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Presentation of the Joseph Kruzel Award to Jeremy Rosner
Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen, The Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, September 15, 1999

Thank you very much, Walt [Slocombe, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy], for those kind words. I also want to take this occasion to thank you for your inspiring service and dedication to this Department, particularly through the many long days and far too many sleepless nights of the crisis in Kosovo. And also, I might add, for the three days and three nights in Helsinki, and we weren't always able to tell which was the day and which was the night. I want everyone to know how instrumental you were to the successful conclusion of those negotiations with the Russians.

Jeremy, Laurie and the entire Rosner family, your beautiful family here today; Gail and John Kruzel; Mrs. Robert Frasure; Distinguished guests, including Ambassador Kozminski from Poland, and I believe there are others here as well; Ladies and gentlemen.

Roughly thirty years ago, a mechanized evil rolled across Europe and into the heart of Prague, and a young Czech playwright saw his nation’s struggle as a smoldering ache for freedom that echoed the world over. He said that, "Nothing short of human existence itself is at stake."

Several months ago, that playwright-turned-president stood proudly on a dais here in Washington. Along with his colleagues from Poland and Hungary, he affirmed his nation’s arrival at freedom’s gate. As President Vaclav Havel once said, "The real test of a man is not how well he plays the role he has invented for himself, but how well he plays the role that destiny assigned to him."

All who knew him know that Joe Kruzel played his role very well, indeed. As Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Joe was, I would say, part soldier, part statesman, and part scholar. He had the raw determination of a soldier, of the Air Force officer he once was. He had the skilled diplomacy of a born statesman. And he had the engaging wisdom of a scholar.

Of course, destiny would assign Joe Kruzel, along with Nelson Drew and Robert Frasure, another role, that is one of a genuine hero who gave his life trying to save the lives of so many more. So today, Joe remains an inspiration to his family, who carry his memory in the center of their souls; to his colleagues throughout this Department, who continue his noble work; and to the entire NATO Alliance he served so well.

Longfellow -- and I like Longfellow since he’s from a state I’m so proud of -- said that, "We can make our lives sublime, and departing, leave behind footprints in the sands of time." Today we honor a man who has followed with great grace the footsteps that Joe Kruzel left behind. As the President’s hand-picked special advisor for NATO enlargement, Jeremy Rosner finally realized Joe Kruzel’s dream, his vision, proving Joe’s prediction that, "NATO enlargement is a historical inevitability."

Indeed, the fact that we have an Ambassador from the former Soviet block as a new ally here today is reason enough to recognize Jeremy’s achievements. But this award is bestowed for so much more. Jeremy also embodies the shining qualities we admired so much in Joe Kruzel.

Today we are paying tribute to Jeremy’s skillful determination and advocacy, both abroad and here at home. In fact, I can attest to that personally through our trips to Capitol Hill. I saw first-hand Jeremy’s effort to convert reluctant Members of Congress. I think that many in this room and many observers were somewhat surprised at our overwhelming success in the Senate during the ratification period, but it was no surprise to Jeremy, who had predicted the outcome to within one vote.

So today we are paying tribute to Jeremy’s vision, a vision that he shared with Joe Kruzel, of a Europe that is whole and free, a vision tested greatly this spring. Mere days into their membership, the three new members of NATO found themselves joined in NATO’s first battle. Indeed, their cooperation was essential to NATO’s cohesion throughout the conflict. And the fact that we have a representative here today is, again, a fitting testament to Jeremy’s extraordinary and enduring success.

As we step forward into the next century, we hold in our hearts the words of the English poet Lawrence Binyon who once wrote of those who devote, indeed give, their lives to freedom. "Age shall not weary them nor years condemn. At the going down of the sun or in the morning, we shall remember them." Of course, we must do more than merely remember them, we must carry on their work. And so today we remember the life of Joe Kruzel and we honor Jeremy Rosner for carrying on his legacy.