Monday, September 8, 1997
Deputy Secretary Hamre: Secretary Cohen, General Shalikashvili, I thank you for your remarkably generous words. I'm so pleased my parents, Mel and Ruth Hamre, are here because at least two people believe what you just said.
I'm very honored to be here today, and I'm very honored especially to have so many very, very fine leaders of Congress to join us here today. You honor the Department by coming. I'm so very grateful. And my colleagues especially from other Departments of the Executive Branch. It's a great honor that you've given the Department of Defense that you would come today. Thank you.
The German philosopher Goethe once said that if you discard what he owed to others, there wouldn't be much left of him. I am indebted to so many people who are here today, and I'm fortunate to have them here to share the joy of my time with you.
I start, again, with my parents, Melvin and Ruth Hamre, and I'm so delighted they're here. My brother, sisters; my larger family; and I'm especially happy to have my large church family who's here with me today. I'm very grateful that you're all here.
I also would have to say thank you to my friend and my partner in life, Julie -- my wife. I thank you for joining me on this latest leg in our journey through life together.
The great humanitarian Albert Schweitzer once told a group of his friends, "I do not know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know, the only ones among you who will really be happy are those who have sought and found how to serve." I stand here before you today as the happiest man in America. Words cannot capture what an honor it is for me to be here today.
As Secretary Cohen said, I grew up in a very small town in South Dakota where none of the houses had numbers and none of the streets had names, and to think that someone like me could end up being the Deputy Secretary of Defense really speaks volumes about the greatness of this country and its unbounded opportunities for all.
I'm grateful to my country for this opportunity to serve. I'm grateful to you, Mr. Secretary, and to the President for the confidence that you have placed in me. I'm very grateful to the Congress, to the leaders of the Congress, who have extended to me their trust and their willingness to work with me. Finally, I'm very thankful to all the members of the armed services for this opportunity to lead them, and I'm very grateful, indeed.
I pledge to all of you my complete loyalty, my honesty, and every ounce of my energy as we, together, set about the process of defending America.
This month marks the Golden Anniversary of the Department of Defense. We celebrate 50 years of guarding America -- a half a century of excellence. Created at the dawn of the Cold War, this remarkable Department has protected America during its darkest hours, and saw us through to the dawn of a new and brighter era. Today, in the twilight of the 20th Century, this nation is blessed with unprecedented opportunities to build peace and a better tomorrow.
Secretary Cohen, on behalf of the President, has set us on a clear path for our nation's defense today and in the future. Working with the Congress, the Department will retain the ability to meet all conceivable challenges to America and to our allies today and in the future. We will give America a Department that is ready in the future to meet the demands for defense that we think will emerge. We will emphasize and promote the innovation inherent in the American spirit so that the Department can adapt to unforeseen challenges that lie ahead.
We will give highest priority to our greatest natural resource -- our talented men and women who comprise this remarkable force. We will eliminate needless spending by streamlining and reengineering the Department, especially in the areas of support and administration. And we will emphasize the values that
constitute the foundation of this great country and of this Department -- duty, honor, integrity, honesty, faithfulness.
As President Clinton has said, "America is the indispensable nation." You, the men and women of the armed forces -- and I include all civilians here in that -- are the indispensable people of this indispensable nation. Because of your willingness to serve and sacrifice, America will accomplish much in coming years. I pledge that I will seek with every fiber of my being to support you and to live up to your trust.
As I begin this challenge, I'm inspired by the words of a very great American who is also a fellow Mid-Westerner, and that is Senator Bob Dole. Last January, President Clinton honored Bob Dole by presenting him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Senator Dole, in turn, gave America a great gift with a lovely little speech that he used to acknowledge that gift. I would like to read to you a few portions of it because it says everything that I feel today.
Senator Dole said, "I have seen American soldiers bring hope and leave (inaudible) in every corner of the world. I have seen this nation overcome depression and segregation and communism, turning back mortal threats to human freedom. And I have stood in awe of American courage and decency, virtues so rare in history and so common in this precious place.
"I have been in government at moments when politics was elevated by courage into history. When the Civil Rights Act was passed; when the Americans with Disability Act became law. No one who took part in those honorable causes can doubt that public service at its best is noble.
"The moral challenges of our time can seem less clear, but they still demand conviction and courage and character. They still require young men and women with faith in our process. They still demand idealists captured by the honor and adventure of service. They still demand citizens who accept responsibility and who defy cynicism -- affirming the American faith and renewing her hope. They still demand the President and Congress to find real unity in public good.
"If we remember this, then America will always be the country of tomorrow where every day is a new beginning and every life an instrument of God's justice."
Thank you all very much for coming today.