General Harkins, Mrs. Hartkins, Secretaries Rusk and McNamara, ladies and gentlemen, and distinguished guests:
Few duties of the Presidency are so gratifying as an occasion such as this when we come here to say on behalf of a grateful Nation, "Well done" to a good and faithful servant.
Since this Republic was born 188 years ago, our success has come in very large measure from the willingness of individual Americans to serve the cause of us all wherever duty might call, whatever sacrifice duty might command. General Harkins has at every post and in every way personified this tradition. He has exemplified this great ideal. He has served his country faithfully and well in a long and distinguished career. As staff officer, as senior commander in Europe and in the Far East, he has always been outstanding.
It is a measure of the man and testimony to his valor that General Harkins has received the Distinguished Service Medal twice previously for his achievements during World War II and in Korea.
If medals could be awarded to the wives of officers and men in our services, certainly Mrs. Harkins would deserve high honors today herself. For the past 82 months, while the General has held three extremely sensitive commands in Europe and the Pacific and Viet-Nam, Mrs. Harkins, as she is today, has been continuously at her husband's side.
Here at the White House earlier this week it was my privilege to present the Distinguished Service Citation to four outstanding civilian career servants who are in the Federal service. I emphasized then that many of our old stereotypes about public employees are obsolete. I said that we must have and we are receiving a new quality of excellence from those who serve the people in civil service positions today.
I think much the same thing may be said, and should be said, about the career, professional military man who serves the cause of freedom in the uniform of the United States today. The old stereotypes do not fit the new generation of American military men. Our democratic society has produced a new breed of commanders. They are men who are devoted to that society's values as well as to that society's survival. Their concern for our preparedness does not eclipse their concern for the world's peace. We and the free world owe to them a debt of deep respect, not only for their professional service but for their service as citizens of a free civilian society as well.
General Harkins will retire from the service on the first of August. I have asked Secretary McNamara, who has such great and unlimited confidence in this great soldier, to have the General remain in the Washington area so that we may benefit from his broad knowledge of and his experience in the various theaters of the world, and particularly Southeast Asia.
So, General Harkins, on behalf of the Nation, I am very proud and quite privileged to present to you today the Second Oak Leaf Cluster for your Distinguished Service Medal. I congratulate you. I thank you. I wish you and Mrs. Harkins well for your long and faithful service to freedom around the world. You have earned the best that can come to anyone.
[At this point Secretary of Defense McNamara read the citation. The President then resumed speaking.]
General Harkins' friends are here and I know he will want to visit with them and say hello to them. If you care to, you may proceed.