Military Child Education Coalition Conference (Grapevine, TX). (Speech)

U.S. Department of Defense Speeches, July 25, 2008 | Go to article overview

Military Child Education Coalition Conference (Grapevine, TX). (Speech)


As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Grapevine, Texas, Friday, July 25, 2008

Thanks, Beth, for that kind introduction. From consoling the wounded to comforting families, Beth Chiarelli has served this nation in countless ways. She has also moved the Chiarelli family more than 25 times in over 30 years of marriage. That alone should qualify you for a medal with oak leaf clusters--though whether for family mobility or being married to Pete, I'm not sure.

As Beth said, General Pete Chiarelli has been my senior military assistant for the last 16 months. He has provided wise counsel on just about everything that has crossed my desk; he has traveled with me from Bagram to Baghdad and beyond. He has always been an honest broker to make sure that I see and hear what I need to do this job. Pete is known Army-wide for his personal commitment to and compassion for the soldiers who followed him through fire as a senior commander in Iraq--twice. I can't help but praise--and therefore embarrass--this good and trusted friend by saying how much I'll miss him when he moves in just over a week to become the Army's next vice chief of staff. Pete is the right leader at the right time for this demanding job. And our soldiers are truly fortunate to have you leading from the front, Pete.

It's also good to see General Ward again. Thank you, Kip, for your service at Africorn and your support for this wonderful effort.

It is great to be here today among so many people involved with military children. After retiring as director of CIA in 1993, I soon became involved with young people beyond my own. I became president of the National Eagle Scout Association in 1996, interim dean of the George H.W. Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M in 1999, president of Texas A&M in 2002, and secretary of defense in 2006.

So, over the last 15 years, I've learned a lot about young people beyond what my own taught me. For example, the humorist Robert Orben once said, "Never raise your hand to your child--it leaves your midsection unprotected." Or President Truman who said, "the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it."

In all seriousness, the accomplishments of young people in history have always fascinated me. The Holy Roman Emperor Charles V was 21 when he gave a speech that put Martin Luther on trial. Richard II of England was 14 when he put down a rebellion with a speech. Rossini first wrote an opera when he was 14. Pascal inscribed his essay on conic sections at 16, and Alexander Hamilton was George Washington's aide at 20.

Today, our children may not be emperors or kings, but their potential--and their deeds--can be just as inspiring. Our military children are awesome, just as their parents are. But they have extra hurdles to clear, burdens to bear--repeated moves, the absence of a parent at war, an injured parent, or the loss of a parent.

Many of our men and women in uniform will tell you they fight for our country, but they also fight to keep their children--and all children--safe.

And this is why the extraordinary efforts of local communities and groups like this, which support military families, are so vitally important. You give our fighting men and women peace of mind because they know what you are doing for them and for their families--helping to mitigate the effects of these sacrifices on their children--helping to make sure their children can reach their full potential.

And so, I have come here to thank organizations like the Military Child Education Coalition, which have done so much to help those in uniform and their families. Congratulations on celebrating your 10th year and your many successful programs, among them:

* "Parent-to-Parent," which has trained more than 26,000 moms and dads on how to become a child's strongest advocate;

* "Student-to-Student" is now active in 164 high schools and 43 middle schools around the country;

* "Space Camp Scholarship" has enabled hundreds of kids to learn about space exploration. …

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