Leon Panetta Honors and Thanks His ‘Dear Friend,’ Hillary Clinton
During his last days in office, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has made a flurry of policy decisions, announcements and presentations — a couple of the policy decisions considered controversial by some. Perhaps none have been as personal and heartfelt as the accolades and appreciation he expressed for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Today at the Pentagon, Panetta, along with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, bestowed Clinton with awards and showered her with thanks for her efforts to work with the military to extend America’s leadership.
Calling Secretary Clinton a “dear friend,” and a dedicated partner of the Department of Defense, Panetta said, “As First Lady, as the U.S. Senator from New York and as the 67th Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has been a stalwart advocate for the U.S. Military.”
Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey honored former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton with two public service awards, including the Department of Defense’s highest award for public service, the Distinguished Civilian Service Award.
During the ceremony, Panetta remarked that he has worked closely with Clinton for 20 years. “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,” he said.
DOD and State Department personnel serve side by side from Afghanistan to North Africa, from the Middle East to Asia Pacific, and are 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,” Panetta said.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Clinton recognized the limits of military action, and that the United States needs 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,” Dempsey said.
Clinton took office in January 2009, and her time at State was tumultuous. During her term, she worked to reach out to new governments in wake of the Arab Spring. She helped to put together the coalition that toppled Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, and she helped to build support for sanctions against Iran, Dempsey said.
Clinton, on her part, praised former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and former Joint Chiefs Chairman Navy Adm. Mike Mullen with reaching out to the diplomats in Foggy Bottom and stressing to Congress the need for fully funding the State Department.
Some more of American Forces Press Service’s coverage by Jim Garamone:
The U.S. national security apparatus must keep innovating and integrating, Clinton said. “We have to remain committed to upholding America’s global leadership and our core values of freedom and opportunity,” she said.
The United States is the indispensable nation, the former secretary said, and there is no real precedent in history for the role America plays or the responsibility shouldered. “But I often remind myself that our global leadership is not our birthright,” she added. “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.”
Clinton told the junior officers and civilians in the audience that the country looks to them to carry the mission of American leadership forward.
“So thank you for this tremendous honor that has been bestowed on me by the chairman, and also the honor by the secretary,” she said. “I thank you all for your service. … 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.”
For a video of the ceremony, click here