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Remarks Announcing the Nomination of General John Shalikashvili To Be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

August 11, 1993

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's a great honor for me to be here today with the Vice President, Secretary Aspin, and General Powell to introduce to you and to our Nation the person whom I have selected to replace Colin Powell as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General John Shalikashvili. He's widely known to his friends as General Shali. And since we're going to be seeing a lot of each other and you're going to have to write a lot about him, I think I'll just start using the shortened version of his name.

General Shali is superbly well qualified for this position. He is a soldier's soldier, a proven warrior, a creative and flexible visionary who clearly understands the myriad of conflicts, ethnic, religious, and political, gripping the world, as well as the immense possibilities for the United States and for the cause of freedom that are out there before us.

He has shown a proven ability to work with our allies in complex and challenging circumstances. He has shown me a real concern for the ordinary men and women who have enlisted in our armed services and who are living through this difficult and challenging period of downsizing. He understands how to downsize the Armed Forces and still maintain the strongest military in the world, with the equipment and, most important, the trained force with the morale we need to always fight and win when we have to.

And finally, I am convinced that he is in a unique position to be an advocate for the men and women in the armed services and for the national security of the United States to the Congress, to the country, and to our military allies throughout the world.

General Shali entered the United States Army as a draftee and rose through the ranks to his current position of Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and the commander in chief of all United States forces there. He's demonstrated his outstanding military talents repeatedly throughout a distinguished career from the day he was first drafted into the Army. He's a decorated Vietnam veteran. He ran Operation Provide Comfort in Iraq. He served on the Joint Chiefs of Staff as General Powell's assistant. He has the deep respect of both the troops who have served under him and the military leaders who have worked with him.

I selected him because I believe he has the ability to lead and to win any military action our Nation might ask of him. Above all, I am confident that in every instance he will give me his absolutely candid and professional military advice, which as President I must have.

He is also a shining symbol of what is best about the United States and best about our armed services. There is much more to his life than most Americans now know. It is a great American story. It began as so many American stories do, in another land. General Shali was born in Warsaw, Poland, the grandson of a Russian general in the Czar's army, the son of a Georgian army officer—that's the Georgia over there not over here—the heir of a family caught in a crossfire of the kinds of ethnic and national rivalries that now trouble so much of our world. In 1944, when he was 8 years old, his family fled in a cattle car westward to Germany in front of the Soviet advance. He came to the United States at the age of 16, settled in Peoria, Illinois, and learned English from John Wayne movies so that he could take a full course load from his first day in school. Now I intend to nominate this first generation American to the highest military office in our land, on the strength of his abilities, his character, and his enormous potential to lead our Armed Forces. Only in America.

I intend to nominate him, in particular, because his skills are uniquely well suited to the security challenges we face today. He helped revamp NATO to be a more flexible military and political force. He created a NATO Rapid Reaction Corps to undertake peacekeeping missions that are significantly different from our cold war challenges. He's been a leader in persuading NATO members to consider missions outside traditional alliance boundaries, a very, very important step in the recently announced NATO posture with regard to Bosnia. The end of the cold war has created many opportunities for our security and many new threats that lurk among the world's continuing dangers. General Shali is the right man to lead our forces in this challenging era.

Our Nation is blessed with the finest military on the face of the Earth and the best military we have ever had. That was made clearer to me than ever as I approached this selection, for the top ranks of our Nation's military are an impressive bastion of talent, patriotism, and vision. Nothing illustrates that better than the great soldier whom General Shali will replace as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And I want to take this opportunity before all of America to personally thank General Colin Powell for the magnificent service and leadership he has rendered to this country for so many years, to thank him especially for the last several months of difficult and challenging decisionmaking we have done together, for always giving me his most candid advice, and for the wonderful job he has done of working with the other service chiefs to come to consensus on challenging and very difficult issues. He has contributed a great deal to a grateful Nation. And I know that we all wish him well.

I think there is no greater way for me at least to express the respect we all feel for General Powell than to name as his successor such a outstanding leader of such caliber, General John Shalikashvili.

I now invite him to the podium for whatever remarks he might wish to make. General Shali.

NOTE: The President spoke at 5:40 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. Following his remarks, General Shalikashvili made brief remarks and responded to questions from reporters.

William J. Clinton, Remarks Announcing the Nomination of General John Shalikashvili To Be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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