagon’s record on keeping secrets out of the press [laughter], and Walt’s intelligence network in the building [laughter], can only guess at our success. [Laughter.]
It has been my genuine privilege over the past 4 years to present this award. Because as we honor each recipient we are given the opportunity to pay tribute to the leader in whose memory it is given, and to be renewed by the example of his service to this nation and to the world.
Although I did not have the great fortune to know Joe Kruzel personally, I have come to admire not only his service, but his intellectual approach to the great questions facing this nation. Indeed, I was pleased to note that he once began an article on nuclear arms control with a reference to the Amphictyonic League of Ancient Greece. [Laughter.]
But his scholarly achievement never obscured his great wit and good humor. In truth, though he came to us from academia, he was a man of action, along with [Ambassador] Robert Frasure [then-Deputy Assistant Secretary of State] and [U.S. Air Force Colonel] Nelson Drew [then-National Security Council staff], giving his last full measure of devotion in the vigorous search for peace. Gail, Sarah, and John, Sandy and Kathy, words can never repay the debt of gratitude this nation owes to you for your sacrifice.
Joe Kruzel’s work towards peace in Europe will be as enduring as it was demanding. Secretary Perry called him "the father of the Partnership for Peace" and, by extension, a moving force behind the historic enlargement of NATO. One European leader called him a "man who devoted all his effort to the service of his country and the good of the Atlantic Alliance." Indeed, we are closer today to a Europe that is whole, healed, and free than at any moment in history, in no small measure because of Joe Kruzel.
When word reach America of the tragedy, President Clinton spoke to the nation of the heroism of those lost and our hopes for peace. He concluded by saying that he thought the three fallen heroes "would want us to press ahead, and that is what we intend to do."
It is particularly fitting, therefore, that this year’s recipient of the Kruzel Award is not only a friend and colleague of Joe’s, but the man who "pressed ahead" with the noble work that Joe had begun.
Over the past eight years, Walt Slocombe has been the indispensable agent on behalf of our nation’s defense. The steady hand in every crisis, we have called on this former tax lawyer so often [laughter] and so urgently, it must seem to him as if it is perpetually April 14th. [Laughter.]
Many of you know that Walt is an avid swimmer. My staff knows there is something serious afoot when I issue the fateful instructions, "I have to go meet with the president, get Walt out of the pool." [Laughter.]
From Somalia to Serbia, from Kosovo to Korea, Walt has handled each turn with unmatched grace and unruffled calm. He has built, or in some cases rebuilt, a steady foundation for American security in the new century: Overseeing the establishment of Regional Centers that will create invaluable bonds for years to come; seeing that North Korea’s nuclear ambitions did not threaten our forces or allies in Asia; managing our delicate security relationship with Russia; and repairing our crucial ties with China after the air campaign over Kosovo.
Perhaps Walt’s finest hours were in Helsinki last year. Over the course of three days – and three sunlight, sleepless nights [laughter] -- we worked side by side seeking a formula for cooperation with our Russian counterparts. Walt, you were both exceptional and essential in those talks, which restored peace to the Balkans and preserved stability in Europe.
Our Finnish hosts for those negotiations have a word, sisu. They define it as the "special strength and stubborn determination to overcome in the moment of adversity. It is a combination of stamina, courage, and obstinacy held in reserve for hard times." Across those long days and nights, indeed for the last 8 years, no one has shown more courage or stamina or—in the right measure, for the right cause—greater obstinacy than Walt Slocombe. And this nation, and this world, are more stable and secure for it.
I would like to close with some of Walt’s own words, those he spoke five years ago about his fallen friend Joe Kruzel, because they also capture the man who stands beside me today: "His quest was for peace in freedom and security, for this country, for the Europe he knew so well. He accomplished more in the time given him than many in a far longer time as he worked on the hardest and most important problems of our day."
Today, it is our great honor to present Walt Slocombe with the Joseph J. Kruzel Award for Distinguished Service in the Pursuit of Peace because he has lived up to that eloquent description—working as hard as anyone in this government on the most difficult issues of our time, making peace possible for decades to come. And for that we are—and all Americans should be—eternally grateful. [Applause.]