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Remarks at the Retirement Ceremony for Admiral William J. Crowe, Jr., Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in Annapolis, Maryland

September 29, 1989

Thank you, Secretary Cheney, Members of the United States Congress here today, members of the Cabinet. And let me just acknowledge a few of the many distinguished men and women here this morning: I understand, though I haven't yet seen him, that Jack Vessey, a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, is here; Governor Schaefer and Mayor Callahan; and all the Service Secretaries, Service Chiefs, and the commanders-in-chief of the unified and specified commands seated here; and, of course, the men and women of our Armed Forces.

I want to give a special welcome to the members of the Crowe family who are here today: Bill's wife, Shirley; their children, Brent, Bambi, and Blake -- and that is Captain Blake Crowe of the U.S. Marines. And finally, the man with the difficult task of filling Admiral Crowe's shoes, our incoming Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Colin Powell.

Days like this one are bittersweet. And I've just shared with Admiral Crowe his final inspection of members of the finest fighting forces in the world. And many of us here today know Bill Crowe, count him as a friend -- all of us admire him. In a moment, we'll hear from the man himself, and maybe he'll tell us the story of how a fella from a State that's landlocked chose the Navy, rose to the rank of Admiral and to the Chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

But what Bill Crowe will be too modest to talk about is his stellar career, his many achievements in 47 years in uniform, a few of which we've just heard about. For those who measure heroism and dazzling acts of concentration and courage, the Admiral's Bronze Star for Valor is testament enough -- proud evidence of the man's resolve and character. But Admiral Crowe's heroism has reached far beyond serving in combat. Through a lifetime of acts of quiet valor, through work, words, and deeds done for sheer love of country, Admiral Crowe has done so much for peace.

William James once wrote that "civic courage," as we call it in times of peace, "is a kind of valor to which the monuments of nations should most of all be reared." What speaks to the Admiral's civic courage more eloquently than any monument is the kind of integrity, honesty, and patriotism he's gleaned from his roots in Oklahoma. Before Bill would mention titles like admiral or doctor of philosophy or diplomat, he'd sooner tell you about the one title he truly cherishes: Oklahoman. One hundred years ago Bill's grandfather was among the first to make the run into the Oklahoma territory. And those were strong people, staking claims and standing firm in hard and hostile lands. And today, when Shirley Crowe takes her measure of someone, she asks herself: Would he have made the run? Today, a nation looks proudly toward Admiral Crowe, and we know in our hearts that in his service he has made the run.

The summer before last, Bill added a hat to his famous collection that he probably thought he'd never see: a Soviet seaman's cap given to him by the Marshal of the Soviet Union, Sergei Akhromeyev, on the first of a series of ice-breaking visits involving the American and Soviet military. Even more astounding was another gift, given to Admiral Crowe and to all of us, in the moment when he stood on the decks of that Soviet cruiser, Kirov. The sailors that he'd spent a career thinking of as adversaries were determined to honor him, and they did, by playing "The Star-Spangled Banner." Moments like that are rare and precious, not merely in the lifetime of men but in the lifetime of nations.

I want to share a story about the Soviet Marshal's visit here -- Akhromeyev -- in July 1988. First, of course, came the trips -- the mandatory trips, if you will -- to a series of U.S. military installations. But after Admiral Crowe introduced his Soviet guest to American troops and American firepower, and to the kids -- the greatest kids in the fighting force anywhere, ever -- he decided it was time to introduce him to America. And so Bill took Marshall Akhromeyev out to Oklahoma for an old-fashioned barbecue, the likes of which that marshall had never seen back in his own hometown. And that's Bill Crowe -- a no-nonsense toughness, a resolve when it comes to defending America, and a warm heart for what makes America worth fighting for.

Bill Crowe's 4 years as Chairman have coincided with a time of transition in international affairs. And he's been steady at the helm, and he's kept a clear eye on emerging opportunities and on changing international conditions, and on the one unchanging demand of national security: preserving the peace and freedom of this great nation. Admiral Crowe, I've seen your poise and professionalism in times of crisis; I have benefited from your experience and counsel; I know you as an adviser and friend. And so, Bill, on behalf of a grateful nation, I thank you for the lifelong service you have offered our country. I wish you Godspeed. May God bless you and your family and the United States of America. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 11:30 a.m. at Worden Field at the U.S. Naval Academy. In his remarks, he referred to Secretary of Defense Richard B. Cheney, Gov. William D. Schaefer of Maryland, and Mayor Dennis M. Callahan of Annapolis. Following his remarks, he returned to Washington, DC.

George Bush, Remarks at the Retirement Ceremony for Admiral William J. Crowe, Jr., Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in Annapolis, Maryland Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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