This posting reflects my thoughts after viewing the PBS NewsHour program of a few days ago in which Jim Lehrer formally interviewed SecDefense Gates for the last official time. One point in their conversation was of special interest me because Gates’ expressed his feelings on ‘citizen’ involvement in responsibilities and tasks that I’ve shared with my colleagues for over 35 years as a gov’t employee and that were very often in ‘production’ teams under pressure along with my co-workers.
I checked the PBS NewsHour’s applicable transcript and copied Gates remarks and post them to GovLoop as appropriate and consistent. From the transcript:JIM LEHRER: Mr. Secretary, you spoke a year or so ago at Duke University, where you talked about the fact that for most Americans, our wars, America’s, wars have become an abstraction because so few of Americans and their families are directly involved. Is that hurting us as a country, do you think?ROBERT GATES: Well, I think that it makes most Americans, the 99 percent of Americans who are not serving unaware of the strains and the stresses on our military families. And so what I’ve been trying to do and what Mrs. Biden and Mrs. Obama and the chairman and his wife – all these folks, are trying to do is to try and get that other 99 percent to – they all say they support the troops, but it’s not just enough to say it. Go out and find one of them and give them a job. If they need some repairs on their house, do that. Mow the grass. Find some action you can take as a citizen who appreciates our military to help those families and particularly the families of those who are deployed. Every town in America has somebody from the National Guard who’s probably deployed. So there’s somebody out there that they can help. And actions always speak louder than words.JIM LEHRER: So you’re not suggesting some kind of mandatory national service or something like that that would force people to be more aware of war?ROBERT GATES: No. Speaking personally…JIM LEHRER: Yes.ROBERT GATES: …I have always that there ought to be some kind of mandatory national service, not necessarily in the military but to show everybody that freedom isn’t free, that everybody has an obligation to the nation as a community. And so it could be military service, it could be teaching in rural or poor areas, it could be nursing, it could be any kind of service projects – the Peace Corps, whatever, but a period of service – working in our national parks or something – but a period of service that basically gives back to the nation that has given its citizens so much.JIM LEHRER: Mr. Secretary, much has been written and said about your last four and a half years as secretary of defense. And a lot of people have been assessing your performance. What do you think of the way you’ve performed as secretary of state the last – secretary of defense the last four and half years?ROBERT GATES: Well, I would say that, you know, there’s been a lot that’s happened over the last four and a half years. I will say that I think that the thing I’m proudest of is what I’ve been able to do for our troops, giving them these heavily armored vehicles, these Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles; giving them one-hour medevac or less in Afghanistan; more reconnaissance capabilities to prevent them from being attacked; trying to do whatever was necessary to help them accomplish their mission and come home safely.JIM LEHRER: And you feel good about what you’ve done?ROBERT GATES: I feel very good about that.JIM LEHRER: Mr. Secretary, thank you and good luck.ROBERT GATES: Thanks very much.end interview