Richard B. Cheney photo

Remarks by the Vice President at the 2003 George C. Marshall Foundation Award Dinner Honoring Secretary Colin Powell

November 12, 2003

The National Building Museum

Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you all very much. Thank you, General Meyer. And thank you all of you for that welcome. It's a pleasure to be here tonight among such distinguished company. I wanted to note, in particular, the President -- the presence of President Carlo Ciampi, of Italy, this evening. Of course, the Italian armed forces experienced a heavy loss in Iraq today, and the United States honors the memory of the men who fell. Mr. President, we are grateful for the friendship and the courage of your people. Italy has been an outstanding ally of the United States.

I also want to acknowledge Lord Robertson, David Rockefeller, members of Congress, members of the diplomatic corps. And I appreciate the chance to join all of you tonight in honoring my friend Colin Powell.

Any tribute to Secretary Powell must also recognize those people closest to him. I've known Colin's wife, Alma, and their family for many years, and nothing reflects better on the man than his fine family. It's good to see all of them this evening, as well.

I'm here tonight as a colleague of Secretary Powell's and as a trustee of the George C. Marshall Foundation. Like Colin, I've admired General Marshall most of my life. A half century after his Nobel price and 44 years after his passing, General Marshall commands a special respect in our history, and among soldiers and students of his career.

It would not be quite accurate, however, to say that his reputation has grown over the years. The truth is that Marshall, whose contemporaries were among the greatest men of the 20th century, stood out even then. General Eisenhower said, "our soldiers and our people have never been so indebted to any other soldier." Winston Churchill called Marshall, "the noblest Roman." And at the coronation of Elizabeth II, the entire congregation at Westminster Abbey stood up as the American general arrived. President Harry Truman wrote in his diary, "The more I see and talk to Marshall, the more certain I am that he's the great one of the age."

Of all the giants of that era, about the only one who never spoke of Marshall's greatness was Marshall himself. He was actually a modest man, who was comfortable leaving credit to others. Of Marshall, a British officer said, "In his presence, ambition folds his tent." This great man was defined not by ambition, but by utter devotion to the country and to its cause. In more then 40 years of military service, he showed unrivaled organizational ability, and the kind of integrity and clear judgment that drew others instantly to him. And the Marshall Plan -- the greatest national commitment of the postwar period -- had all the qualities of the man himself: strategic insight, broadness of vision, generosity, and moral clarity.

In my early days as Secretary of Defense I made two important decisions -- one symbolic and the other very practical. The first was to ask that a portrait of General Marshall in the Pentagon be moved into my office. The second was to recommend that another exceptional Army officer be named chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin Powell.

I first met Colin some years before in the 1980s, in Germany, where he led V Corps, and was headquartered in Frankfurt. It didn't take long to realize that I was dealing with man of considerable capabilities. I wasn't surprised when President Reagan later brought him into the White House as Deputy National Security Advisor, and then promoted to him to the job now held by Dr. Condoleezza Rice. I saw then in General Powell the qualities I was to see often at the Pentagon, and during these last three years.

Colin Powell is a man who stands his grounds -- as I've learned a few times trying to move him. When you're in the business of national security, you need discernment and patience and focus. And to make a useful contribution, you need a level head when danger comes and the big decisions have to be made. In these challenging times for America, our 65th Secretary of State has all of these qualities and more. I've been in hundreds of hours of meetings with him, traveled many thousands of miles in his company, and my first impression of the man's high caliber and integrity have been confirmed many times over.

I was there in Crawford, Texas, nearly three years ago when Colin's nomination was announced. President-elect Bush said, "It's a great day when a son of the South Bronx succeeds to the office first held by Thomas Jefferson." From that day to this, Colin Powell has done his duty in a way that would make George C. Marshall proud. And if they could see him today, I know that two good-hearted people named Maud and Luther Powell would also be very proud the man their son has become.

Mr. Secretary, congratulations. (Applause.)


Richard B. Cheney, Remarks by the Vice President at the 2003 George C. Marshall Foundation Award Dinner Honoring Secretary Colin Powell Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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