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Presentation of the President’s Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service to David O. "Doc" Cooke
As Delivered by Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen, The Pentagon Auditorium, Thursday, January 21, 1999

Former Secretaries Laird, Rumsfeld, Schlesinger, and Weinberger, would you please stand. [Applause] Deputy Secretaries White and Taft are with us as well. [Applause] Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Shelton. [Applause] Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, (Retired) General (Colin) Powell. [Applause] Former Secretaries and Chairmen, members of the armed forces, friends, members of the Cooke family, and ladies and gentlemen.

Forty years ago, just about the time that a young lawyer named David Cooke started work here at the Pentagon, the novelist Allen Drury published his timeless novel, Advise and Consent.

In describing the perpetual change that politics brings to Washington, he described it as "a city of temporaries, a city of ‘just-arriveds’ and ‘only visitings’ – filled with people passing through." But Drury said that in a nation built around Main Streets, some stay in Washington because they instinctively know that it is the biggest Main Street of them all.

Today we honor a man who, in this "city of temporaries," has become a pillar of stability and permanence. Doc Cooke truly is the "Mayor" of our Main Street. And virtually everyone who has passed through the Pentagon over the last four decades has been touched by his decisions and his dedication.

When I first passed through as Secretary, I was reminded of another Secretary who arrived for his first day of work. He lacked a building pass. He was wary of creating a stir, and he tried to talk his way past the security guard at the gate -- without luck.

Exasperated, he said: "Listen, I don’t know if you realize this, but I am the new Secretary of Defense, and I am ordering you to let me in."

And the guard replied: "Listen, I don’t care if you’re Doc Cooke, you’re not getting in without a pass." [Laughter]

And unless you think I am exaggerating – I don’t know if any of you noticed this but as Doc entered, General Powell reached over and kissed his hand. [Laughter]

... Don’t worry, we have it on film, Colin. [Laugther]

The story of Doc Cooke is indeed the stuff of legend and lore -- that, if you cross him, your desk may suddenly be relocated to the North Parking Lot ... [Laughter]

... followed by a ticket for being in the wrong section. [Laughter]

In fact, in his office you will find one of his favorite pictures -- Doc seated in the chair of the Secretary of Defense with nine former Secretaries standing behind him. Don Rumsfeld calls this: "The Godfather and His Henchmen." [Laughter]

The real story, of course, is that there isn’t a more respected or beloved mayor around. I used to be the mayor of Bangor, Maine before coming to Washington. And as so many of you have heard me say before: Bangor is the third largest city in Maine – slightly bigger than the Pentagon. [Laughter] So I know how difficult it is to be all things to all people. Potholes, water pipes, office space, computer purchases, even parking tickets – a little bit of everything comes through your door when you are there.

But Doc has managed one of the toughest jobs in the Pentagon with grace and good humor, and used his time and talents to become so much more than a mayor. He is a planner, an architect, a teacher, a bridge-builder.

As a planner, Doc gives the sage advice to help prepare the Department for the future.

The renovation now underway is a billion-dollar project that will bring the Pentagon into the next century. And I would add parenthetically – hopefully before the end of the next century. [Laughter]

As an architect, Doc has worked with countless Secretaries to bring entire departments from idea to blueprint to completion: the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Defense Supply Agency,

the Defense Investigative Service, and the Defense Mapping Agency, just to name a few.

As a bridge-builder, Doc has helped us reach groups and communities that were once held at arm’s length. By encouraging tours and exhibits, he has built bridges to the world outside of defense, so civilians can learn more about who we are and what we do. As Chairman of the Combined Federal Campaign, he has had a phenomenal record, channeling millions of dollars to needy local communities. Just yesterday, we had a presentation of the (CFC) check, the largest amount we have ever raised -- $10.3 million dollars – and it has all come under the leadership of Doc.

As a teacher, Doc has been a stalwart supporter of continuing education and of our senior executives. He has been the patron saint of numerous recruiting and intern programs, such as the program for Presidential Management Interns. He even helped create a Public Service Academy in Anacostia High School, so disadvantaged students could get a hand up and an appreciation of the value of pubic service.

In all of these roles, Doc stands as a consummate professional and role model for reliability, integrity, and teamwork. He not only accepts challenges, he genuinely loves not only working with people but managing them. And regardless of how large his role, when something succeeds he is the first one to give praise and give credit to his colleagues. As Doc will tell you, his management philosophy is: "Take your job seriously, but not yourself."

Few people realize that the secret of Doc’s success is his love of language. Perhaps because of his Welsh background and growing up in the Irish part of Buffalo, on occasion he borrows a bit of the blarney. Secretary Cheney, in fact, still marvels at how Doc could convey bad news with such a velvet hand. [Laughter]

Dick said: "Doc didn’t always give me what I wanted, but actually he never told me ‘No’." [Laugther] So he is not only affable and efficient, but he treats everyone – regardless of rank -- with fairness and dignity.

In gathering today, we not only express our gratitude for who Doc is and what he has accomplished, we are grateful to know that we will be able to rely on him in the future. There is a passage in Emerson’s famous essay, "Self-reliance," which I think speaks to this occasion. Emerson wrote that, in a great man, "the force of character is cumulative. All the foregone days of virtue work their health into the present. The consciousness of a train of great days and victories behind only sheds a united light on the advancing actor."

Doc, for all your work in the days foregone, and for all your work in the bright days ahead, we thank you very much.