Seal of the Department of Defense U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
On the Web:
Media contact: +1 (703) 697-5131/697-5132
Public contact:
or +1 (703) 571-3343

Unveiling of Display Honoring General John M. Shalikashvili
Remarks As Delivered by Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen, The Pentagon, Monday, December 07, 1998

Thank you very much General [Henry] Shelton. I want to say, Mr. Chairman, thank you for the leadership you continue to provide to this county. I know that it gives Shali great comfort in having someone like you following in his footsteps. I know the President and I are truly grateful for the leadership you provide our men and women in uniform. Thank you very much.

Joan, family; Dr. [John] Hamre; Members of the Diplomatic Corps; Admiral [Thomas] Moorer; General [David] Jones; General [Colin] Powell; Distinguished guests; Ladies and gentlemen.

We are here today to honor a man who is as brilliant and visionary as he is straight-forward and unpretentious; the kind of man who never aspired to have his picture placed on these august walls, only to sell a nail on which it could hang. But, as the images and awards on display will attest, his high achievements have earned him a place of honor along side the giants who came before him: Bradley, Taylor, Moorer, Jones, and his mentor, Colin Powell.

This display will remind us that, as the world was his canvas, contrary to his protestations, General Shali’s preferred tool was a brush and not a hammer. With bold strokes, he composed a landscape of expanding peace and freedom. He helped bring forth the contours of a new Europe, forging a Partnership for Peace and enabling the enlargement of NATO. His tactical and strategic excellence was shown in bold primary colors in operations from Haiti to Iraq and, as the Chairman has indicated, perhaps most vividly, in Bosnia. And his wisdom outlined changes for America’s armed forces during a time of rapid change, preparing them for the 21st Century.

Through it all, John Shali never once lost sight of the real lives involved, because he never lost sight of his own history. He truly cared for the refugees he was helping in northern Iraq, understanding their plight because he was once one of them. He cared deeply for the people of Eastern Europe as that sought to embrace a new world, feeling their fears because he was once one of them. And he cared passionately for the welfare of the under his command, knowing the concerns of all of young soldiers, because he was once one of them.

Indeed, through 39 years of service, Shali always thought of himself as, first and foremost, a soldier. He was, perhaps, always just a little more proud of the olive drab of his uniform than the shining stars that had been pinned on it.

But we have to be honest, as the Chairman pointed out, he had an unfair advantage: He had Joan. As he has said so many times, none of this would have been possible without their partnership. So today we also pay tribute to her distinguished service to our country. Joan, if things were truly just in this world the picture behind me would be of both of you.

When John retired, President Clinton rightly said, "Our nation is safer, our armed forces are stronger, and our world is a better place because of his service." There can be no higher tribute than this. Throughout his career, indeed his life, John Shali has given the full measure of his devotion to his comrades and to his country, and for that all of us are profoundly grateful.

So if you seek to know the dream of America, look for it in the eyes of the young boy on the streets of old Warsaw. If you seek to know the character of America, look for it deep in the marrow of the new refugee training on the fields of Fort Leonard Wood. If you seek to know the compassion of America, look for it in the heart of a leader on the mountainsides of northern Iraq. And if you seek to know the greatness of America, look for it in the portraits that line this hall – and that of the man we are honoring today, General John M. Shalikashvili.