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Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld remarks at Hall of Heroes

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
September 17, 2003
 Zapanta:  Ladies and Gentlemen it gives me not only a distinct honor and pleasure to introduce the Secretary of Defense who I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for over thirty years and it’s been a great thirty years.


            Rumsfeld:  I’m not that old. 




            Zapanta:  If you’ve been around him like I have you’ll know he’ll always has something for you to say.  But he’s had a distinguished career, as you know he was Congressman when he was really young from Illinois… he then was asked by President Nixon to come into the Administration to do some things that had never been done before such as head the Office of Economic Opportunity.  To do things to look at and try to develop the kind of programs that would help many of the areas on the lower social economic communities, poverty, etc.


            He then went on to do the kind of work that you would expect of a person of his background, he went to NATO. He also did a stint not only as Ambassador to NATO he was also on the Council of Economic Advisors for the Secretary and then when I had a chance to spend some time with him that’s when he was Chief of Staff for President Gerry Ford and then I had the opportunity to be here with him when he took the oath of office for the first time around as Secretary of Defense 1976 so.  Ladies and gentlemen I could go on and on you know {Laughter}


            Rumsfeld:  Give him the hook.  {Laughter}


            Zapanta:  Now you know why we’re friends, ladies and gentleman Don Rumsfeld.


            Rumsfeld:  Al, thank you very much, good afternoon ladies and gentleman.  Is everyone here from the Pentagon?


            Audience:  No.


            Rumsfeld:  Where are you from?


            Audience:  Puerto Rico.


            Rumsfeld:  And whom do you work with?  All DoD?


            Audience:  Universities.


            Rumsfeld:  Mostly DoD?


            Audience:  Private.


            Rumsfeld:  Kind a like to know who I’m talking to here before I get going.


            I am delighted to be here. The Hispanic tradition and culture of course is a vital part of our nations heritage and certainly a source of our countries strength including our military strength for sure.  Devotion to faith and family, community and country… that really is what our country is about and that patriotism and love of country and selfless service have been evident in every war and in every battle that our country has fought from the American Revolution up to Operation Iraqi Freedom.


            I know Hispanics and in my adult lifetime, who of course served our country with great distinction and on behalf of the Department of Defense we thank all of them.  When I just came back I guess a week in a half ago from Iraq and Afghanistan and I try to speak briefly and then respond to questions and then go out and visit with folks and have chance to shake hands and look them in the eye and of course everyone wears name tags now so you see these name after name is a Hispanic name and it’s a wonderful thing to see.


            I know what a thrill it is for me to be able to look them in the eye and tell them what a wonderful job they’re doing for the country and how important what they’re doing is for the country and indeed it is.  I’m told that 39 recipients of the Medal of Honor – is that the right number?


            Staff:  Yes.


            Rumsfeld:  The nations highest award, have been Hispanic Americans and all branches of the military have been served and led by Hispanic Americans in one way or another.  I just spent time with General Rick Sanchez out in Baghdad and traveled around the country with him, he’s leading all of our forces in Iraq, certainly one of our very top leaders in the country.  Today I’m told there are something like 129,000 Hispanics that are serving on active duty with honor at all levels in Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, many have paid the ultimate price. When I visit Bethesda and Walter Reed and Brooks Army Hospital and shake hands with those that were wounded I see – I frequently see those with Hispanic names.  Certainly we’re grateful for their service, we’re grateful for their sacrifice.  It’s interesting that I’m told that more than 32% of all non-citizens that are serving in the military, and we have a lot of non-citizens serving in the military, are Hispanics.  Under and order signed by President Bush anyone whose serving honorably after September 11th, 2001 is eligible to apply for naturalization regardless of the amount of time they’ve served.  I think that’s the right thing to do.


            Of course the Guard and Reserve and Active Forces are not the only places that the Department benefits from the talent and dedication of Hispanic Americans. They serve throughout the Department of Defense here in Washington and elsewhere across the world and also of course throughout the government and not just the Department of Defense.  And since taking office President Bush has been very clear about the priority he places on having and recruiting talented Hispanics for senior positions.


            We are certainly committed to increasing representation in the Department of Defense, military and civilian.  Dr. David Chu at PNR, of course, has the lead and will work with all of those in the Department who can be helpful, it’s in my view critically important that this Department, which has such a large Hispanic population serving in the military have people at senior levels who are to indicate to the population in the Armed Services that this is a Department that represents the full spectrum of our country.  The President’s priority, I think, is easy to understand. We recognize that there’s strength in that diversity, we know that every minority success story is another success story for the United States of America and in deed it is and when all is said and done opportunity and promise is what our country is about.


            I’m told that Army Master Sergeant and Medal of Honor winner Roy Benevidez said that there is no greater calling for a man or women than to serve in the military of a free nation, it’s a calling that transcends all others because embedded deep within the soul of every free man or every free women is the knowledge that every freedom we have was earned for us by our ancestors.  Each and every generation, he said, must relearn those lessons. And they’re best learned by doing. So this year we do honor the contributions of Hispanic Americans past, present and future.  For more than two hundred years Hispanic Americans have honored Americas past by cherishing her founding ideas and never hesitating to be willing to fight for the liberty that lights our way.


            I have a little place in Taos, New Mexico, which of course has a very large Hispanic population.  I’m trying to think it’s been going on now I bet you for 15 or 20 years but if you look in the local newspaper you’ll see Hispanics who were passing away from World War II.  I’m almost positive that it was the National Guard in New Mexico that was at Batan in Kreigador(?).  So you look in the obituaries and you’ll see almost, you know, every month somebody who’s passing away who survived the death march.  I don’t know – does someone here know how many there were, who were actually there at Kreigador(?) when General McArthur and that capture took place and the march began but it was a large number and a particularly large number of New Mexicans.


            So, today in Afghanistan and Iraq and on every other front in the global war on terror Hispanics are helping bring liberty to others long oppressed and through the civilian and military leaders alike they are leading the next generation into a future of hope and opportunity and, the good Lord willing, a world that will be inherited by folks who will no longer have to be fearful and terrorized by the folks that are spreading terror across the globe at the present time.


            So I thank you all for being here, I thank you for your service to the country, I wish you well and I don’t know if I’m suppose to answer questions or not but I’d sure be happy to.


            I’m a little scared when a hand goes up that fast, I feel she was cocked and ready, son of gun oh my golly, all right.


            Zapanta:  We have Assistant Secretary of the Air Force Mike Montelongo here.


            Rumsfeld:  I know.


            Zapanta:  And we’ve got Deputy Assistant Secretary Shirley Martinez, I think Under Secretary Mike Win just walked in.  Hi Mike.


            Rumsfeld:  Hello Mike.


            Zapanta:  Pardo-Maurer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and Mike Dominguez just had to leave because he’s on stage that you just came from, so.


            Rumsfeld:  I see.


            Zapanta:  Anyway if you would.


            Q:  I’ll stand over here so people can hear my statement as well.


            Rumsfeld:  I said questions not statements.


            Q:  (Inaudible) might not take questions and that’s why I was so quick because I was afraid you might change your mind.


              This morning I chaired a session on Improving Force Manning #6 of your list of priorities.  I’m sure you noticed already, Mr. Secretary, but industries started to diversify its workforce because it needs higher profits.


            Rumsfeld:  You bet.


            Q:  Diversified groups (inaudible) for the DoD, diversified war fighting/civilian workforce can translate into a higher performing, more forward thinking workforce.  Now, Hispanics are the only large minority that are unrepresented at the Pentagon and this has been the case at all levels but in particular the senior levels for about the last 3 years, the first time you were here.  It would appear that when you left progress went with you but regardless a gentler, neutral organization such as the GAO and OPM have made it clear that the cause of the problem is the problem is the people who are doing hiring.  They’ve also laid out what needs to be one to deal with the cause and what our session did then was to lay our recommendations that we feel were practical, feasible actions that could be implemented within DoD.


            Rumsfeld:  Good.


            Q:  We strongly feel that this is bigger than an EEO issue and –


            Rumsfeld:  Well it is.  The functioning of this force depends on our being able to reach out into the entire society and have people come in and participate in this force and know of certain knowledge that they’re going to have full opportunity to move forward, so we need successful people at every level of this institution so that that message is very clear and unambiguous.


            Q:  And you have in Mr. Zapanta someone who’s not just a skilled, effective diplomat but someone who’s passionate and committed and someone who would surely be a strong advocate for this at the highest level.


            Rumsfeld:  Is that exactly the way he wrote it for you?  {Laughter}


            Q:  Actually no but that aside, this Administration, you Sir, have more than once expressed an interest to do something about this (inaudible) to us that means that it’s a call for action and a time for progress and I guess I believe I speak for everyone here when I say thank you for the opportunity and that’s all.


            Rumsfeld:  Thank you very much.


            I’ll call on the people.  No I’ll call on the people.


            Q:  I’m Charlie Erickson with Hispanic Link News Service.


            Rumsfeld:  No press questions here this is just the audience here.


            Q:  Have you been apprised of the situation of Juan Escalante the 19 year veteran of Iraq who is now facing deportation for mis-stating on his Army entrance that he was a legal U.S. resident and now –


            Rumsfeld:  No.


            Q:  And now facing deportation?


            Rumsfeld:  I shouldn’t say that.  The way phrased the question have I been apprised of that, I get so much stuff that I don’t read and don’t see, the answer is I’m not aware that I was apprised of it if in fact I have been. But we’ve got a thing up in the office we call the black hole and that’s where stuff that suppose to get me that doesn’t, ends up.  But I’m not aware of it.


            Q:  Okay well my question would be then is that this is getting a lot of national publicity on TV and in the newspapers now and what would you see as being the impact of a veteran from Iraq being deported, which immigration is now trying to do after having served successfully in Iraq and he’s still waiting for an answer from the military as to whether he can stay in the service?


            Rumsfeld:  I will look into it, I’m not knowledgeable about it and I’m a little reluctant to leap into the middle of a legal issue, having been a law school dropout, and offer an opinion and furthermore I’ve never been accused of having a judicial temperament. But I will look into it, I assure you.


            Question yes Sir?


            Q:  (Inaudible) of this country, do you see that the education of the Hispanic population do you see that as national security issue or great interest and how do you see that?


            Rumsfeld:  Well, I think education of everybody in the country is an important issue for our country if we staked everything, everything on the idea that given sufficient information can function as citizens and find their way to reasonably right decisions and guide and direct the course of their government and if we have a population that doesn’t have the kind of understanding and education that enables them to function as citizens why we have lost something just critical, essential to our success as a nation. So I certainly think it’s important, I think it’s important not simply for Hispanics but for every person in the country.




            Q:  (Inaudible)?


            Rumsfeld:  I feel like a gerbil.  {Laughter}


            You know you get up every morning you run like the dickens you end up right where you started 25 years later, everyone else got promoted, everyone else is doing other stuff, here I am right back there.


            Q:  Are things different then they use to be?


            Rumsfeld:  Oh my, are they ever.


            Q:  In terms of Hispanics and (inaudible).


            Rumsfeld:  Sure I mean there’s been a lot of progress.  I was a Congressman and supported Civil Rights Legislation and minorities and it took a decade or so, even more, for that legislation to become part of our way of life and they’re an awful lot of things that are different today.  The one thing that really isn’t different are the men and women in uniform, they were terrific then and they’re terrific today in terms of their willingness to step forward and volunteer and say send me and that’s a wonderful thing.




            Q:  Secretary thank you for doing this (inaudible) don’t hold this against me but I’m good friend Zapanta.


            Rumsfeld:  You’re not very quick you wouldn’t be standing up and saying that and spreading it around like that.


            Q:  I want to echo Mrs. Rodriquez’s statements to you and thank you for giving us the opportunity.


            Rumsfeld:  She doesn’t need a lot of help.  {Laughter}  She’s pretty good.


            Q:  But we’d like to participate obviously as much as part as coalition of Hispanic leaders with your office (inaudible) working on this issue (inaudible), we’ve worked on this for many, many years.  Of course we like that fact that you’re openness and your understanding of the problem and just wanted to offer you our support and hard work to get something done (inaudible).


            Rumsfeld:  Good thank you - appreciate that.


            Yes Sir?


            Q:   Are you going to – be the Department of Defense going to increase the size of its (inaudible) program is so important.


            Rumsfeld:  Of it’s what?


            Q:  Increase the mentor protégé program.  You see that in the future and one more thing as a retired Naval Officer and father of a Marine who just returned from Iraq in June, thank God you guys are there.


            Rumsfeld:  Thank you very much.  That’s very nice.  Tell him thank you for me.  I don’t know enough about the mentoring program to know what ought to be done with it but I’ll pose that question and address it.


            Q:  I work with Mr. Win, Director of the OSD Small Business Office.  He does know about mentoring protégé.  Let me put this (inaudible) question.  I brought together after being – we have Lockheed Martin, (inaudible).  And one of the questions that came up was (inaudible) program that’s limited by Congress $25 million dollars.  I think the broader question is are we going to bring (inaudible) community into this transformation of Department of Defense and we’re going to (inaudible) Commissioner to do just that and what facet if this (inaudible) program – and we’re going to drive it and we’re going to move in that direction (inaudible)?


            Rumsfeld:  Good thank you.


            Yes.  Oh oh.


            Q:  Sir, one of the most important things we can do communicate with the Hispanic community in the United States I want to single out two outstanding officers that you have right here. Come on, Cyndi Scott-Johnson and Barbara Burfeind, where are they? They are your Public Affairs officers and they’ve gone the extra mile.


            Rumsfeld:  They have a fan club out there in the Hispanic Community.


            Q:  They have gone the extra mile finding every Hispanic Officer, soldier, sailor, airman , and getting them on Televisa, Univision, CNN en Espanol, the radio programs,  they have been the heart and soul in reaching out to that media. I’d like to recognize them.


            Rumsfeld:  Terrific.


            One more question.




            Q:  One of the things I wanted comment and thank to you for was the fact that, number one, was the accountability from the management in DoD in order to accomplish Hispanic clinical.  Secondly we’re looking for an institutional approach on how to do that and establish – following that, establish the metrics and implementation of that so we can certainly reach our goals.  I think, Sir, the fact that you are here today has set that first step in progress and that’s the accountability of DoD at highest level and I want to thank you (inaudible).


            Rumsfeld:  Thank you very much I appreciate it.

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