Thank you so much.
Mr. Vice President. General Pace, Members of the Ford Family – Steve.. Robots?!? (Laughter.)
We call them unmanned vehicles, whether they’re on the air, the land or the sea. So you can tell your folks that much, but no more. (Laughter.)
It’s always good to see the Ford family. I know that all of us here – Joyce and I look forward to this annual event, and we’re so sorry that the President and Betty can’t be with us.
But the chance to be with all of these friends – I was going around visiting during dinner and someone said, “Where do you think you are Rumsfeld, at a wedding reception?” But it’s so good to see so many folks that we have such a close tie to.
Marty and the Members of the Ford Foundation board and the people who have done so much, thank you for what you do -- honored guests. And as the Vice President said, a very special thanks to the President and Betty for making all of this happen.
You know, I listened to the – I guess it was Staff Sergeant Alvie Powell, sing. And I thought to myself, if I could sing, that’s all I’d sing. Wasn’t that voice amazing? (Applause.)
Mr. Vice President, I join literally millions of Americans thanking you for your steadfast and your determined leadership. We are not just a safer nation because of you, we are a better nation. Thank you. (Applause.)
And certainly, my warm appreciation to the young men and women who are representing this year’s recipient of the Gerald R. Ford Medal for Distinguished Public Service -- the men and women of the United States Armed Forces.
I hope all of you have had a chance to meet these fine young people. They’re going to be up on stage shortly. And certainly, those of us who served in the Ford administration can appreciate fully how appropriate this recognition is.
A few of us have – all of us, I should say – understand and recognize the respect that President Gerald R. Ford has for the men and women in uniform -- a volunteer shortly after Pearl Harbor, service on the USS Monterey.
Jack Marsh and Chairman Warner, thank you so much for what you’re doing with respect to the aircraft carrier. It is a tribute that is well deserved for a man who millions of Americans counted on as a steady and trusted hand at the helm during what was a terribly difficult time in our country’s history.
President Ford’s service showed, once again, that our nation has a way of finding leaders that are needed in tough times – and they were tough times.
We had a wonderful tour just briefly here of some of the documents, the founding documents, of our nation, crafted by founders who gave birth to what today is seen and taken as the most successful and the most power and the wealthiest nation on earth.
But back then, when those documents that are only a few short steps from here -- America was weak and America was small. A number of colonies disagreeing with each other were in revolt against the world’s greatest empire. And only after eight terribly difficult years were they able to achieve independence for our nation.
And their victory, of course, was not won by accident. It was not happenstance. It was not even good luck.
It took service and sacrifice. It took patience and perseverance. It took farmers and shopkeepers who exchanged their tools for weapons of war. It took families willing to send them off to meet dangers far from home.
And today, America is the freest society on the face of the earth because for more than two centuries, men and women in uniform have stood guard on watch towers, have stormed beaches, have offered their lives for their comrades, for their country, and for the truths that our Founders found to be self-evident.
Throughout our nation’s history, there has always been spirited debate about what our country’s responsibilities in the world might be. There was violent debate in those earliest revolutionary days to be sure. Indeed, there has been debate in every decade of my entire adult life. There certainly was debate during President Ford’s time in office, and throughout the Cold War. And to be sure, there’s debate today.
But in the end, free nations and free people simply cannot survive in a world dominated by tyrannies and terrorists. So those who’ve served in Afghanistan and in Iraq in this global struggle against violent extremism, those who have come here this evening for us to honor as they represent all of the young men and women who serve our country, they can be proud of what they’ve achieved:
· They can be proud of liberating some 50 million people from tyranny, mass graves and oppression in Afghanistan and in Iraq and,
· They can be proud of the men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan who wept with joy of the hopes that they can now have for their families and their children.
It’s been the honor of my life to have the privilege to meet and work with so many amazing young Americans, each a volunteer, each a person who put up their hand and said, “Send me.” They weren’t drafted. They weren’t conscripted. They volunteered.
So it is with great respect and deep affection that I join the Ford family – President Ford and Betty Ford, the members of the Ford Foundation – in saluting these young men and women here this evening, and all of the men across in uniform across the globe that they represent. This is an honor that they richly deserve.
Thank you and God bless all of you. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
For complete transcript, please visit: http://www.defenselink.mil/Transcripts/Transcript.aspx?TranscriptID=24