Advancing a Free Society

On Leadership

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Yesterday President Obama held a press conference at which he unfavorably compared our elected legislature to his daughters’ doing their homework.  Mysteriously, the President of the United States called on Congress to lead the country, taking no responsibility for crafting a solution to the stalemate over pending debt default.  President Obama actually said "call me naive, but my expectation is that leaders are going to lead."

On the same day the President so manifestly declined to meet his own stated expectation, Robert Gates provided us all a shining example of leadership.  He has led the Department of Defense with a seriousness of purpose and understated style that brought out the best in our military and the civilians of our defense establishment.  President Obama would do well to study how his Defense Secretary’s respect for and commitment to the people under his care won their utmost effort to achieve what he set out for them.

To remind us all as the 4th of July celebrations approach that our freedom is bought for us by soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines and their families, below is the complete text of Secretary Gates’ farewell message to our Armed Forces.  This is what great leadership looks like.

To the men and women of the United States armed forces:

Tomorrow, 30 June 2011, I will retire as secretary of defense. It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve and to lead you for the past four and a half years.

All of that time we have been engaged in two wars and countless other operations. It has been a difficult time for you and for your families, from long and repeated deployments for those in all four services — and the associated long separations from loved ones — to the anguish of those of you who have lost friends and family in combat or those of you who have suffered visible and invisible wounds of war yourselves. But your dedication, courage and skill have kept America safe even while bringing the war in Iraq to a successful conclusion and, I believe, at last turning the tide in Afghanistan. Your countrymen owe you their freedom and their security. They sleep safely at night and pursue their dreams during the day because you stand the watch and protect them.

For four and a half years, I have signed the orders deploying you, all too often into harm’s way. This has weighed on me every day. I have known about and felt your hardship, your difficulties, your sacrifice more than you can possibly imagine. I have felt personally responsible for each of you, and so I have tried to do all I could to provide whatever was needed so you could complete your missions successfully and come home safely — and, if hurt, get the fastest and best care in the world.

You are the best that America has to offer. My admiration and affection for you is without limit, and I will think about you and your families and pray for you every day for the rest of my life. God bless you.

Robert M. Gates

(photo credit: White House photo by Pete Souza)