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Tribute to Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Pentagon Parade Ground, Friday, April 29, 2005

 Well, thank you all for coming.  We're pleased you're here.  A special welcome to Paul Wolfowitz and his family and friends and lovely daughter, Rachel, sitting there.

           And welcome to Chairman John Warner.  We appreciate your being here, your old stomping grounds.  And Senator Coleman, thank you so much for being here, and all the senior military and civilian officials of the Department of Defense and guests.  Welcome.

Three years ago, The Economist magazine had an interesting take on the job of deputy cabinet secretary.

It wrote, "Most deputy secretaries live lives of quiet frustration.  They get stuck with all the grunt work, while their bosses swan around in the limelight.  And they have to sit mutely while the best ideas are either buried or stolen.”

And then there's Paul Wolfowitz.

History is not always generous to the men and women who helped to shape it.  Great abolitionists like John Quincy Adams and Frederick Douglas would not live to see full equality for African Americans that they had envisioned and fought to bring about.

Many brave East Germans were shot as they tried to breach the Berlin Wall and would never see the wall crumble under the weight of lies and pretensions that built it.

But sometimes history is kind, and it gave President Harry Truman, for example, and George Marshall the chance to see the fall of the Third Reich and the fulfillment of their charge to rebuild Western Europe.

And it allowed Corazon Aquino, with the help from a young Assistant Secretary of State, Paul Wolfowitz, to see the triumph of people power in the Philippines -- the dream her husband had nurtured and for which he was cut down before it was fulfilled.

And although it may not always have seemed to Paul, the fact is history has smiled on Paul, as it should.

           So he leaves us today with the good fortune of seeing so much accomplished -- or being accomplished, I should say -- he helped bring to fruition or things that he helped set in motion:

  • Reform and the modernizing of America's defense establishment;
  • The dispatch of dangerous regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq;
  • The spark of freedom and self-government that is finding oxygen in the Middle East.

Paul now will add one more title to all the titles that Pete Pace listed, and it's a heady list. 

When I stood with Paul at his welcoming ceremony at the Pentagon way back in 2001, more than four years ago -- it seems like eight -- I noted that this was Paul's third tour in the Department of Defense.  I told him we were going to keep bringing him back until he got it right.  Well, he got it right this time.

The activities he has been involved with over the past four years are extensive.  He has helped craft four defense budgets and supplementals.  He has helped bring new technologies to protect our troops.  And he has helped to reconfigure a number of Cold War systems and organizations to help us meet the threats of the 21st century.

So as we bid Paul a warm farewell, I might just say a word or two about the Paul Wolfowitz that I have worked with these past four years.

They say in life people tend to fall into one of two categories -- dreamers and doers.  Well, our friend Paul is a bit of a "mugwamp," as they used to say in the old days -- he's a bit of both, one who lives the creed "Think as a man of action and act as a man of thought."

He grew up in Brooklyn in a household of Polish immigrants for whom names like Hitler and Stalin and words like holocaust were not abstractions or simply pages in a history book. 

And it should be no surprise to those who know him that one of Paul's early political acts -- at the age of 19, I'm told -- was to participate in the March for Civil Rights with Martin Luther King.

Paul was a bright young mathematician who drifted into political science, undoubtedly disappointing his father, who I am told would have preferred he pursue a career in a real subject, like chemistry or something like that.

But Paul's analytic talents have been put to excellent use as someone who has grasped future trends and threats for many were able to and before some probably wanted to:

  • As early as the 1960s, he foresaw the dangers of nuclear weapon programs in the Middle East.
  • In the 1970s he identified the territorial ambitions of Iraq as a future concern for the U.S. military.
  • And before September 11th, he grasped that the civilized world could not make a separate peace with terrorists and that our future security was certainly linked to addressing the freedom deficit in much of the Muslim world.

History will see Paul as one of the consequential thinkers and public servants of his generation.

He's worked to ease the burdens of the wounded and their families, as we've seen.  And he's departing the Pentagon now, but the legacy that Paul has been a part of, the ideas he has helped to weave into public and private debates, the effects of the policies that he's championed so effectively and with such courage and determination are not going anywhere.

Because they're not found only in this building or only in the department all across the globe.

They are found now in towns and villages in Indonesia, where I'm told that pictures still hang in tribute to an American ambassador who put the aspirations of dissidents and ordinary Indonesians above the temporary convenience of power politics.

They're found in Afghanistan today, where a democratically elected government now protects women and imprisons terrorists, instead of imprisoning women and harboring terrorists. 

And they're found in a schoolroom in Iraq, where a young girl will learn real history and real subjects instead of lies and tributes to tyrants.

           That girl is free, and so are millions like her -- and that, in part, is because of you, Paul.  You've been on their side.  And as General Pace said, you have never wavered.

           The threatened, the oppressed and the persecuted around the world must know in their heart that they have had a friend in Paul Wolfowitz.

           You are one of those rare people who, as the Talmud puts it, would rather light candles than curse the darkness.

           So I thank you, your country thanks you, and on behalf of the Department of Defense, we wish you Godspeed in your new post, a post of service to the world.  The department will miss one of its finest public servants, and I will miss a treasured friend.

Godspeed.

 

For a complete transcript, including questions and answers, please visit:

http://www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/