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Remarks by Secretary Hagel at the White House

Mr. President, thank you. Thank you for your generous words, your friendship and support, which I have always valued and will continue to value. To my not old but my longtime dear friend Vice President Biden, who I have always admired and respected – and both the President and I have learned an awful lot from the Vice President over the years – thank you.

And I want to thank the Deputy Secretary of Defense, who is here, Bob Work, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Marty Dempsey, who is also here. I want to thank them for being here this morning.  I also want to thank you both for your tremendous leadership of the Defense Department and what you mean to our men and women and their families all over the world, and for the honor I’ve had to serve with each of you, and the privilege it’s – it’s been in every way.

And I want to thank the entire leadership team at the Pentagon.  Without their support and wise counsel over the last couple of years, our many accomplishments – and the President noted some – I have been part of that, but it’s a team.  It’s all these tremendous men and women, as you know, Mr. President, that make this happen, and I couldn’t be prouder of them and what we have accomplished over the almost two years that I’ve had the honor of serving in this position.

And as the President noted, I have today submitted my resignation as Secretary of Defense.  It’s been the greatest privilege of my life – the greatest privilege of my life – to lead and, most important, to serve – to serve with the men and women of the Defense Department and support their families. I am immensely proud of what we’ve accomplished during this time.

We have prepared ourselves – as the President has noted – our allies, and Afghan National Security Forces for a successful transition in Afghanistan.  We’ve bolstered enduring alliances and strengthened emerging partnerships, while successfully responding to crises around the world.  And we’ve launched important reforms that the President noted – reforms that will prepare this institution for the challenges facing us in decades to come. 

I believe we have set not only this Department – the Department of Defense – but the nation on a stronger course toward security, stability, and prosperity.  If I didn’t believe that, I would not have done this job.

As our country prepares to celebrate Thanksgiving, I want you, Mr. President, and you, Vice President Biden…acknowledge what you have done and how grateful I am to both of you for your leadership and your friendship…and for giving me this opportunity to serve our country again.  I will continue to support you, Mr. President, and the men and women who defend this country every day so unselfishly – and their families – what they do for our country so unselfishly.

And as I have said, and as the President noted, I will stay on this job and work just as hard as I have over the last couple of years every day, every moment until my successor is confirmed by the United States Senate.

I’d also like to express my gratitude to our colleagues on Capitol Hill – my gratitude to them for their support of me, but more importantly their support of our troops and their families, and their continued commitment to our national security.

I also want to thank my international counterparts for their friendship and their partnership and their advice during my time as Secretary of Defense.  Their involvement with me and their partnership with me in so many of these important areas as we build these coalitions of common interest, as you have noted Mr. President, are so critically important.  And to them, I am grateful.

I will be forever grateful.

And finally, I’d like to thank my family: my wife, Lilibet, who you have mentioned, Mr. President, who is with me this morning, as she has been with me throughout so many years and during so many tremendous experiences. And this experience and opportunity and privilege to serve as Secretary of Defense has been one of those.  And my daughter, Allyn, and my son, Ziller.

Mr. President, again, thank you to you and to all of our team everywhere.  And as we know, Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, it is a team effort.  And that’s the – part of the fun of it, to help build teams and to work together to make things happen for the good of the country and make a better world.  For all of that, I’m immensely grateful.

And to all of you, your families: Happy Thanksgiving.  Thank you very much.