Brent Scowcroft: Soldier, Scholar and Statesman
Master of Ceremonies:
President and CEO,
The Atlantic Council
Former President George H.W. Bush
Former First Lady Barbara Bush
The Atlantic Council
Former National Security Adviser
Robert J. Stevens,
Chairman and CEO,
Former National Security Adviser
Anna Eliasson Schamis,
Vice President, Development and External Relations,
The Atlantic Council
Founding Principal and Managing Director,
The Scowcroft Group
Former National Security Adviser
National Security Adviser
Senator Jack Reed (D-RI)
Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs,
U.S. Department of State
FBI and CIA
EADS North America
Council on Foreign Relations
The Scowcroft Group
Associate Director, International Security Program,
The Atlantic Council
Vice Chairman Designate, Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security,
The Atlantic Council
General James L. Jones (Ret.),
Former National Security Adviser
Former Secretary of Defense
Former National Security Adviser
Location: Washington, D.C.
Date: Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Federal News Service
STAFF: Ladies and gentlemen – (applause) – please welcome this evening’s master of ceremonies, Fred Kempe, president and CEO of the Atlantic Council. (Applause.)
FREDERICK KEMPE: So General Scowcroft, General Scowcroft, this was just few – this is just further proof that the Air Force can do more than just produce one of the best national security advisers in the history of the United States.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are here this evening because of one great man, Brent Scowcroft – soldier, scholar, statesman. In my five years at the Atlantic Council, I have rarely been in a position that brings me so much pleasure as being emcee for this evening.
However, as much as many of you think you know General Scowcroft’s life, you are likely unaware of his groundbreaking but unappreciated treatise, “One America” (sp). Listen to each and every word of this, because it is as relevant today as it was on the day that he wrote it.
Let me quote: I think every American citizen should be thinking how thankful they ought to be. We live in a land where we are not afraid that our neighbor will shoot us in the back. We have very peaceful neighbors. We are not living in fear of any enemy bombers coming over here. I think that especially now, in this great European crisis, every American should be very happy and thankful that they live in America.
Brent Scowcroft, vintage 1938, age 13. (Laughter.) (Applause.)
Born in Ogden, Utah, this grocer’s child knew even then that he wished to attend West Point and serve his country. What he could not know then was that it would be a near-fatal accident that would change the trajectory of his life. In 1949, two years after his graduation from West Point, General Scowcroft broke his – broke his back when his P-51 Mustang crashed. He was told he’d never fly again. He said later, quote, when you suddenly can’t do what you thought you were destined to do, you simply have to find something else to do. You can read the whole story in the program that you have at your tables tonight.
What followed was a life of purpose and further improvisation. He served the Nixon, Ford and Bush 41 administrations and became the only man – I should say statesman – to have served two presidents as national security adviser – three if you consider his de facto role as Henry Kissinger’s deputy when Kissinger served both as national security adviser and secretary of state.
Many former officials fade from view in Washington, but Brent Scowcroft’s wisdom has remained relevant and, hence, in demand. He continues to advise U.S. presidents, including President Obama and their advisers, irrespective of party lines. Perhaps no individual has provided as many commanders in chief as much national security advice over the years.
At the Atlantic Council, he has, for over 30 years, provided vision, energy and direction as board member, chairman of the board, and now as chair of the council’s International Advisory Board.
The new Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council, to be inaugurated later next year, will embody the ethos and vision of Brent Scowcroft for generations to come. We are honored and humbled to be the custodians of this legacy.
We’re honored and humbled, but we’re also a little bit under pressure to get it right, because his legacy is not just one of ideas but also one of unmatched skills at managing the foreign policy process and mentoring a new generation of leaders. This room is literally littered, General Scowcroft, with your protégés.
Take me, for example. General Scowcroft, you convinced me to abandon my misbegotten, itinerant life as a journalist, as a Wall Street Journal editor and reporter, for what you sold me as a nobler purpose. Just one word of warning to those here tonight who are celebrating this man: Honor him for his life’s works, but read the small print before taking on one of his assignments. (Laughter.)
Joking aside, General Scowcroft delivers more commitment and loyalty than he expects. Tonight is just one more example.
The hardest part of this whole process of the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security was actually convincing Brent Scowcroft to give his name to it. It had nothing to do with what we were going to do; it had nothing to do with the Atlantic Council. It was that this humble man, this self-effacing man didn’t want to give his name to anything. He only decided to do it once he had convinced himself that by doing that, it would advance the institution that he had done so much to build in its 50th anniversary year this year, and to inspire future generations to pursue the cause and the causes he so much believed in.
Senator Kerry this afternoon spoke about the Scowcroft Center and tonight’s celebration as a celebration not just of a man, but really of a methodology, of a way of being in the world – these were his words. And in this town where so much is polarized, he is a person who embodies, just as we want the Atlantic Council to embody, the bringing together of our national purpose and the bringing together of international purpose.
So General Scowcroft, first, let me thank you personally for changing my life in a positive fashion, and that of so many others in this room.
It’s great to see so many of Brent’s friends here this evening. I want to acknowledge just a few of our more – our more important guests. Please hold your applause until I have read their names. Now, I know you all think you’re important, but this will be based on government position. And we don’t have that much time.
So first of all – first of all, because we have – because – I know you’re all listening (now ?) – because we have eight former national security advisers in the room, I first of all want to tip my hat to the sitting national security adviser, Tom Donilon. We know how tough it is to get away from the office. You honor General Scowcroft with your presence. Thank you so much. (Applause.)
Secretary Bob Gates is here. We’ll hear more from him later. He flew in for this. He’ll fly out early tomorrow morning. And eight former national security advisers – Henry Kissinger, Zbig Brzezinski, Bud McFarlane, Sandy Burger, Steve Hadley, Jim Jones, and, of course, Brent Scowcroft himself. Thank you all for coming. (Applause.)
We have seven sitting and former senators: our chairman, Senator Chuck Hagel; and Senators Susan Collins, Jack Reed, Don Riegle, David Boren and Tim Roemer. (Applause.)
We’re also honored to have with us General Peter Chiarelli, a vice chief of staff to the U.S. Army, and Air Force representative Lieutenant General Christopher Miller. (Applause.)
I also welcome over a dozen ambassadors from the Washington diplomatic corps, friends of Brent, all. (Applause.)
Unfortunately, one of the most important friends of Brent is sorely missed here this evening, honorary co-chair of this dinner, President George H.W. Bush. But we are grateful – (applause) – but we are grateful to President Bush’s daughter, Doro Koch, and Jaen Becker, 41’s chief of staff, for personally being here this evening and for their help in bringing us President and Mrs. George H.W. Bush. Ladies and gentlemen, please turn to the screen for a very special greeting. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Good evening. Often, when I do video dinners such as this, I begin by saying, I wish I could be with you tonight. It’s rarely true – maybe never. (Laughter.) But it is not the case tonight. If it weren’t for what I call the old-age issues, Barbara and I would be with you as the Atlantic Council honors our dear friend Brent Scowcroft.
BARBARA BUSH: Brent, I will just add my love and congratulations for tonight’s well-deserved celebration of your lifelong contribution to public service. Our world is a better place because you are in it.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Brent and I have had a professional relationship and close personal friendship that dates back nearly 40 years. As a colleague, I valued his sharp, analytical mind, unshakeable integrity and tireless work ethic. As a close friend, I value his loyalty, sense of humor and great capacity for kindness. Brent’s many close friends in the room tonight will agree (with me ?) that what makes him so unique and well-qualified, well-regarded among his peers, is that he possesses great talent and ability while remaining humble and warm. The sheer number of friends assembled for tonight’s dinner pays testament to the many lives Brent has touched.
Brent, Barbara just brought up a good point. Are you still awake? (Laughter.) Heard you once again won, hands down, the coveted Scowcroft award. For some of you who have not heard of this high honor, maybe some of these photos will help. Can somebody put some photos up for me? (Laughter.) I think this ran on Air Force One.
Here he is in his office at the White House – (laughter) – waiting for the president to drop by – (laughter). Brent, you were such a humble guy, but it would not surprise me if you nodded off listening to all these accolades. Just in case, I’m asking my co-honorary chair Bob Gates to give a gentleman – gentle nudge. Bob, is he back? (Laughter.) OK, now back to what I was saying. (Laughter.)
I want to add my congratulations to the Atlantic Council for having the wisdom to associate its work on international security with Brent’s fearless legacy of service. By embodying Brent’s values, the Scowcroft Center will make a valued contribution to the debate on international security and will ensure that future policymakers will carry on his legacy.
MRS. BUSH: Brent, it’s been a privilege and an honor for us to call you friend all these years. Watching you and George work together has been one of the great pleasures of my life. Thank you for all you have done for us, for our country and for our world. We love you.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Enjoy the night, my friend.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you, President Bush and Mrs. Bush, for that wake-up call. (Laughter.) There was not a dry eye or, for that matter, a closed eye in the audience.
It’s a great honor now to turn the podium over to Atlantic Council chairman and friend of Brent, Senator Chuck Hagel. One of my most frequent jobs is introducing this amazing man. So I’m not really sure what new I can say. But I was fortunate enough to attend an event honoring Senator Hagel and his brother Tom at the Library of Congress last week, which reminded me that his life of public service began in the cruel fields of Vietnam, where both he and his brother were decorated for showing the principle and courage that has characterized so much of his life since then. Like General Scowcroft and the Atlantic Council, he embodies the belief that national purpose is something you have to demonstrate every day. As he famously said, he took an oath to the Constitution and not to his political party.
Among his many jobs, Senator Hagel is a distinguished professor at Georgetown University. He serves as a co-chairman of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board. He is member of Secretary Panetta’s Defense Policy Board and a member of the president’s Blue Ribbon committee on the nuclear future.
It is an honor to welcome our chairman to the podium. (Applause.)
CHUCK HAGEL: Fred, thank you. Good evening. Let me add my welcome and my thanks on behalf of the board of directors of the Atlantic Council. We are grateful for your continued support, your leadership. Most – all of the leadership of the Council resides here tonight on behalf of all of our efforts to make a better world. And who better personifies that, as President and Mrs. Bush have just noted, than Brent Scowcroft? Brent Scowcroft is one of the premier public servants of our time, and we have many.
At a time in the world, in our country, when it seems that the world has taken leave of its senses and come loose of its moorings, it is particularly important that we anchor ourselves, our society, our culture, our beliefs back to – yes, institutions, yes, beliefs, but the individuals who have actually lived the lives that we all strongly believe in, who, in fact, have lived up to the values and the standards and the expectations of leadership.
We are not here – it may be of some surprise to Brent to beatify him or sanctify him or canonize him. It may well turn out almost that way before the evening is out. But we are here to do two things: one, recognize his contributions to our country and to mankind; and two, to not just recognize those contributions, but thank him for those contributions.
And as Fred has noted and others will mention tonight, something else that we are going to do and are in the process of doing – and it relates to my reference to anchoring back to principles and purpose and standards and quiet, confident, honest leadership – and that is to institutionalize what Brent Scowcroft’s life has meant to our country and to the world.
Fred has noted that – and everyone in this room knows it, because almost everyone in this room has been a beneficiary – I certainly was – of Brent Scowcroft’s wise advice – but everyone in this room recognizes all the advice over the many years he’s given to presidents, to leaders of the world, to members of Congress, senior officials. And we not only recognize that, but as I said, we appreciate that and we – and we thank him for that.
But it’s important that we carry that forward in some institutional way. It’s important that our next generation and the generation after that, as they look back in history, reflects on this time of great volatility, of great chaos, of great uncertainty, we are building this new world order. It is the Brent Scowcrofts we anchor back to, to help guide us through these heavy seas and these strong winds.
So to Brent, thank you, on behalf of all, and there will be many tributes well deserved tonight to you. Thank you for what you have done for all of us and for our country.
Now – (applause).
Now, allow me to introduce to you an individual who you all know. Not unlike Brent Scowcroft, this is an individual who belongs in the great pantheon of international leaders, thinkers, practitioners. He, too, was a national security adviser. But that’s not all there is, nor was, and he still is, like Brent Scowcroft, making contributions to making a better world as Mrs. Bush noted. And that is our dear friend, a very close colleague of Brent Scowcroft’s, and friend of all who care about freedom in the world and decency and honesty, Zbig Brzezinski. Thank you. (Applause.)
ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: Ladies and gentlemen, and especially Brent, I’ve been given two minutes specifically to say something about him. And there’s a problem, because I’ve known him for 55 years. How do you put that into two minutes?
So let me simply say this. I feel, after 55 years, exactly the same way about him as I did when I first met him. This is a great guy. This is a terrific guy. This is a born leader. This is a man with a sense of direction and purpose and decency. That was my feeling when I first met him at West Point. And this is the way I feel 55 years later.
And my second point is more speculative, but it also tells you something about how I feel about him. I believe, especially in the light of the superb performance put on by President Bush I and Brent Scowcroft in ending the Cold War, that if Brent could have remained national security adviser after 1992 – that is to say, in spite of political changes in this country – we, probably by now and probably even shortly thereafter – in 1992 – we would have seen peace in the Middle East. And that would have been a tremendous triumph for the United States. That would have averted some of the dangers that we today confront in that part of the world. So in that speculative sense, it is another measure of Brent as a statesman, as a person who has helped to shape our history, as a person to whom we owe so much and whom we admire and like so strongly.
Thank you. (Applause.)
MR. KEMPE: Thank you, Dr. Brzezinski, for your extraordinary service to our country and to the Atlantic Council. In fact, I checked the data before this dinner, and the Brzezinski family has more Atlantic Council memberships per capita – (laughter) – than any other in the world. Mika, of “Morning Joe,” is a member; so is Mark, who is our new ambassador to Sweden. And Ian, here this evening, is a senior fellow in the soon-to-be-created Scowcroft Center. So thank you to the whole family.
Like Dr. Brzezinski, our next friend of Brent has been a founding member of Brent’s Atlantic Council International Advisory Board. Bob Stevens not only served in the Marine Corps, but like General Scowcroft has a degree from Columbia and has been awarded numerous distinctions for his leadership. Their friendship developed over countless discussions about the nexus between national security strategy and industrial strength, technology and innovation – one of the key subjects that we’ll be studying at the Scowcroft Center. They share an understanding that it’s vital to American interests to have policy and business leaders working closely together. It’s my pleasure to welcome to the podium Atlantic Council International Advisory Board member and Lockheed Martin’s chairman and CEO, Bob Stevens. (Applause.)
ROBERT J. STEVENS: Thank you, Fred. Good evening.
I met Brent Scowcroft a little more than a decade ago when I first became our company’s president and then chief executive officer. Because I spent a considerable amount of my professional life in the operations of our company on the factory floor, in manufacturing and in engineering, our board of directors and others thought it would be imperative for me to spend some time with a person who could give me a broader global security perspective.
And that wasn’t just any perspective: They were thinking in terms of a much more nuanced, in-depth understanding of the security context, but – the antecedent economic, social, cultural circumstances that lead to why things are the way they are today, and importantly, try to develop an ability to create a solid strategy for our company looking forward.
Uniformly, in those discussions, the person whose name was at the top of the list for me to talk with was Brent Scowcroft. Those recommendations were not wrong, and I cannot overstate to you this evening the value of the discussions I had with General Scowcroft over time. And I came to appreciate that I was not alone, that there have been many other industry leaders that I’ve worked with around the globe who’ve had the same experience, as there have been government leaders.
And well beyond the challenge of developing strategies for our companies, there was a uniform message from Brent Scowcroft. And that was, for all of us who have the privilege of being the stewards of the enterprises that we represent, to reach to be bigger than we are today, to move beyond the moment, to not just develop strategies for our companies but to be good security cooperation partners, and the notion that it is not just the strategy that takes the company forward; it’s building the enterprise on a sound value, a sound basis of values and ethics and integrity. And he imparted that in every conversation that I have had with him. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration tonight to say that 300 million of our fellow American citizens and billions of people around the globe tonight have greater prospects for their prosperity and their safety and their security because of this gentleman’s life’s work.
Sir, speaking as a member of the student body, I thank you for all that you’ve done for so many of us. Thank you. (Applause.)
It’s now my pleasure and honor to introduce Dr. Henry Kissinger, one of the Atlantic Council’s longest-serving board members. As you all in this room know very well, Dr. Kissinger has had a profoundly distinguished career and remains one of this country’s most prolific authors and writers on international affairs. As our eighth national security adviser and 56th U.S. secretary of state, his recommendations and counsel have played an integral role in shaping U.S. foreign policy and our nation’s history.
Dr. Kissinger and General Scowcroft have a long history of collaboration. General Scowcroft credits Henry Kissinger for teaching him what it means to truly have a strategic mind, a trait General Scowcroft no doubt developed when he held the challenging position of serving as Kissinger’s deputy.
Dr. Kissinger has played a monumental role in post-World War II U.S. foreign policy, both inside government and as a private citizen. From his seminal writings on nuclear deterrence at Harvard, his negotiation of the Paris Peace Accords, to his remaking of U.S. relations with the People’s Republic of China, Dr. Kissinger has shaped U.S. policy for decades. For his efforts as a statesman, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. I trust these achievements, of which there are many, many more, will serve generations to come as a model for U.S. strategy in this new era of global interconnectedness and dependence.
Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming to the stage a great American statesman and, importantly for this evening, a great friend of Brent, Henry Kissinger. (Applause.)
HENRY KISSINGER: When one sees crises on television or in the movies, one sees people picking up telephones, yelling at each other, shuffling papers around. But those of us who have lived through crises know that it becomes very calm and quiet, and that there are only a few people who will keep their eye on the essentials, who know how to distinguish the important from the urgent and who set a direction. There is no one that (had it ?) steadier in a crisis and more purposeful than Brent Scowcroft.
When one reads academic discussions on foreign policy, they often put in absolute terms about the prevalence of the role of power or of the importance of America as a moral example. And those are important considerations. But those who have had to conduct policy know that policy is an amalgam of both elements, that it is a process that never ends and that it requires leaders who are willing to move forward step by step towards an ultimate goal. No one is better at policymaking in that sense than Brent Scowcroft.
President Truman once said, if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog. (Laughter.) Those of us who have had the honor of working with Brent Scowcroft know that he is a reliable and permanent friend and that his contribution to our society is not only his wisdom, but his extraordinary humanity.
I cannot conclude without telling one story. I was at a speech once with President Bush, whom you have just heard. And at the end of his speech, President Bush said to me, you have just won the Scowcroft prize. (Laughter.) So I said, how did I achieve this? (Laughter.) He said, the Scowcroft award is given to those who fall asleep during a speech – (laughter) – lower their head to a point until every observer is convinced they’re going to choke – (laughter) – and then, with a compulsive movement, raise it. And if you are the speaker and you wait for that crucial moment, it is extraordinarily disconcerting. (Laughter.)
So I think all of us here won the Scowcroft prize, not for that aspect, but for the privilege of seeing a great public servant, a great manager in great crisis, a reliable human being who has added to the honor, to the dignity and to the purposes of our country. And thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to pay this tribute to my dear friend, Brent Scowcroft. (Applause.)
ANNA ELIASSON SHAMIS: Thank you, Dr. Kissinger.
I may be following two national security adviser(s), a senator, a global chief executive and a former editor of The Wall Street Journal – my boss – but I’m the person responsible for making the life-size Brent cutouts that you saw in the foyer – (laughter). (Applause.) I’m Anna Eliasson Schamis, and that’s what it means to be a vice president of the Atlantic Council. (Laughter.)
What can I say about General Scowcroft? He’s kind, loyal, brilliant. As I pored over all the articles and photos that we gathered in preparation for what has turned out to be the most special event that the Atlantic Council has ever done – and many of you know that we’ve done some pretty amazing events – what was – touched me the most was perhaps Brent’s incredible spirit and his unique ability to stay forever young.
Brent, on behalf of the entire Atlantic Council family, I hope you know we think you’re just too marvelous for words. (Applause.)
STAFF: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome back to the stage, Fred Kempe.
MR. KEMPE: Ladies and gentlemen, ladies and gentlemen. While you continue your dinner – and please do continue your dinner – but I think you’ll want to listen to what follows.
We have a very special treat for our friend, Brent Scowcroft. I am delighted to hand over to our toastmistress for this evening. She and Brent met 28 years ago, and the story continues to this day. A fellow retired Air Force officer, she served as General Scowcroft’s senior director for legislative affairs in the Bush 41 NSC. You all know that every board – and the Atlantic Council board is not different – has a handful of people who carry the largest load and make the biggest difference. I can assure you that without Ginny Mulberger, the Atlantic Council would be a far poorer place. Please give an enormously appreciative round of applause to Atlantic Council vice chair, founding principal and managing director of the Scowcroft Group. (Applause.)
MR. KEMPE: And the person – the person that Brent Scowcroft describes as his alter ego – isn’t that frightening? – Ginny Mulberger. (Applause.)
GINNY MULBERGER: Well, thank you, Fred, and thank you all for being here. I know how much this means to Brent. It is such a great feeling to be part of this intimate gathering. We started off with a small committee of friends of Brent, known as the FOBs, and here we are – 480 of us. (Applause.) Thank you.
Speaking of my original FOBs, I want to recognize them and thank them for their effort in helping to make this evening possible. Please hold your applause, and please rise as I call your names. Steve Hadley, Arnold Panero, Sandy Charles, Eric Melby, Tim McBride, Oda Aberdeen (ph), Dave Miller, Joan McEntee, Mary Howell, Bill Sitman (ph), and Carla Uti (ph), who rigorously managed this motley crew. Thank you. (Applause.)
Given that we all have to go home at some point this evening, we’ve invited only a few of you to give brief toasts, or roasts, in the spirit of George and Barbara Bush. But to my toasters and roasters, I warn you right now – keep it short – (laughter) – or two things may happen: one, Brent may fall asleep – (laughter) – or two, we go the Oscar route. (Music.)
In that spirit, let me just say that, while I could go on for hours recounting the stories and the glories of my very dear friend Brent Scowcroft, I’ll just say a very few words. You’ve heard and will hear many accolades for this man tonight, and they are all true. But I want to single out what I believe to be his greatest gift, and that’s the gift of judgment. He says of himself: I am not the smartest man, but I know a good idea from a bad idea. That, my friends, is the workings of a brilliant mind, and I’ve seen it time and time again.
If you think back over the last 50 years of counsel that Brent has quietly offered every administration, you will realize that, whether it was heeded or not, it was wise. And thankfully, for all of us here, far more often than not, it was heeded. This gift of judgment and his strategic view of not only what is in the best interest of this country, but also what is the best interest of the world we live in. Coupled with his quiet humility and unsurpassed capacity for kindness is his greatness, and that’s what we are celebrating tonight and hope to capture for future generations. Please raise a glass to Brent and the future.
Our first toaster is a dear friend to both Brent and me – Steve Hadley. Steve is a consummate public servant. Starting as a naval officer after law school, he has served three administrations in foreign policy and defense capacities, culminating in national security adviser to President George W. Bush. Steve’s deep and rich friendship with Brent goes back to when they first worked together on the Ford NSC staff. What many may not know was that this unassuming, wise and humble man was, by Brent’s account, in his single days the chick magnet of the Ford NSC. (Laughter.) Ladies, he is now taken. Steve, you’ve worked tirelessly on the executive committee of the Atlantic Council, and as a friend of Brent during this campaign. We thank you for all your efforts. Over to you. (Applause.)
STEPHEN HADLEY: Well, those of you who know you – know me know that could not be true. I rise to toast, not roast. The National Security Act of 1947 said there should be a national security council to coordinate foreign policy. It fell to Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski to define the structure of inner agency committees to carry out that role, but it fell to Brent Scowcroft to define the role of national security adviser. He did it living the role under President Ford, writing, I think, the definitive statement of what a national security adviser should do in the Tower Commission Report – and then just to put the line under it, serving again under Bush 41. That model is premised that the national security adviser must serve the president, be an honest broker, and have a low profile and act offstage.
Brent not only defined the role, he then lived it. Rarely have the characteristics of the office better matched the character of the man. Loyalty, sense of service, treating all people with respect, and then, finally, self-effacing – which really means having his ego in control, and making it clear that it’s always about the mission and the country and never about him.
Brent, on behalf of all of those who followed you, who served in the role and tried to follow your model, I want to thank you for your service. Thank you for showing us a way, and thank you for being the extraordinary person that you are. God bless you. (Applause.)
MS. MULBERGER: Thank you, Steve. As you know, Steve is one of eight former national security advisers in the room this evening. We are also most honored that our current national security adviser, Tom Donilon, rushed from the White House to be here with us this evening. Tom, thank you, and over to you.
TOM DONILON: (Applause.) Thank you. I don’t get out much, Brent, as you know. But I rise in gratitude for your inspiration and the model you are for all of us. But I have a letter to read, which I’ll proceed to do now.
Dear General Scowcroft, I am honored to join in paying tribute to your extraordinary life of service to America. From West Point to your arduous recovery from injuries in the Army Air Corps, from your distinguished service in the Air Force to your role as adviser to four U.S. presidents, you remind us all that public service is a noble calling. You helped guide our nation through a time like no other – the fall of the Berlin Wall and in the end – the end of the Cold War, the birth of a new Europe, and America’s triumph in Desert Storm. It was, as you wrote, a world transformed, and you helped transform it. Most of all, you did so with integrity and grace, putting citizenship before partisanship. I think everyone here tonight will agree our nation needs more public servants like you. Like those presidents before me, my administration has benefited from your advice and counsel. Your legacy is a nation that is safer and stronger. For more than 60 years of service to our nation, including nearly 30 years in uniform, please accept my thanks and the profound gratitude of the American people. President Barack Obama. (Applause.)
MS. MULBERGER: Thank you, Tom. We are also most privileged to have our next toaster, former West Point graduate, Army Ranger, and runaway from the Senate tonight, Jack Reed. United States Senator from Rhode Island, Senator Jack Reed.
SENATOR JACK REED (D-RI): Thank you very much. (Applause.) For the record, I’m always short. Tonight, I’ll try to be brief. (Laughter.)
Ladies and gentlemen, it is a privilege to join you to honor Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft. He is a gentleman who has served this country with deep devotion and distinction in many roles over many years. And as a West Point graduate, I am very proud to say that no one better exemplifies the credo of the academy – duty, honor, country – than Brent Scowcroft. Brent has served with intelligence and integrity, and he has done what we all hope we can do each day – speak truth to power, regardless of the consequences. And I believe he has done that because he understands that the decisions we make are carried out across the globe by young Americans who deserve both power and truth.
He’s also, despite his severe demeanor and no-nonsense attitude and his sober deportment, a forgiving soul. I found that out when, in response to my rather dumb question about: Whatcha doing this summer, general? He said: I’m going to Greece with 41. So naturally, I said: Why the heck would you go to Greece with 41? You’re class of ’47. (Laughter.) He’s still talking to me. (Laughter.) Ladies and gentlemen – General Scowcroft, thank you for your service, thank you for your example, thank you for your inspiration. (Inaudible, applause.)
MS. MULBERGER: Thank you, Senator. The undersecretary of state for arms control and international security affairs and former California 10th district congressional representative is a gifted leader, an extraordinarily talented woman. And having met many years ago at the Munich Security Conference, a close and intellectually simpatico friend of Brent’s, Ellen Tauscher. (Applause.)
ELLEN TAUSCHER: Thank you. Thank you, Ginny. You’re the best. I was so happy to meet Brent, a few years after I was elected to Congress in 1996, at the Munich Security Conference. Actually, I don’t want to shock anyone, but we’ve met there every weekend every year since – (laughter) – and I hope that we will be there again this year.
Brent, you have been such an amazing counselor and adviser, both when I was in Congress and now that I’m at the State Department. I can’t thank you for your wisdom and your serious and sober – and always a little impish – advice. It’s never political, but you understand politics. And it’s always about what’s best for the American people. You know, you’ve presided and helped orchestrate so many things that are of importance – the fall of the Soviet Union, putting the coalition together to win the Gulf War. And now, you’ve advised six presidents. We love you, Brent. You’re just the best American that we could ever have and call friend. Thank you so much for all you’ve done. (Applause.)
MS. MULBERGER: Ellen, thanks so much. Now, I’d like to introduce another treasured and humble public servant and one of Brent’s oldest friends – and I don’t mean age-wise – Atlantic Council honorary director and one of Brent’s favorite former spies, the only former director of the FBI and CIA, Judge William Webster. Judge. (Applause.)
WILLIAM WEBSTER: Now, all of us who’ve lived long enough in Washington have gathered a bunch of mementos and sometimes awards. By all – by any means, my most favorite momentum (sic) is a large photograph, framed photograph given to me by President Bush, which included – it was taken in the Oval Office with the president seated at his desk and four or five senior leaders around while he read the president’s daily brief, which he receives each morning, and tried to comment and see if we could be helpful. One of those appeared to be napping. Now, from what you’ve heard tonight, you’d make assumptions, but you were wrong – it was me. (Laughter.) And I got the award with the instruction – the inscription from the president that he thinks better in repose, and gave me only the third prize of the Brent Scowcroft award. You could not tell what was happening to the one whose head shows up in the photograph only from the rear, but I think he was listening.
Brent does rest easy, and so he should because he is, by any measure, the most respected, the most trusted – and I emphasize the third – the most revered adviser to presidents in modern history. And we all know that, and we appreciate that. I call him the honest broker. And so I’d like to ask you to join with me in a toast to the greatest honest broker, a man of impeccable integrity whom we all love and honor here tonight in a most unusual way, Brent “the snoozer” Scowcroft. (Laughter.)
(Chorus of “hear, hear.”)
MS. MULBERGER: Thank you, judge. Our next toaster is a long-term friend and Washington Renaissance man. He was comptroller and CFO of the Defense Department, deputy director of OMB, and NASA administrator – to name just a few of his exalted Washington positions. But tonight, he is here as a close friend of Brent. EADS CEO Sean O’Keefe, together with Airbus CEO, Tom Enders, and chairman of EADS North America, Ralph Crosby – our board members of Atlantic Council, longstanding supporters of its international security program and now significant contributors to the new Scowcroft Center. Sean, over to you.
SEAN O’ KEEFE: Thank you. (Applause.) General Scowcroft, it is my indescribable honor to rise to toast you this evening for your wisdom and your humility. We’ve heard repetitively, during the course of the day, those attributes ascribed to you, and they are most aptly done. But I never appreciated them as much – in the course of my time in the Bush 41 administration, having witnessed your activity during that time – as much as I did years later at an event that I had the privilege to host in upstate New York on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Goldwater-Nichols Act enactment, and asked General Scowcroft to appear as the keynote speaker on the matter of the seminal act that described civil-military relations in a manner that he had lived throughout the course of his life.
An apt speaker, he agreed to do so and rose to the occasion, and, after introduction, observed – as how he always does – that this is a great privilege to be here, but I really don’t know much about the topic – (laughter) – a guy who had served in military-civilian capacities throughout the course of his entire life, who knows more about that set of challenges than any one individual we all know. And so the crowd murmured and enjoyed that particular, you know, slight of humility on his part.
But then he went on to say: I feel much like the doctor who was invited to appear before a group, in which he was a physician to elderly, and asked to speak to the topic of sex in the golden years. (Laughter.) Well, he was a little bit, you know, surprised by this particular question of the topic, but he agreed to do so. And upon going home and describing to his wife as how he had the occasion to do this, she said: Well, what did you talk about? He was very embarrassed about it, he said: Well, I talked about sailing. Well, some days later, his wife, having encountered the doctor’s wife, described as her – and one of the attendants at this particular event said: Your husband absolutely transformed and changed the way I view life. It was absolutely astonishing to see how it’s really remarkably changed the way I look at things. This – the doctor’s wife looked at her and said: What are you talking about? That’s interesting that you observed that. He’s only done it twice. (Laughter.) The first time he threw up, and the second time his hat blew off. (Laughter.)
Well, the crowd that evening at the conference absolutely fell on the floor for two reasons. First of all, it was a damn good joke, but, number two, that it came from Brent Scowcroft. And it was absolutely emblematic of his humility as well as his wisdom. He has served in extraordinary capacities over many, many decades and advised us all in ways to do this in a much, much more informed way. We thank you, sir, and rise to toast you for your wisdom and humility. Thank you, sir. (Applause.)
MS. MULBERGER: Thank you, Sean. And now, a very dear friend of Brent’s and mine, protégé of Brent – God knows that Brent tried – former senior director of the Bush 41 NSC, director of policy planning at State Department, and much sought-after foreign policy commentator, prolific author, and the man who single-handedly orchestrated the First Gulf War – just read his book – (laughter) – president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Richard Haas. Richard. (Applause.)
RICHARD HAAS: When Virginia asked me to prepare a toast tonight, I anticipated that there would be multiple references to the Scowcroft award and to Brent’s propensity for nodding off. So as an academic, what I immediately did was – said to myself: Research is in order. So I flew down to College Station to the library – to the Bush Library. And after several arduous days of research, I unearthed a transcript of a conversation from November 1989 between then President-elect George H. W. Bush and Brent Scowcroft. And for the first time, I am going to share, publically. And this is verbatim:
President-elect Bush: Brent, I have a favor to ask of you.
Brent Scowcroft: What is that, Mr. President-elect?
President-elect Bush: I’d like you to return to government.
Brent Scowcroft: Sure, that would be an honor.
President-elect Bush: But there’s a catch, Brent. I’d like you to come back and take your old job – that of national security adviser.
Brent Scowcroft: Again, sir, it would be an honor to serve with you.
President-elect Bush: I just want to be sure though, Brent, that you’re comfortable doing something you’ve already done. Are you sure you are up for this?
Brent Scowcroft: Don’t worry, sir. I can do it with my eyes closed.
(Laughter, applause.) And the rest, as they say, is history. I have to be careful what I’m going to say next because there’s six or seven people who had the same job that Brent did. But to be national security you have – national security adviser – you’ve got to wear two hats. You’ve got to be the counselor to the president, and you’ve got to be the traffic cop of the interagency process. And to get either one of those right is no mean feat, but to get both right is extraordinarily difficult, and Brent nailed it.
And watching him, for all of us, was a true education. So for me, for Ginny, and others, for four years, Brent was our boss – was also an extraordinary colleague and an example of what to do in public service. And since then, for these two decades or so, he has been a wonderful friend and a mentor and an example of how one is meant to live his life. So Brent, thank you not just for what you did, but thank you for how you did it. (Applause.)
MS. MULBERGER: Thanks, Richard. Our next toaster is here tonight by a quirk of fate. Twenty-two years ago, when Brent took over the helm of the Bush 41 NSC, he sent out a memo thanking all of the previous NSC staff for their extraordinary service. And then without much ado, he told them to return to their home bases. Eric Melby, apparently, didn’t get the memo – (laughter) – or he chose to ignore it. It’s lucky for us. When Brent finally realized that Eric was still there and of such talent, he appointed him the senior director of international economics and trade. He’s still with us today as a founding principal of the Scowcroft Group and a dear friend – Eric Melby. (Applause.)
ERIC MELBY: Brent, when your colleagues – your work colleagues – asked me to speak, I was a little suspicious because probably they figured if it bombed, I’d be the easiest person to replace – (laughter) – and you’re not supposed to nod at this point. Two minutes to say what we admire in you. And I’m sure you’re thinking: Oh my God, he’s going to speak very slowly. This is because in our firm our job is to keep you humble, and we do it with a certain amount of gusto and frequency. But actually, after tonight, it’s going to be a lot tougher to keep you humble, but it doesn’t mean that we won’t rise to the challenge.
We’re going to make an exception tonight to get into the spirit of the evening. And were Arnie Cantor – our dear colleague – still with us, he would start by saying: Thing one, we generally – genuinely admire your work ethic. There’s really no one like you, and no one who does what you do in the firm. You’re the first in, in the morning, and you’re the last out. Even today, you distributed emails that people had printed out. Now, in a more motivated group, this might set an example. Frankly, for us, it just makes us grumpy. (Laughter.)
Thing two, your travel stamina is truly impressive. You have taken countless trips to Asia and to Europe, often spending less than 24 hours on the ground. You really don’t like foreigners, do you? (Laughter.)
Thing three – your exercise regime is, well, breathtaking. You can spend all day chairing a blue ribbon commission, get back to the office as we are leaving, and head out to the gym. For you, heavy lifting isn’t just making policy.
Thing four – you embody decency and lack of pretension, qualities that are decidedly in short supply in this town. You have been known to say that in Washington, people walk down lovers’ lane holding their own hands. And – (laughter, applause).
And someone might want to check what Brent’s doing right now – (laughter) – a senior official at Treasury recently told me that he saw you in the Giant at Westbard this summer, and he said to his wife, there is one of the most intelligent persons in America. Let’s see which melon he picks. (Laughter.) That happens to be a true story. (Laughter.)
And finally, thing five – it is said of one of the founders of the national parks that the good he has done can never be undone. I think that’s true of your contribution to foreign policy and our nation’s security, although sometimes people try and undo it. Brent, tonight, your office family – we’re delighted to honor you and proud to say we love you. Tomorrow, however – (laughter) – remember to stop by Krispy Kreme on the way in – (laughter). In 17 years, you have never asked me, but I really do like glazed cinnamon. (Laughter, applause.)
MS. MULBERGER: (Chuckles.) Thank you, Eric. OK.
My next toaster does not have the illustrious resumes of the people who spoke before her. But we’re expecting that in the future. She brings us a fresh perspective on the man she calls “Uncle Brent.” Former Atlantic Council intern, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service junior, Brent’s goddaughter and my daughter, Katie Mulberger. (Applause.)
KATIE MULBERGER: Now, ever since I was old enough to truly understand just how incredible it is that my godfather is not only a former national security adviser but also one of the world’s leading thinkers, I figured out that this little fact is a great way to win the game “two truths and one lie.” In this slightly childish game, you tell your friends two truthful things about yourself and one lie, and they have to figure out which one the lie is. By having Uncle Brent as my godfather and my family owning a pet hedgehog, I’ve basically got the woods secured. (Laughter.)
This past spring, one of my professors’ assigned readings was written by Uncle Brent. I had to hold back my excitement knowing that all of my peers were in awe of the man with whom I’ve spent nearly every Christmas Eve. Uncle Brent, you have so greatly influenced who I have become as a young woman in ways far beyond our mutual love of maps. Your honesty, integrity and kindness are unparalleled. I am so proud of you. Congratulations to my amazing godfather, mentor and friend. (Applause.)
MS. MULBERGER: Katie, you’ve made me proud. And thanks for not revealing any family secrets. (Laughter.)
Like Katie, our final toaster this evening – from the tables, at least – represents the second generation of leaders who have been mentored by Brent. Jeff Lightfoot, now associate director of the Atlantic Council’s International Security Program, came to the Scowcroft Group five years ago as an intern. Folks, he is truly one of the brightest young minds out there and, in my estimation, a likely national security adviser. Jeff? (Applause.)
JEFFREY LIGHTFOOT: Thank you, Ginny; that’s too kind.
General, it’s a – it’s a real honor to be here and to offer the last toast tonight this evening. And I’d like to do so not just in a personal capacity, but actually on behalf of all of the former, the current – who I know are here today – and the future Scowcroft Group interns who have been so shaped, mentored and molded by you and the example that you’ve set. And I’d like to, first of all, just say thank you for the warmth and kindness and the decency that you showed to even the most lowly interns in this town. It’s much appreciated.
And I’d like to say thank you even more for those Friday afternoons. We call them at the Scowcroft Group the “stump the general” sessions where we sit down, just the two or three interns, with the general for an hour. We talk about history. We talk about politics. Those are some of the most important and meaningful conversations I’ve ever had. And for better or for worse, you can ask my colleagues; they’ve very much shaped the way I think about the world.
But then more importantly – and most importantly, I want to thank you for setting the standard, because you teach young people who watch you everywhere that kindness, decency, integrity and humility are the key to success in this town, and not the impediment to success. And so I say thank you for that, for setting the example.
And I’d like, as the final toaster then today, to ask all the friends of Brent here to please join me in toasting and raising a glass to Brent Scowcroft, the soldier, the scholar, the statesman and our mentor. Congratulations. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Bravo.
MS. MULBERGER: Thank you, Jeff, and thank you all. I hope Fred knows that you’re only on loan to the Atlantic Council.
Ladies and gentlemen, we will resume the program shortly. And thanks to all you great toasters. (Applause.)
STAFF: Ladies and gentlemen, our program is about to resume. Could you please take your seats?
MR. KEMPE: If you could please take your seats – if you could please take your seats – it would be terrific if you could take your seats. Thank you so much.
Friends of Brent, it’s now my pleasure to launch us into the final part of our celebration.
We’ll now start the final part of our celebration. Thanks to all of you, we will be officially launching the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security next year. I now turn over to two of the most enthusiastic FOBs – friends of Brent – the chairman designate of the Scowcroft Center, General Jim Jones, and his vice chairman designate, George Lund.
As the chairman of Torch Hill Investment Partners, George has a distinguished career in banking and private equity. He is one of the smartest minds on emerging defense technologies; in fact, he’s exactly what we try to draw to the Atlantic Council: someone who knows the security world and the – and the business world equally well. We are fortunate that the new Lund fellow at the Atlantic Council will bring that expertise to us. From the very beginning, George wanted to become part of ensuring Brent Scowcroft’s legacy and become a founding – a founding donor in honor of his Yoda. George, over to you. (Applause.)
GEORGE LUND: Thank you very much, Fred. It is an honor to be here this evening to pay tribute to our good friend Brent Scowcroft.
When Fred first approached me about the idea of the Scowcroft Center and the prospect of serving as its vice chairman, I was immediately enthusiastic. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to become involved in an initiative that recognizes our friend, General Brent Scowcroft, and seeks to capture his incredible legacy?
But what really appealed to me about this center was my strong belief that its intellectual contribution to the policy debate is just what this country needs in these times of great international challenge.
The Scowcroft Center is the Atlantic Council’s ambitious response to a strategic moment in history. The Scowcroft Center aims to offer answers and insights to a rapidly changing national security landscape marked by emerging powers, influential nonstate actors, nontraditional security threats and historic shifts in economic and political influence.
The center will offer thought leadership on strategic foresight, emerging threats and trends in defense industry; critical regional security issues, such as Asia and the Middle East; and important functional issues like nonproliferation and emerging technologies. The Scowcroft Center will build on the council’s nonpartisan tradition and rich trans-Atlantic heritage while bringing new global partners into our analysis and policy debates. In doing so, we’ll pay tribute to General Scowcroft’s remarkable legacy of mentorship by serving as a beacon for the next generation of foreign policy leaders.
I am pleased that so many of you share our vision for this center and have shared your generosity with us to help turn the vision of the Scowcroft Center into a reality. I’m especially delighted to report to you that we are over halfway towards success in reaching our $25 million goal with over $14 million committed to this center as of today. (Applause.)
The campaign will run through 2012, at which point we will point formally launch the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security. I would like to thank all of you for your generous support of the Scowcroft Center and the Atlantic Council. Each and every one of you has been crucial in getting us this far. And I hope, indeed expect, to count on you in identifying other possible supporters and sponsors of the center over the coming months.
I would like to recognize in particular the founding members of the center who have gone above and beyond in their support for the center and the council more broadly. Please hold your response as I read these names: President George H.W. Bush, Tom Blair, EADS and Airbus, the state of Qatar and Ambassador Ali bin Fahad of Qatar, who is here this evening, Bahaa Hariri, Lockheed Martin, Alexander Mirtchev, Bruce Mosler, David Rockefeller, Saab, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Brent Scowcroft, Omar Zouaoui (ph), the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates – and we are grateful to His Excellency Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the former foreign minister of the UAE, and U.S. ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba who joined us here earlier this evening for the reception – and so many others of you who have helped in quiet but important ways. Please join me in offering a round of applause and thanks for all of these founding members of the center. (Applause.)
It is now my distinct pleasure to introduce the chairman of the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, General James L. Jones. There is no one better qualified than General Jones to serve as the inaugural chairman of the center. General Jones has uniquely broad and expansive understanding of national security from his experience in the top positions of our country’s military and civilian leadership. He is a staunch Atlanticist with unmatched experience as a soldier-diplomat.
General Jones began his stellar 40-year career in the United States Marine Corps as a platoon and company commander in Vietnam. He would eventually rise to the top of the Corps, serving as commandant before being appointed the top commander of NATO from 2003 to 2006. As supreme allied commander Europe, General Jones charmed and impressed his European counterparts with his smooth command of the French language and his ambitions to transform the NATO alliance through its growing role in Afghanistan.
Outside of uniform, General Jones has worked to advance international peace and security as a special envoy for Middle East security and as national security adviser to President Obama, where he gained a sophisticated understanding of the important regional and functional challenges that define the current and future international security environment.
General Jones has been a visionary leader of the Atlantic Council, serving as its chairman during his brief break from government service. His groundbreaking 2007 Atlantic Council report highlighting the international community’s failures in Afghanistan would play a major role in shaping the foreign policy debate in the 2008 presidential campaign. It is my pleasure to work with General Jones in leading the Scowcroft Center and to join him on the Council’s board of directors.
Please welcome to the stage the chairman designate of the Brent Scowcroft Center, General James L. Jones. (Applause.)
GENERAL JAMES L. JONES (RET.): Thank you, George, very much. And ladies and gentlemen, good evening.
Before I start, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the presence of the deputy secretary of defense who is here with us tonight, Mr. Ash Carter. Ash, thank you very much for being here and joining us in this tribute to Brent Scowcroft.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Scowcroft Center is very, very important to all of us. I would like you to understand that we are already selecting the staff and we’re going through some arduous training of trying to get people to only stay awake for five hours a day. (Laughter.)
And I would like to also add my words of appreciation to General Scowcroft for his assistance while I was national security adviser. I looked forward to his morning phone calls telling me how badly we had screwed up the previous 24 hours – (laughter) – and offering his sage advice; it’s something I miss. But I will try to repay you, General, by doing you great credit with the Scowcroft Center.
I am honored to introduce to you tonight a national treasure, in the truest sense of the term, a patriot whose contribution to the security of our country and the advance of freedom is nothing short of historic. And I’m talking, of course, of Bob Gates, a man who has served eight presidents at the highest levels and in the most challenging posts: as a senior member of the national security council staff with the CIA, including as its director, and, of course, at the Department of Defense as the nation’s 22nd secretary of defense. Secretary Gates is only one of 14 cabinet members in our history to serve under presidents of different parties, and the only secretary of defense to do so.
His extraordinary career of public service began as an Air Force intelligence officer with the Strategic Air Command in 1967 and stretched over four remarkable decades, from the first stirrings of the Prague Spring of 1968 to the Arab Spring of 2011.
The majority of his career, of course, was in service at the CIA, a storied 26 years over which he was awarded the National Security Medal, the Presidential Citizens Medal, twice the recipient of the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, and three times he was awarded and recognized with the CIA’s highest award, the Distinguished Intelligence Medal.
Through it all, in every capacity he has served, Bob Gates has graced the country and those of us lucky enough to serve with him by his wisdom, his vision, his devotion and always his decency. This past June, President Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award.
Even among the many distinguished awards he has received, I suspect the honor for which Secretary Gates is most proud is his legacy as defense secretary, whose time, attention and devotion were always focused on the good of our young men and women in uniform, or taking – on taking care of our troops. And really, there is no greater distinction and no higher honor. And for that, Secretary Gates, we all thank you.
Gratefully, we can be certain that Bob’s service will continue well into the future even as he settles into private life, as leaders to come, if they are wise, will seek his counsel and experience – a virtually unparalleled national asset, as the man we – as is the man we are here to honor this evening.
Among his many duties – and, no doubt, a highlight of Bob’s long career – was serving as deputy to Brent Scowcroft on the National Security Council where he helped America navigate one of the most eventful, complex and consequential periods in our history: Tiananmen Square and the call for – and the call for rights in the world’s most populous nation half a globe away; Operation Just Cause in Panama and the demise of a dictator in our own hemisphere; the fall of the Berlin Wall; the end of a long and bitter Cold War; the reunification of Germany; the birth of a new and complex world order; and, of course, Operation Desert Storm, and the great test of this new order as Brent and Bob helped marshal an extraordinary 33-nation coalition to reject conquest, reverse aggression and stand up for what is truly right.
I can’t think of two better people for the nation to have in the cockpit with the president during such momentous times than Brent Scowcroft and Bob Gates. Often, when I was in the situation room, I wondered what it was like then. I thought – I thought that November evening, when the Berlin Wall began to topple, transforming the world before our eyes, I tried to envision the team at work in the throes of the great strategic moment when events demanded our best at their best. I could see Bob there, a stack of papers at his side, officially marshaling the facts and deftly formulating just the right strategy; and in front of him at the table, his principal, General Scowcroft, dozing softly – (laughter) – everyone lowering their voice to avoid waking him up.
These were heady times, and Bob and I can say that I’m glad that you and Brent were there, and we’re glad that you are both here with us this evening. Ladies and gentlemen, our former secretary of defense, Bob Gates. (Applause.)
ROBERT GATES: Thank you, Jim. That was very generous. Well, as honorary chair, along with President 41, let me thank you all for coming to this event to honor Brent. And I would especially like to express my appreciation to the Atlantic Council, its leadership and its staff for honoring him as well.
First of all, I think there needs to be a certain addressing of this Scowcroft Award business, because it’s been addressed this evening in a kind of a frivolous way. And the reality is, first-President Bush took this very seriously. And the candidates for this award were evaluated on three criteria.
First was duration. (Laughter.) The second was depth, and snoring and whistling always got you extra points. (Laughter.) And the third was the quality of recovery. (Laughter.) And I would say that Brent got all of his points, and I would say perfect 10s on the first and the third. But I have to say, over all that time, I never heard him snore or whistle.
Much has been said tonight about Brent’s achievements and legacy. So I would just like to share a few personal reflections about the man I have treasured as a mentor, colleague and friend for nearly four decades. I feel like I have worked for Brent since I was a child. (Laughter.) In fact, I think I have worked for Brent since I was a child. I was first detailed from CIA to the National Security Council 37 years ago this summer. Brent was deputy national security adviser, soon to pin on his third star. I was a 30-year old GS-13.
Needless to say, I did not refer to Lieutenant General Scowcroft as Brent in those early days. (Laughter.) And in fact, a summons to the West Wing was never good news, or particularly career-enhancing. During that time, President Nixon’s final appeal for the Watergate case was being heard by the Supreme Court. I later wrote that starting work for Brent in the White House in the late spring of 1974 was like being a deckhand on the Titanic.
Brent, of course, stayed through the transition to the Ford administration, serving as national security adviser during an extraordinarily difficult time for our country at home and around the world – high unemployment and even higher inflation, the final collapse of South Vietnam and Cambodia and the Mayaguez incident, the North Korean axe murders, and much, much more. It seemed during the 1970s that just about everything that could go wrong for America did.
During that tumultuous period, Brent was a steady hand at the helm of U.S. national security apparatus. Quite apart from dealing with crises in Asia, in the Middle East, and a resurgent Soviet Union, Brent also had the unenviable task of keeping such shrinking violets as Henry Kissinger, Don Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and George H.W. Bush on board, on message and, most importantly, off each other’s throats. (Laughter.)
After the Ford administration, Brent and I stayed in touch, and some 13 years later, soon after the election of the first President Bush, Brent offered me his old job as deputy national security adviser. I accepted on one condition: I would not work his hours. I had two young children; I wanted to see them once in a while. Brent quickly agreed to my conditions, believing clearly that I would never stick to them. (Laughter.) And he obviously was right.
What followed those next 27 months or so was another extraordinary series of events. But this time they were as inspiring as they were challenging: the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the liberation of Eastern Europe, the reunification of Germany under NATO, the implosion of the Soviet Union, when for the first time in modern history a great and powerfully armed empire came to an end without a major war. And then there was Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, followed by his expulsion by a broad international coalition six months later.
Too many have lost sight of the fact that all of these were potentially extraordinarily dangerous developments for our country and for the world. But all ended with America’s interests and its prestige enhanced. It’s hard to imagine this favorable turn of history taking place without George H. W. Bush’s skilled leadership, and as the president would be the first to say, without Brent Scowcroft.
A welcome retirement to the private sector did not put an end to Brent’s management of my career – (laughter) – or, I should say, his unique ability to talk me into doing things I didn’t want to do. (Laughter.) My first involvement with Texas A&M, serving as interim dean of the George H. W. Bush School of Government and Public Service, was a classic Scowcroft bait and switch. (Laughter.) Brent said something to the effect: Oh, come on down, it’s purely honorary, a placeholder, a day or two a month for nine months; we’ll pick a new dean, and you can go back to Seattle. Two years later – (laughter) – two weeks a month later, I was still there. And you try commuting from Seattle to College Station, Texas – (laughter) – using commercial airlines even before TSA. (Laughter.)
Reflecting on all that Brent has accomplished, and all the lives he have (sic) touched, a few things stand out about Brent Scowcroft. In a town of oversized egos and undersized backbones, Brent’s low-key, self-effacing demeanor, his steadfast integrity and common decency, but also his resolve and his moral and political courage truly set him apart as an example to all who aspire to high levels of public life.
As defense secretary I often spoke to military audiences, from service academy cadets to newly minted generals, about what I consider to be the seven or eight key attributes of successful leaders. All of those qualities, to one degree or another, were practiced and embodied by Brent. But one attribute in particular made me think of Brent every time. And it’s not one you might think of. And it was self-confidence – but not the chest-thumping, strutting egotism we see and read about all the time in this town, but rather the quiet self-assurance that allows a leader to give others both real responsibility and real credit for success; the ability to stand in the shadow and let others receive attention and accolades; the self-confidence not to cast such a large shadow that no one else can grow. Among those who grew and matured, who became wiser and more effective policymakers as a result of being in Brent’s orbit were future national security advisers, the secretary of defense and many more.
Brent’s personal modesty extended to his view of statecraft, properly understood as reconciling ends, means and resources in a world that has a way of disrupting the best-laid plans of even the most perspicacious statesmen. Brent wrote not too long ago, the United States ought to be on the side of trying to achieve maybe a little more than it can, but not too much. In a commencement speech to my alma mater, William and Mary, at the close of the 1990s, Brent lamented the hubris and triumphalism that followed victory in the Cold War, especially talk of the “end of history” in all of its tragic dimensions. He warned against preaching rather than teaching American values to the rest of the world.
Brent’s low-key pragmatic sensibility coexisted with a willingness to take a stand on what he believed, even when doing so went against the conventional wisdom of his party, inviting criticism and even ostracism. On the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Brent publicly warned of the costs and consequences of war, warnings that, whatever one’s views on the rightness of that conflict, turned out to be remarkably prescient. And let there be no doubt: Brent, above all, has been a protector of America’s leading an indispensable role in the world, in particular our key alliances and partnerships.
Shortly before leaving the Pentagon, I delivered a pretty tough speech in Brussels about a potential dismal future for NATO if allies didn’t get serious about their defense investments and capabilities. The main purpose of the Brussels speech and the main message I wanted to send to our European friends was to convey this warning, that a generation of senior American policymakers who have been the strongest defenders of the Atlantic alliance are departing or have departed from positions of responsibility and authority in Washington: Henry Kissinger, Zbig Brzezinski, the late Larry Eagleburger, Jim Jones, myself and of course Brent.
We were all, to one degree or another, influenced by our formative experience during the Cold War. The politicians and policymakers that will follow us, frankly, will not have the same historical, personal and, indeed, emotional tie to Europe and may not consider the return on America’s investment in Europe’s defense worth the cost. And that would be a tragedy, because as Brent put it so well back in May, in this kind of a world, it is more important, more essential than ever that we take care of our closest and most important relationship and community of common values. And that community, for all of its flaws and troubles, is still Europe.
Finally, I’m also deeply concerned about the decline of views and values associated with Brent Scowcroft when it comes to how we govern and relate to one another here at home. Civility, mutual respect, putting country before self and country before party, listening to and learning from one another, not pretending to have all the answers and not demonizing those with whom we differ: For all the platitudes to the contrary, these virtues, in this town, are – seem to be increasingly quaint, a historic relic to put on display at the Smithsonian next to Mr. Rogers’ sweater or Julia Child’s kitchen. Zero-sum politics and ideological siege warfare are the new order of the day. These problems go much deeper than individual personalities. The predicament we are in is the result of structural changes taking root over several decades that will not be done by a change of personalities.
The reasons are varied and known to most here tonight: The highly gerrymandered system of drawing congressional districts to create safe seats for incumbents of both parties, leading to elected representatives totally beholden to their party’s ideological base; wave elections that sweep one party into power after another, each seized with ideological zeal and the rightness of their agenda, making it difficult to sustain the bipartisan strategies and policies needed to address our very real and serious problems; strategies and policies that, to be successful, must be pursued beyond one presidency and one Congress; the decline of congressional powerbrokers, particularly the committee chairman, who might have been tough partisans but were also people who could make deals and enforce those agreements on their committee members and on their caucuses; and a 24/7 digital media environment that provides a forum and wide dissemination for the most extreme and vitriolic views leading, I believe, to a coarsening and a dumbing-down of our national political discourse.
As a result of these and other polarizing factors, the moderate center – the foundation of our political system – is not holding. Moderation is now equated with lacking principles; compromise means selling out. So just at the time this country needs more continuity, more consensus, and, above all, more compromise to deal with our most serious long-term problems, most of the trends are pointing in the opposite direction.
The good news for America is that even though we have a lot of work to do and enormous obstacles ahead of us, we also have the power and the means to overcome them, just as this country has overcome far worse episodes in the past. But it will take a willingness to make tough decisions, the wisdom to see the world as it is rather than as we would like it to be, and the courage to compromise on behalf of the greater good.
Fortunately, we don’t need to look far for inspiration on how to act, how to work, how to live, and how best to serve the American people. We have the example of the extraordinary career, the brilliant mind, and the beautiful soul of the great man we honor tonight. Ladies and gentlemen, Brent Scowcroft. (Extended applause.)
MR. KEMPE: Ladies and gentlemen, Brent Scowcroft.
BRENT SCOWCROFT: I am completely overwhelmed and humbled by this evening and what it represents. It’s like a dream come true. I wish I could thank each and every one of you personally, not just for this evening and what it means to me, but for the enriching of my life. Each of your faces brings back a myriad of memories and a realization of just how lucky I have been, and how completely whatever I’ve been able to contribute has depended on you all and countless others whose lives have so incredibly enriched my own.
But in addition to a wealth of memories, this evening also faces strongly toward the future. I want first of all to thank the Atlantic Council and its leaders, Chuck Hagel and Fred Kempe, for this wonderful evening, and doing the intellectual and organizational work to make it possible, and to express my deep appreciation to President George H.W. Bush and my buddy Bob Gates for co-hosting this brilliant assemblage for dinner, and especially for Bob’s sobering remarks.
The Atlantic Council and I go back to when I left office with the outgoing Ford administration. The Council at that time was the intellectual leadership of the mobilization of the West to meet the challenges of the Cold War. With the demise of that war, the Council fell on hard times. It was being relegated to the archives of history. A group of us thought that was a serious mistake, and we set out to rectify the situation.
It began in earnest with recruiting Fred Kempe away from his lofty position at The Wall Street Journal to lead our efforts – one of the better decisions I have ever made. Then we found a great chairman in General Jim Jones, who was leaving his post as SACEUR. When later on Jim moved on to the White House, we were incredibly fortunate to find just the person to move the enterprise down the right path, former Senator Chuck Hagel. They put together a magnificent staff who are simply awesome in their capabilities. And I’m delighted to say that Jim Jones has agreed to return to us as chairman of the Scowcroft Center.
So the Council has returned to its vibrant early force as the best dynamic and operational institution going. But not only have they restored the Council; they have pointed it firmly to the future with the establishment of the Scowcroft Center. The Center will expand upon the work of the Council’s existing international security (program ?) to deal with a host of new issues as traditional structures and institutions are being shaken up. The Center will provide the Atlantic Council with the capacity to adopt an agenda that incorporates new partners beyond the Atlantic community in the global security conversation.
I am deeply honored to lend my name to this great evolution of the Atlantic Council. Do I deserve it? Of course not. As I look back on an ever-lengthening career, though, I can point to one award, which you may remember, I have received which I truly deserve. (Laughter.) That of course is the Scowcroft award. (Laughter.) I was going to describe it to you, but that turns out to be completely unnecessary. (Laughter.) But believe me, I deserved it. (Laughter.) But one sober – that award says so much about President Bush and his use of humor to break the tension when we would be discussing, sometimes quite heatedly, how to resolve the issues we faced.
In conclusion, I’m very excited about the Scowcroft Center, and I think it has been skillfully set up to offer fresh thinking about how we can foster new partnerships around the globe to address the challenges and opportunities of a rapidly changing international scene. I thank you all again for your support of this enterprise, and what it, and you, all mean to me.
My own feelings are captured perfectly by William Butler Yeats: “Think where man’s glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends.” Thank you. (Applause.)
MR. KEMPE: I hope Senator Hagel and Secretary Gates will come to the stage. Friends of Brent, on behalf of the Atlantic Council, I thank you all for being here this – on this memorable evening. General Scowcroft, thank you for your inspiration in the past and into the future. Good night. (Applause.)