Kansas State University Landon Lecture: As Delivered by Secretary of Defense, Manhattan, Kansas, Thursday, November 09, 2006

U.S. Department of Defense Speeches, November 9, 2006 | Go to article overview

Kansas State University Landon Lecture: As Delivered by Secretary of Defense, Manhattan, Kansas, Thursday, November 09, 2006


Thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you very much. I appreciate that. (Applause.)

General Dick Myers, thank you so much for those words.

And ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for that very warm welcome.

Later today, we'll be attending the dedication of a building here at Kansas State in General Myers' honor--which is a well-deserved tribute to one of this university's most distinguished alumni. Dick and Mary Jo were college sweethearts. They were married on this campus.

And my wife Joyce, and I go back even farther. We met in high school and have been married some 52 years. (Applause.) Someone asked Joyce one day, "How in the world did you stay married to that guy for 52 years?" She very quickly said, "He travels a lot." (Laughter.) I thought she was kidding. (Laughter.)

Well, Dick Myers has traveled a good bit himself, and I'm sure Mary Jo would never say something like that. (Laughter.)

Over the years, Dick and Mary Jo have been through countless moves. They've traveled places across the globe to serve our country, but I can tell you that their hearts have always belonged to Kansas. And I think everyone here would agree that they have done Kansas proud. Indeed they have done our nation proud. (Applause.)

President Wefald, Mr. Reagan, Mr. Seaton, I certainly appreciate this invitation.

I hope all of you appreciate how I have managed so skillfully public affairs for this event. (Laughter.) I wanted to put the Landon Lecture on the map--so I did my best! (Applause.) I'm glad I could help out. (Laughter.)

It was Nancy Kassebaum--Alf Landon's daughter--who first talked to me about coming to do this lecture. And it was in Japan when her husband, Howard Baker, was the ambassador. And I said I'd really like to do it--and I'm glad I could be here.

Mr. Adams and members of the faculty, Lucas, president of the student body--is that what it's called? How did you do it? (Laughter.) It was easy, huh? Well, congratulations to you.

Congressman Moran--it's good to see you. I want to thank you for being here and for your service to the country.

We're also very honored to have a very special veteran with us. Born here in Manhattan, a hero of the battle of Normandy, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, Walter Ehlers. Where is Walter? (Applause)

General Petreaus, General Ham, thank you both for your superb service to the country. And certainly a very special greeting to the men and women here from Fort Riley, Fort Leavenworth, the Kansas State Army and Air Force ROTC cadets, volunteers all. We are deeply grateful to each of you for your service to the country and for your commitment to the defense of our nation.

I would start on a personal note. My time as Secretary of Defense, I've come away truly inspired by the professionalism, the dedication, the dignity of the men and women in uniform, and the folks at the Department of Defense who work every day to help keep the American people safe.

When I was in Afghanistan not long ago, a young soldier told me, he said, "I really can't believe we're allowed to do something this important." You know, I feel the same way. I'm so honored to have had the opportunity to be part of something so important--so vital to the future of our country and to the cause of human freedom

It has been the highest honor of my life to serve our country and to work so closely with our outstanding troops.

It's a pleasure to take part in this lecture series, named for a governor, a presidential candidate and a statesman of great civility. But I guess that perhaps what he was most proud of was that he was a Kansan--and he said so frequently.

It's said that the geographic center of the 48 states is here in Kansas. And that's fitting--if you think about it, this part of the world has given our nation some of the truly great leaders of the last century: Governor Landon; along with him was General Dwight Eisenhower from Abilene; Bob Dole from Russell; Harry Truman, who lived next door in Missouri. …

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