Remarks at Joint Civilian Service Award Presentation
February 14, 2013
GENERAL MARTIN E. DEMPSEY: Secretaries, fellow general and flag officers, dedicated military and civilian servants here in the Pentagon, and our guests today from the Department of State, happy Valentine’s Day. (Laughter.) You know, the lore of martyrdom says that St. Valentine was actually martyred because he was marrying soldiers who were forbidden to marry by the Roman law of the day. So he was a man who loved soldiers and servicemen and women. And it’s fitting in that regard that we’re here to honor our recent and great secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who herself, by the way, has been an enormous champion of military servicemen and women and their families. So it is a privilege to honor one of our nation’s most dedicated public servants.
This is the highest award that I can present to a civilian. And the secretary is no stranger to awards. We know that you’ve got eight honorary degrees, a George C. Marshall Foundation award, a Woodrow Wilson award for public service, an airport named after you — (Laughter) — 11 straight years as the most admired woman in the world, and a Grammy. I didn’t know about the Grammy, but she actually has a Grammy. I’m jealous of that, by the way. (Laughter.) She has a Grammy for the spoken word of her book, “It Takes a Village.” And she was also named in 2007 as the Irish-American of the year. Now I’m really jealous. (Laughter.)
Your favorite secretary of state, William Seward, didn’t earn quite as much recognition, although he did have that rather clever purchase up in Alaska, but you do have similar backgrounds — effective politicians with roots in New York and New York state, faithfully serving presidents that were once your rivals. Of course, Seward went on a trip around the world after he retired and, as you know, our secretary has flown enough miles to circle the globe 36 times. In fact, you’ve been airborne for the equivalent of 87 days during your tenure as secretary of state. That’s a lot of airplane food. (Laughter.) Along the way, you’ve been an exceptional representative of the men and women of the Department of State, working tirelessly in the aftermath of the Arab Spring and to ensure we had a strong coalition in Libya, building consensus for unprecedented sanctions against Iran, and which for those of us in uniform, we were very much appreciative of so that we can avoid the use of force, although remaining ready to do so, if necessary.
And at home, you’ve strengthened your own institution, the Department of State. You’ve moved diplomacy into the 21st century. You’ve recognized that there are limits to hard power and that we need both hard power and soft power. You’ve harnessed innovative ways to accomplish engagement, including social media and global town halls, all the while remembering that it’s the investment of your personal time that builds relationships. And you’ve been one of the — as I said at the beginning, one of the staunchest supporters of the military, in my personal experience, more than any secretary of state in my career.
Now, I expect you’ll slow down a bit. Maybe you can add a Tony or an Oscar to your Grammy award. (Laughter.) But before you go, I’d be honored if you would allow me to add to the list of your distinctions with the award of this Joint Staff Medal. Would you join me here, Madam Secretary?
ANNOUNCER: General Dempsey will now present Secretary Clinton with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joint Distinguished Civilian Service Award. Attention to orders. Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton distinguished herself by exceptionally superior service while serving as the secretary of state from 21 January 2009 to 1 February 2013.
Throughout her tenure, Secretary Clinton has significantly provided outstanding support of all operational efforts of the joint military forces worldwide. Executing her smart power strategy of combining military strength with United States capacities in global economics, developmental aid, and technology, she enhanced the coordinated role of diplomatic and defense initiatives in the international arena.
Capitalizing on this effort, she instituted the first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Developmental Review for her department that mirrored the military’s Quadrennial Defense Review, resulting in a consolidated interagency approach to all foreign endeavors.
Secretary Clinton’s success in cultivating a more powerful Department of State, a larger international affairs budget, and expanded role in global economic issues greatly facilitated the role of our combatant commanders and the respect of our military troops on every continent. Visiting more than 100 countries and logging more than 500,000 miles of travel, she has been an exceptional example of our nation’s commitment to fostering better relations abroad and to directly supporting our developed troops in those areas.
Most noteworthy, as evidenced in all her years of federal service, she has consistently been a staunch advocate of all personnel programs and initiatives that have enhanced the lives of our military personnel and their families. The singularly distinctive accomplishments of Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton reflect great credit upon herself, the Joint Staff, and the Department of Defense. (Applause.)
Please be seated.
Ladies and gentlemen, the 23rd secretary of defense, Leon Panetta.
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LEON E. PANETTA: Thank you very much. What a great honor to be able to recognize this very special person.
All the leaders of the department, friends, colleagues, distinguished guests, we are truly delighted to welcome and to recognize someone who’s a dear friend to me and Sylvia, someone that I’ve been working with and working for over the last 20 years, a strong and dedicated partner of the Department of Defense, and I believe without question one of the finest public servants of our time.
This is, as Marty raised, probably a great Valentine’s Day present for all of us here at the department. The second best Valentine’s present would be to allow Sylvia and I to get the hell out of town at the end of the day. (Laughter.) (Applause.)
I feel like it’s Groundhog Day around here. (Laughter.) As first lady, as United States senator from New York, and as the 67th secretary of state, Hillary Clinton has been a stalwart advocate for the U.S. military. And that’s really why we honor her today. She’s been a champion of our servicemembers, our veterans, and she has been a forceful voice for American leadership in the world.
This morning, we’re all honored to be able to honor her with the highest awards of this department, the highest awards that we can bestow. As I said, I’m extremely proud of my association with Hillary over these last two decades. It was about 20 years ago last month when I first joined the Clinton administration as director of the Office of Management and Budget. It was a different world then. Think about the key political challenges that we had back then, health care issues, gun control issues, partisan gridlock, budget deficits. On second thought — (Laughter.)
On second thought, the only thing that has changed is that Hillary and I are a little older, perhaps a little wiser, a little less patient, particularly with political dysfunction, a little bit less tolerant of B.S. in general, and it is probably a good thing at this point in time that we have a chance to get some damn rest.
She’s made it. (Laughter.) She’s made it. And, you know, I’m — I’m going to have as broad a smile as she does, hopefully, in a few days. (Laughter.) I have a hard time — (Laughter.) You know? I’ve got — my office is packed up. Sylvia is packing at home. I’m ready to go. It’s like, “All right.” (Applause.)
For four years that I had the honor of serving in the Clinton administration, both as director of OMB and as chief of staff, I really had the opportunity to work with her in a very close, close way, because she was interested in the issues, she was involved in the important issues, obviously, particularly health care, women’s rights, children’s rights, all of the issues that she really fought for and pioneered, not only during that period, but for most of her life.
And I saw firsthand her knowledge and her passion for the issues that we deal with. The issues that we confront in this country — I mean, obviously, you know, you can — you can study these issues, you can read about these issues, but the only way you really deal with the problems in our society is to have a passion for the problems that people face and try to find some way to help people achieve that better life. And that’s what I saw in her, was that passion to want to do that to try to help her fellow citizens.
For all these reasons, I was truly delighted to have the opportunity when I was asked to join the Obama administration to come back and be alongside of her again as part of his national security team. As part of that team, I witnessed early on how hard she works, how dedicated she is, and how she truly developed, I think, one of the best diplomatic skills as a secretary of state of anyone that I’ve known in that capacity. She had the problem — she had the understanding to see the problems that people are facing. She had the ability to connect with the leaders of the world, to understand their challenges, to understand the issues that they had to confront.
And it takes that. You’ve got to be — you’ve got to be a human being in these jobs. You can’t be a robot. You can’t just go through the act. You can’t just read the talking points. You’ve got to have a sense of what others are facing and who they are and what they’re about and what worries them.
I think, having worked with President Clinton, one of the great capabilities he had was to always make other world leaders understand what is in their national interest, not what’s in the United States’ interests, but what’s in their interest. And Hillary had that same capability to make others understand what is in their interests, and that’s what made her so effective.
In my past role as CIA director, she was someone who understood the importance of intelligence, understood the importance of intelligence operations, understood the importance of doing everything we could do to be able to go after those who attacked our country on 9/11.
As a senator, she saw the terror of that moment firsthand. And I — she never lost sight of the fact that we had to go after those who attacked us on 9/11 and use every capability we have. And she was always there supporting our missions and supporting our operations, and I appreciate that — that support.
Particularly during the bin Laden, which, you know, there is a movie out on this. (Laughter.) And, you know, the guy who plays me isn’t quite — quite right. (Laughter.) I mean, I was — my preference probably would have been Pacino. (Laughter.) But, you know, the truth — I — I’ve been asked — I’ve been asked about that, and, you know, the fact is, I lived — I lived through that operation. And there’s no way you can take 10 years of all of the work that was done, even in the last four years or the last two years up to that operation, that I was involved with. There’s no way you can take that and put it into a two-hour movie. The fact is that there was a tremendous amount of teamwork involved in that, both by our intelligence and our military officials, did a tremendous job working through all of those issues.
But ultimately, it came down to a tough decision that the president had to make. And, God bless him, he made a very tough decision. But I can tell you that Hillary Clinton, sitting in that room, sitting with the National Security Council and trying to work through all these issues, a lot of different views, a lot of different opinions, but she was always there. And I deeply appreciated her support for that effort.
It’s been even more rewarding to have become secretary of defense and developed a very close partnership with the State Department. Actually, this partnership, I think, developed with my predecessor, Bob Gates, but as someone who’s been in and out of Washington for the last almost 50 years, I know from personal experience that rivalry can hurt the relationship between the Department of State and the Department of Defense. That kind of rivalry is very bad for both departments and the country, because you really do need a strong partnership between the State Department and the Defense Department. There’s too much at stake. You’ve got to work together. You’ve got to put your egos aside and work together on the issues that you have to confront. To do that is indispensable to America’s national security.
Because of that, during the time that we worked together as secretaries, Hillary and I did all we could to sustain the tightest possible bonds between ourselves and our departments. Together, we have dealt with some very tough issues. We’ve dealt with a lot of the threats that confront this country across the world. We’ve taken part in some very tough debates and some very tough policy discussions on the Hill, at the White House, involving Afghanistan and Syria and terrorist attacks, and even on our own defense strategy, including the whole issue of Asia Pacific rebalance.
We’ve also traveled to some of the same meetings with foreign counterparts, here, overseas, NATO summits, the Australia-U.S. ministerial, heads of state visits. I don’t think too many people recognize how long meetings and sleepless travel and endless conferences and tough questioning can bring two people together, because most of the time you’re trying to figure out where the hell you’re at. You’re walking in circles. And you’ve got to look at each other and say, we now have to face up to what we have to do to try to deal with the situation that confronted us.
In all of those discussions, Hillary has always brought us back to Earth, with the right argument at the right time. Her ability in the end to be very pragmatic about what it takes to get something done is, I think, part of her genius as — as a leader, the ability to cut through it, the ability to listen to all the arguments, but in the end, to cut through it and make the decision that has to be made. She is honest. She is forceful. She’s a persuasive voice for doing what’s right for the American people.
We have fought on opposite sides of the issues. I’d sure as hell rather have her on my side than be against me, because she is so good in making her arguments.
More often than not, she and I have stood side by side in making our recommendations when the president has faced difficult choices in Iraq and Afghanistan and Libya and the Middle East. And because of her leadership, our nation’s diplomats and our development experts are working toward a common mission with the men and women of the Department of Defense, and I’m confident that our successes will sustain the bonds that we have built between the Department of Defense and the State Department.
Our personnel are putting themselves at risk from Afghanistan to North Africa, from the Middle East to Asia Pacific, and making great personal sacrifices in order to prevent conflict, to advance the cause of peace and security, and to help achieve the American dream of giving our children a better life.
That dream has been Hillary Clinton’s dream. And today, the Department of Defense recognizes her for her great work in helping all of us better defend this nation and to provide that better life.
In my time in and out of government, Hillary Clinton is one of the most informed, most passionate, and most dedicated public servants that I’ve had the privilege to serve alongside. She has devoted her life to expanding opportunities for everyone, to build a better future for this country and the world, because she believes everyone deserves the chance to fulfill their dreams and their aspirations.
And in many ways, I have to tell you, it was her inspiration that encouraged me to move forward to be able to bring down the last barriers for women in the Department of Defense and to give them the ability to have a chance to engage in combat. I thank you for that inspiration.
Seventy years ago, the only person to serve as secretary of state and secretary of defense, George Marshall, was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize. When he accepted the award, only months after the armistice on the Korean peninsula, Marshall reflected that — and I quote — “A very strong military posture is vitally necessary today, but it is too narrow a basis on which to build a dependable and long-enduring peace,” unquote.
Marshall went on to say that, “Perhaps the most important single factor will be a spiritual regeneration to develop goodwill, faith, and understanding among nations. There must be wisdom and the will to act on that wisdom,” unquote.
Today, just 70 years ago, it is now clear that we need to maintain a strong military force to deal with the unstable and unpredictable and undeniably dangerous world that we live in. But it is equally clear that we must enhance our other key levers of power, our economic and diplomatic power, if we are to truly achieve peace in the 21st century.
Delivering on that vision will require wisdom, and it will require a will to act, qualities that Hillary Clinton exemplified throughout her career and as secretary of state. Her legacy is the inspiration, the wisdom, and the will to fight for the American dream, and that, very simply, is why we honor her today.
Ladies and gentlemen, Hillary Clinton. (Applause.)
ANNOUNCER: Secretary Panetta will now present Secretary Clinton with the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service. Attention to orders. The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton is recognized for distinguished public service as United States secretary of state from January 2009 to February 2013. Secretary Clinton played an indispensable role in formulating and, with great success, implementing the president’s United States national security, foreign and development policies in an era of dynamic shifts in global affairs. Applying an innovative, smart power approach, Secretary Clinton led efforts to invigorate traditional alliances, engage emerging powers, and develop new partnerships to advance American interests, security, and values.
Her sound counsel, strategic vision, and steady hand guided the United States response to the global economic crisis, political changes in North Africa and the Arab world, and new opportunities and challenges in Asia. She provided invaluable leadership to United States efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan during the security transitions in those countries.
Secretary Clinton’s transformative leadership elevated America’s diplomatic and development corps’ role as able partners for addressing the growing spectrum of security challenges and forged a strong relationship with the Department of Defense. The distinctive accomplishments of Secretary Clinton reflect great credit upon herself, the Department of State, and the United States government. (Applause.)
Thank you, Secretary Panetta.
Ladies and gentlemen, the 67th secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: Thank you. (Applause.)
Thank you. Well, this is certainly a memorable Valentine’s Day, I have to tell you. It is such an honor and personal privilege for me to be here with people whom I admire, respect, and just like so much.
Secretary Panetta, Chairman Dempsey, all of you military and civilian leaders alike, thank you for what you do every day to keep our nation safe and strong.
It has been a real pleasure for me to work with all of you, starting out with Secretary Gates and Chairman Mullen, now working with Secretary Panetta, Chairman Dempsey, and let me also thank Vice Chairman Sandy Winnefeld. You have been great partners and colleagues. It has been a singular honor of my life to be able to work with all of you and to try to do what we can in a time of such momentous change and even turbulence to chart a steady course for the nation that we serve and love.
I also want to thank my traveling companions, General Paul Selva and Admiral Harry Harris. Some of you may not know that Paul and Harry had to fly all over the world with me, representing, first, Secretary Gates and, then, Secretary Panetta. I’m still trying to figure out why they got to get off the road halfway through my four-year tenure and switch places, but whenever there was a problem with the plane or any other issue that arose, I would always turn to them to help us fix it.
Harry, as you know, is Navy, but he came through time and time again to get us — (Laughter) — back in the air. And I’m grateful to you.
I also want to say a special word of thanks and greetings to my former colleagues from the State Department who are here. It is bittersweet, as I’ve said to them before. The senior leadership at the State Department over the last four years is really responsible for all the very kind and gracious words that were said about me.
And they worked seamlessly, not always in agreement, but always getting up every day to work toward our common objectives with the DOD senior leadership here today. So I want to thank my friends and colleagues with whom I served over the last four years.
This is a tremendous honor for me. Some of you know that I have had the great privilege of knowing Leon for what he said was 20 years. I think Al Pacino would have been more appropriate, also, but on every step along the way, from his service in the Congress to the White House to the CIA to the Pentagon, he has demonstrated the highest caliber of integrity, wisdom, and patriotism, and he’s been not only a great partner, but a great friend.
I think you can now — you’ll have to postpone for a little while removing the eight-second delay for the censors until he actually does leave the building. (Laughter.) But what he said about humanity, about being a human being in these roles is worth repeating. It is easy to get so caught up in the work and the intensity, the drive necessary to work those long days and short nights, that it is sometimes too easy to forget why we do what we do, both military and civilian. For many of you, it has been a career choice, both my colleagues from the Defense Department and from State.
For others of us, you know, it is something that we came to later and were involved in, luckily, that gave us a chance to serve. But for all of us, remembering, you know, why we do this work and how important it is to the future, especially future generations, is something Leon Panetta has never forgotten. And I know that as Leon does eventually head back to California, he will, along with his absolutely wonderful wife, Sylvia, continue to use the Panetta Institute to help train up the next generation of leaders.
I also want to say a special word of thanks to Chairman Dempsey. I’ve really enjoyed working with Marty Dempsey. Our men and women in uniform have no greater champion, and it has been for me a great treat getting to see him in action and also to meet you, Deanie, and to — as I said to you out in the hall, to see you with some of your grandchildren coming out of Easter Egg roll a year or two ago.
Now, it is no secret — or if it had been, Leon spilled the beans — that historically the Departments of State and Defense have not always had the best working relationship. In fact, I have been quite surprised and even amused in talking to some of my former predecessors who are bewildered that we get along and who say things like, you know, that’s odd, as if I’m somehow letting down my side that I — I am not, you know, causing you as many problems as I can, trying to push you offstage, as if that were possible.
But I have been around this town, certainly, for long enough to know that it is an unfortunate historical precedent. And so when I became secretary four years ago, I was determined to do my part to change that. You know, I like being on the American team, not the State Department team, not the Defense Department team, not the partisan team. I like being on the American team. And I think when we take these positions and take that oath of office, we really pledge to be part of the American team.
Now, we will have different perspectives, different experiences that we bring to the tables that we sit at. But we should walk out of those rooms determined to be on that team for our country and for the president we serve. So from day one, we have formed the strongest partnership in most living memories. And I do hope that continues.
Now, Secretary Gates and Chairman Mullen set the tone by emphasizing the importance of fully funding the State Department and USAID, quite a remarkable position for a secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs to take. And Secretary Gates, even before I was secretary, made quite an important speech talking about how there were more members in military bands than there were diplomats and that we had to increase the strength of our diplomatic corps and our development experts in order to do our part.
Now, Secretary Panetta and Chairman Dempsey have continued to build our partnership even further. They have been steadfast advocates for integrating the 3 D’s of our national security, defense, diplomacy and development, into a unified smart power approach.
And because of these efforts, our diplomats and development experts all over the world are working more closely than ever with all of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. Whether it’s advancing the transition in Afghanistan or responding to the triple disaster in Japan or pursuing terrorists in North Africa, we have seen that America is stronger and more effective when we work together.
And I think we have gone a long way to restore America’s global leadership and to make progress on some of the great challenges we face, from taking the fight to the leadership of Al Qaeda to reasserting the United States as a Pacific power. And we have pioneered a nimbler, more innovative, more effective approach to foreign policy, so I am enormously proud of what we have achieved, and I’m confident about the future, having left the State Department in the capable hands of Secretary John Kerry, himself an accomplished diplomat and decorated Navy veteran.
So I believe that we’ve established a strong base for this kind of collaboration, which I think is essential in going forward against the challenges and threats that we face.
Now, I happen to have grown up in a Navy household. During World War II, my father was a chief petty officer, training sailors at Great Lakes Naval Base before they were shipped off to the Pacific. And he never forgot — and used to tell my brothers and me — how it felt watching those young men get loaded onto troop trains, knowing that many would never return home.
After he died many years later, I received an outpouring of letters and photographs from some of the men he had trained who had served and returned home and built lives and families of their own. I just couldn’t believe that that experience, being yelled at by my father — (Laughter) — was so formative for them. And I was glad to hear it, frankly.
I saw this same sense of dedication and duty when, as first lady and then senator from New York, I visited with servicemembers and their families all over the world. Then I was honored to serve on the Armed Services Committee and to work closely with men and women throughout this building, and in particular with Secretary McHugh, who had become a great partner with me on behalf of our military bases and personnel in New York and what we did to try to keep moving forward in improving readiness and modernizing capabilities.
I was so impressed by the Quadrennial Defense Review that I did launch a similar effort at State called the QDDR, or the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review. And now four years as secretary of state has ended, but my appreciation for everything you do is deeper than ever.
I’ve had the chance to visit with many of our forces overseas, sometimes in the company of some of you in the audience today, especially, of course, in Afghanistan, but also here at home, from Hawaii to Norfolk to Annapolis.
This past May, I had the chance to go down to Tampa and speak to a special operations conference sponsored by Admiral McRaven. And I had the chance then, too, to thank them for their remarkable service and to talk about the complex and cross-cutting threats that we face.
So we do have to keep innovating and integrating. We have to get our house here at home in order. We have to avoid devastating self-inflicted wounds. We have to remain committed to upholding America’s global leadership and our core values of freedom and opportunity.
Now, Leon and I have both seen this as we travel the world. American leadership remains respected and required. There is no real precedent in history for the role we play or the responsibility we have shouldered. There is also no alternative.
But I often remind myself that our global leadership is not our birthright. It has to be earned by each successive generation, staying true to our values and living up to the best traditions of our nation. Secretaries and presidents come and go, but this responsibility remains constant. It truly must be our North Star.
So in the years ahead, we will be looking to all of you and to your successors to carry this mission of American leadership forwards, to keep our nation strong, free and exceptional.
So thank you for this tremendous honor that has been bestowed on me by the chairman and also the honor by the secretary. I thank you all for your service, and I thank both of you and others of you here today for your friendship. Let’s wish our country godspeed. And please extend to all with whom you serve my deepest gratitude, not as a retired public official, but as an American citizen.
Thank you all. (Applause.)