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Pace Gives Straight Answers to Tough Questions

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

VANCOUVER, Wash., Feb. 22, 2007 – Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, faced some tough questions here yesterday – not from the press, but from a group of fifth-grade students at Marshall Elementary School.

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Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, makes remarks and addresses questions with fifth-grade students at Marshall Elementary School in Vancouver, Wash., Feb. 21. Photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF
  

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What’s wrong with the world and how are you going to fix it? How do you protect the troops? Are we going to war with Iran?

The children’s questions were simple and sincere. Pace responded in kind. For nearly an hour, the president’s top military advisor explained national defense policies in terms the fifth-graders could understand.

The chairman spent a busy day here, far from the Pentagon, talking with everyday people about the things most important to him – service to country, military sacrifice, honor and integrity.

He met with Congress members and senators, the governor and the mayor, high school students and Naval Academy classmates. He also met with several Gold Star family members. He held the 4-month-old daughter of Lance Cpl. Michael David Scholl, 21, who died in Iraq before ever seeing his new baby girl.

The chairman re-enlisted a fellow Marine, Gunnery Sgt. Ryan K. Hampton, and praised local Marine recruiters for making their monthly recruitment goal for the last 114 months. He heard fifth-graders sing “This is My Country,” and saw nearly 300 elementary school students line his path waving American flags.

“It was an uplifting day,” Pace told members of his traveling party that evening. He especially enjoyed the purity of the fifth-graders’ questions.

During a brief news conference at the Howard House in the Vancouver National Historic Reserve Trust, Pace talked about the situation in Iraq, noting that success will require a combination of additional forces, good governance by the Iraqis and economic opportunities. He said the British decision to withdraw about 1,600 troops and turn over one of the country’s 18 provinces to the Iraqis is a sign of progress.

There is no timeline for the war on terror, Pace said.

“This a fight worth fighting,” he said. “It is clear that the terrorists intend to bring this fight to America. They want to establish caliphates in every country that has the kind of freedoms we do. This is a long-term fight, and I have great faith that the American people understand the nature of this threat, and we will do what we must to defend ourselves.”

The chairman’s main speaking venue was before about 5,000 people at Hudson Bay High School as part of the Marshall Lecture Series, an educational program in honor of Vancouver resident Army Gen. George C. Marshall. Marshall served as Army chief of staff during World War II, secretary of state at the beginning of the Cold War, and as secretary of defense at the beginning of the Korean War.

Rather than give a long speech, Pace chose to speak directly to the 1,500 high school students in the audience.

“Whatever you do with your lives, make a difference,” he advised. “Check your moral compass regularly. Remember, you have two things no one can ever take from you: one is your name and the other is your integrity.”

Pace also told the students he has come to understand and appreciate two kinds of courage during his 40-year career.

“First, I came to appreciate courage in combat,” he said. “But as I got older and as I have been sitting around the seats of power, I have come to admire courage that comes when a conversation is going in one direction and someone around that table has the temerity to say, ‘I see it differently. I disagree.’

“That person may not carry the day,” Pace said, “but that person can always go home feeling pretty darn good about themselves.”

The chairman advised the students to “always tell the truth as you know it.”

“You may not always have everyone’s agreement, but you will always have everyone’s respect,” he said. “People (will) know that you are thoughtful, you are direct, you are honest and you will look them in the eye and tell them what you see.”

Then it was the high school students’ turn to ask questions.

“What should the country’s policy be toward Iran?” a Skyview High School student asked.

“As the chairman to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I am the senior military advisor to the president, the secretary of defense, the national security council and the Congress. Nowhere in what I just said, did I say I was secretary of state,” Pace replied, drawing laughter and applause from the crowd.

“Your question is a pretty good one,” he told the student. “I recommend you consider inviting Secretary (Condoleezza) Rice here next year and asking her.”

A Columbia River High School student asked Pace to relate the greatest challenge he has faced.

“My biggest ongoing challenge,” he replied, “is to have the wisdom to know what is right and the courage to do it.”

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Biographies:
Gen. Peter Pace, USMC

Click photo for screen-resolution imageMarine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, conducts a news conference with local, national and high school media while visiting Vancouver, Wash., Feb. 21. Photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageMarine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, leaves Marshall Elementary School in Vancouver, Wash., and greets students as they wave American flags, Feb. 21. Photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageLynne Pace and her husband, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meet Gold Star families in Vancouver, Wash., Feb. 21. Photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF  
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