General and Mrs. Hagee, General and Mrs. Jones, General Myers, General Pace, members of the Joint Chiefs, distinguished Ambassadors, members of the House and Senate. I see Pat Leahy; thank you for coming. Former Senator Chuck Robb. I saw the former Governor of California, Pete Wilson, here; there you are; and Representatives Ellen Tauscher, Todd Platts, Stenny Hoyer, John Kline, and others, if you’re here; Admiral Naughton. I am pleased to be back here at the Academy. Men and women of the Marine Corps, ladies and gentlemen.
I am delighted to be here in Annapolis again at what some would like to call not the Naval Academy, but the Marine Corps Academy. Quite a few here today like that. Today we salute an outstanding commandant of the Marine Corps for a job well done, and we celebrate the arrival of an exceedingly well-qualified man to assume the leadership of the United States Marines.
These two men have spent a lifetime standing up for the Corps and standing up for the country. Commandant James L. Jones leaves tomorrow to become Commander of U.S. European Command with the NATO hat of Supreme Allied Commander, Europe. And General Mike Hagee comes to us from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, the new Commandant.
Between them, I’m told they have some 70 years in the Corps. They know the grave consequences of war. They have fought with energy and intellect to keep America safe and our people secure.
People from dozens of nations, of all races and religions, were attacked on September 11th. We were attacked basically because of who we are, a free people. And to live as free people in this 21st century, our country must be able to defend our way of life against the forces of terror and fear. We are truly fortunate to have men and women of courage who are able to look over the horizon, and to see what is possible, and to help in transforming our military to meet the new challenges that we face in this dangerous new century.
Jim Jones is a man of courage. His heroism in Vietnam earned him the Silver Star.
General Jones is dedicated to transforming the Marines for the 21st century. He knows that the new military must be flexible, nimble and forward-looking.
To create a powerful force against terrorism, Jim reactivated the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade; and with his colleague, Chief of Naval Operations Vern Clark, he launched a bold plan to integrate Navy and Marine Corps aviation -- including putting Marine fighter squadrons on the decks of every Navy aircraft carrier. He’s also initiated a new bond between the Marines and the U.S. Special Forces Command. Marines and the Special Forces, both extraordinarily quick and agile, can be even more capable when working closely together.
General Jones has strongly supported the families behind the Marines as well. He gave new life to the Exceptional Family Member Program. And Diane Jones, thank you also for all you have done for Marine families.
Jim leaves his position as Commandant to cross the Atlantic to become the fourteenth Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, the first Marine officer to hold this position. Indeed, he is the first officer from the naval services to be Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. He follows a long line of great leaders: Eisenhower, Norstad, Lemnitzer, and most recently, Joe Ralston. Jim Jones is in that fine tradition.
As the top military official in NATO, General Jones will bring a valuable perspective to this important alliance. Marines excel at expeditionary operations, to swiftly project combat power over long distances, often in difficult, austere environments. Our NATO allies are currently transforming themselves, as we are, to become more relevant to this 21st century.
Indeed, transformation is as important to NATO as it is to our Department of Defense. Jim, we wish you well on your trip to an important assignment. Good luck and Godspeed to you and to Diane.
And today we welcome General Mike Hagee.
From the hills of southeast Texas in the 1960s, Mike demonstrated both academic and athletic prowess here at this academy. In the 35 years since then, we have seen what he can do.
He showed dynamic leadership in Vietnam and served at the Central Intelligence Agency and at the Pentagon, and has held every command at every echelon, from platoon to Marine Expeditionary Force.
With his superb background, I know he’ll build, shape and continue transforming the Marines for the future.
You know, unless you’re a Mozart or an Einstein, and you go off in a room by yourself and do something terrific, all the rest of us, whatever it is we do, we do it with other people. And the one thing I’ve always considered among my most important tasks is to try to find truly talented people -- people we can learn from, people with integrity and energy, who are willing to think differently and take risks, and do the kinds of things necessary to leave an institution better than they found it.
Over the course of my career, I have worked hard at trying to find the most talented people. I’m proud to say that when I was -- back in 1969, I guess I was in my early 30s, and I was the Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity, I hired a young graduate student in his 20s, to serve as my special assistant, Dick Cheney. The same month I hired another man, who also became Secretary of Defense, literally in the same month, and that was Frank Carlucci.
One of the most important things that the President and the Secretary of Defense do during their tenure is to select the military leaders to lead our armed forces into the future. So, it’s not surprising that over the past 2 years, General Dick Myers, the Chairman of Chiefs, and General Pete Pace, the Vice Chairman, and Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and I have spent an enormous amount of time looking at the many, many talented people in the Department of Defense, and looking for the very, very best talent to fill the top 20, 30 posts in the U.S. Armed Forces -- before making a recommendation to the President.
The President has made an outstanding choice in selecting Mike Hagee to lead the Marine Corps in this time of challenge and change. He has a brilliant career behind him, and still brighter prospects ahead.
The President has made a promise to our nation and the world. He made that promise shortly after the September 11th attacks. He said, “We will not waver; we will not tire; we will not falter. And we will not fail.”
You -- the men and women of the Marine Corps, along with your colleagues in the other services, are the ones who will deliver on that promise. You are the ones who will win the global war on terror. As our nation fights the global war on terror, you need, and you deserve, the very best possible leadership -- and in General Mike Hagee, you will have it.
We are proud to welcome General Hagee as the 33rd Commandant of the Marine Corps. Mike, we salute you, and we salute Silke, and we wish you well in this critical assignment. Congratulations.