Remarks at the Farewell Ceremony for Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger
The President. Admiral Crowe, thank
you. This is a bittersweet moment for me and, I think, for all of us who have
known and worked closely with Cap Weinberger. It's so fitting to see this fine
military tribute to the one American who has probably done as much as any other
in history to restore the morale and readiness of our nation's military. In the
Rose Garden recently, I called you
are many qualities that made Cap's service at the Pentagon and in my Cabinet so
invaluable, and I'll speak to some of those in a moment. But at the heart of
the matter, well, it was really a matter of heart. Cap Weinberger started his
service to this country more than 40 years ago as a buck private, and he never
forgot his origins. He never forgot the men and women of
Yes, Cap has been the point man in the effort to rebuild our nation's defenses, and he has assembled an unparalleled record of achievement. But I bet if you were to ask him what his proudest achievement was he would say restoring morale in our Armed Forces and bringing back pride in our country's uniform. And Cap can take a lot of the credit for the fact that, as one base commander said to me, the young men and women coming into our military are some of the smartest, best-educated, most highly motivated he had ever seen.
But Cap's tenacity comes from another source as well: a recognition of the tragic reality of a world divided, a world torn between those who believe in freedom and cherish the value and dignity of each individual human soul and forces implacably hostile to those ideals. If one faces that reality foursquare, without illusions, it produces a certain, well, clarity of vision. And in 1980, to someone entrusted with the great responsibility of Secretary of Defense, it could only produce a profound sense of urgency.
When Cap came to this job more than 6 years ago, the Navy had been permitted to dwindle from more than 1,000 ships to less than 500. There were planes that couldn't fly for lack of spare parts. And our men and women in uniform were seeing their pay in real terms shrink, while pay in the private sector rose. With Caspar Weinberger at the helm, we turned that around, and today we have a military that is once again ready, able, and willing -- a modern defense worthy of the leader of the free world. Yes, Cap, we have come a long distance from 1980. But let me also promise you this: No one here is going to be resting on their laurels after you leave. Frank [Carlucci] and I know the job is not yet complete. And to anyone who calls for even the slightest slacking off in commitment to a strong and ready national defense, I'll only have to say two words: Remember Cap.
will remember, and we will heed the example of Cap Weinberger, just as he
learned from and heeded the example of another great champion of peace through
strength. I'm thinking of one particular example: One lone Member of Parliament
in the 1930's who saw the promise of new, as yet unproven, technology. He was a
Member of Parliament; his name was Winston Churchill, and the technology was
radar. It was unworkable, unnecessary, and too expensive, said its opponents.
But with a tenacity that even Cap would envy, Churchill fought the long, hard
political battle. And in a way, winning that battle was the true turning point
of the Battle of Britain. In the end, Churchill's vision and foresight won the
day for radar and helped save the day for
Secretary of Defense, Cap has been one of the most eloquent and forceful
proponents of our Strategic Defense Initiative. In the 1970's we watched as
holds out hope of a world free from the fear of ballistic missiles. It is, as
Cap likes to say, an innocent technology that threatens no one. Indeed, it's
hard to see how making people's lives safer will make the world more dangerous.
After so many years, it will take time for some to adjust to a world based on
defenses rather than offenses. But it's my sincere belief that SDI will not
only make us safer, it will in the end relieve tensions between our country and
Cap, today we say farewell. For more than two decades I have known you as a colleague, ally, and trusted adviser, but most of all, as a friend. How many times in the Oval Office or in Cabinet meetings have I waited to hear that patient voice, those clear, complex, and perfectly fashioned sentences building resolutely to a conclusion, always, it seemed, as an incontestable one? How many times, my friend, have I looked to you to find the safe harbor of principle in the stormy events of world affairs? And how many times have I found in you the stalwart commitment to freedom, that fierceness of belief in this land of ours that is the mark of a true man of peace?
another farewell address many years ago, another great patriot, Douglas MacArthur, quoted an old
Cap often has the last word, and today will be no exception. So, now I'm going to hand the microphone over to you, but first, Cap, there's something special here for you. I'm happy to announce that today I'm awarding you the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction. The citation reads:
officer, State legislator, State Cabinet member, Federal regulatory agency
chairman, and three-time Federal Cabinet member, Caspar
(Cap) W. Weinberger has, in the tradition of our Founding Fathers, dedicated
his life to the service of his country. His proudest public accomplishment is
the rebuilding of our country's national defenses so that the freedom we so
cherish might endure. His legacy is a strong and free
Secretary Weinberger. Mr. President, I'm really quite overwhelmed. I really like that part about strategic defense much better. But this is an enormous honor and one that can come to very few people, and as I say, I am entirely overwhelmed by it. But, Mr. President and your excellencies and very distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, thank you all very much for coming.
I've always thought that service to a noble cause was actually the definition of happiness. And those of us who had the honor to serve you, Mr. President, and to serve our very great nation have reason to feel not only privileged but blessed. We have all been engaged in the task you set before us in January of 1981, which was to restore pride in the Republic, to return government to the people, and defend liberty not with words alone but with a robust military strength and with great courage.
seems a little more than common sense, actually, but when we came to this
building nearly 7 years ago, we learned that common sense had actually not been
ruled. Amidst a very feverish buildup of Soviet military power, which aimed
clearly at producing an arsenal of undisputed superiority, the
decade of neglect was fed, really, by a rather insidious idea that somehow
American power was immoral. We began by doubting the war in
goal seemed to be that we should forget our
Naturally, I leave with profound regret this very great post that you entrusted to me just about 7 years ago. But so much has been accomplished to restore our military strength and preparedness, that I also leave with a very real sense of accomplishment, with deep gratitude to you and to all with whom I've been deeply privileged to serve here.
And I would like to mention particularly Will Taft, whose dedicated and enormously valuable efforts have benefited us all; our Service Secretaries, whom we've seen this morning; Jack Marsh, who has served in his post as Secretary of the Army longer than, I think, any other Secretary; and Secretary Aldridge of the Air Force, who has brought enormous skills to a number of projects, classified and otherwise, that are vital for us all; and Secretary Webb, who is away today -- ably represented by Secretary Garrett, who has presided at the great naval expansion; and their predecessor. These are all great people. And I also leave very firm and very content in the knowledge that with Frank Carlucci, who served here at the very beginning of your term, in this great building; and Colin Powell, at the White House, that we have a team that will mean that, as it should, there will not even be a ripple when the change of command passes.
Well, our recovery that we had to do, our recovery from neglect -- our recovery, really, from indifference -- had to attack many problems at once. But one problem stood out as the most acute. One problem above all demanded instant redress, and that was the condition of our soldiers and sailors and airmen and marines. We had to demonstrate that our own commitment to security was equal to that of the troops. We had to give them the tools they urgently needed to do their ever more difficult task. We had to show the troops that we cared, and we had to care. And we had to do that by making dramatic improvements in their pay and their housing -- their living conditions. We had to restore their faith in the support of the Nation. We had to secure for them the admiration of the Nation, which so rightly belongs to our troops.
Well, sir, we accomplished a great deal. But the really important thing is how little our men and women ask. As you and I know, Mr. President, every time we've had a chance to visit our troops -- and you've discussed it with me and I've mentioned to you -- we have been struck by how much they really want to do that job and how proud they are of what they're doing. They are a very special breed of young people, and they're led by an exceptional cadre of officers and noncommissioned officers, and we are fortunate beyond all expression to have them.
Of course, they rightly deserve the tools that are required to defend freedom and keep the peace for us. We've given them those tools. They are using them with extraordinary skill. And to have those tools available, we had to invigorate research and development efforts. We had to begin plans for new ships and aircraft and ground forces. Frequently, I was asked: When will you be done? When will the job be over? And I guess the job will be over perhaps two ways: one, if we don't care about freedom anymore, and the other, if the world changes in a way that none of us can foresee.
had to see to it, of course, that many of the systems that were on the drawing
board were deployed. And we had to shore up the nuclear deterrent with long overdue
improvements, because that was the only defense we had. We had to have new
bombers and ICBM's and submarines, and some of these had been sacrificed
before. From strategic and conventional systems to mobilization, to reforms of
our acquisition system, we had to regenerate
you, Mr. President, set us on a course that will ultimately strengthen
deterrence even more. Because you asked us, as you so frequently did in
am, of course, thankful that we have been as successful as we have, because
that success can be seen in a renewed respect for the
I am thankful, of course, as always, to have served under a man of your unique vision, unmovable moral courage, and a penetrating understanding of the principles and goals of our nation. And of course, it's impossible to express my thanks to those of you in the Department of Defense -- those of you who served and worked with me and with Jane every day, those of you who are here in Washington, those of you on the ships at sea and in the air, and at every one of our military installations throughout the world. To all of you, I owe a measure of gratitude that can never properly be paid and that I can never express fully.
Mr. President, some here were worried about the weather today. It's one of the things I never worried about, because I don't believe I've ever been at a public function with you that the rain didn't hold off and, possibly, even the sun come out. And I think it's just one of the things that goes with being Governor of California and that you've continued that as our President. And so, that is a great blessing among others that you have brought to us today.
Most of all, I would like to say that I am thankful to have had the good fortune to have grown up in the freest, most prosperous, and yes, the most just society that the world has ever known. Mr. President, I am very proud to have joined with you in the service to our nation and to have participated in that noblest cause for which so many of our countrymen have given the last full measure of their devotion. So, now, I'd like to say thank you, goodbye, and God bless and keep all of you. [Applause]
Note: The President spoke at on the grounds of the Pentagon. He was introduced by Adm. William J. Crowe, Jr., Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. Frank C. Carlucci was Secretary of Defense-designate; William Howard Taft IV was Under Secretary of Defense; Edward C. Aldridge, Jr., was Secretary of the Air Force; James H. Webb, Jr., was Secretary of the Navy; H. Lawrence Garrett III was Under Secretary of the Navy; and Colin L. Powell was Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs.