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Gen. Dempsey's Remarks at the Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy Renaming Ceremony

By As Delivered by General Martin E. Dempsey, National Defense University, Washington, D.C.
GENERAL MARTIN DEMPSEY: Thanks, Joe. I got a little nervous there – (laughter) – when you said, foremost among my attributes. You know, if you’ve been on YouTube, you could take that almost any place in the world. (Laughter). But thanks for sticking inside the white lines for me. (Laughter.)

Good morning, everybody, ambassadors, distinguished guests, faculty, staff, students. I do see many familiar faces in the audience. Good to see you all. I’d like to add to what Joe said, that we are blessed to have Susan Eisenhower and the friends of the Eisenhower family here today.

Those of you present today represent the support that is both so strong and so necessary for this institution, and we’re glad you’re still in this fight with us as it enters a new chapter in its contributions to national security. You know, I think if I could script a chapter in a book on the future of public service, it would probably begin with a cast of characters such as those of you assembled before me in this room, rows of representatives from partner nations around the world, leaders of the interagency and industry teams and a host of scholars, both uniformed and civilian. Your presence actually says a lot more about the importance of this event than anything I can say. We’re here because we care about this institution and the men and women who will hold a pen to script a future – I’m going to break for a moment from the prepared remarks. My speechwriter is now completely anxious about it. (Laughter.)

But I – as you know, I get to travel around the world a lot, and I interact with our counterparts around the world. And in once recent engagement with a – with a “near peer” competitor, I might describe it, he asked me, he said, at any given time, how many individuals do you have in your education system, whether it’s the military academies or the intermediate-level schooling or your war colleges? And I gave him a number, and I – by the way, I had no idea, but I made one up – (laughter) – because that’s what Chairmen do. (Laughter.) You don’t want to be seen as being uninformed. (Laughter.) I took the four service academies multiplied times four, got – came up with 16,000 and doubled it – (laughter). I think that I probably undershot the mark, but I – so – but I did say 32,000, and you know what he said? He said, and that’s why you’re the greatest military on the face of the earth. It has nothing to do with our equipment – I mean, it has something to do – I got the industry leaders here all – (Laughter.)

Let me put it this way. It has less to do – (laughter) – with our – what we provide, the organizations we design and the policies we form than it does about the men and women who will execute them in places like this college. So good on ya’.

We’re – and we’re here because of what this place inspires. How about that for a segue back into the prepared remarks? (Laughter.) What it inspires: to think without limits, to challenge assumptions, to reveal to ourselves and to each other the great importance and the potential of ideas and relationships.

A former student and instructor here, who turned out to be one of America’s great leaders of the 20th century, once explained the value of study in a place like this. He noted, not one officer in 50 in this place knows how to use the English language. That was Dwight D. Eisenhower, of course, and I had a great esteem for your grandfather before that. But as an English professor, I can actually attest to the fact. (Laughter.) Not one student in 50 knows how to properly use the English language. When you leave here and come over to the Joint Staff, leave the semicolon and the comma behind you, please. (Laughter.)

On a deeper note – (laughter) – on these very grounds – six decades ago, he also envisioned the kind of thinking and the kind of relationships that he knew we would need in the world today. He cautioned that we can’t think about challenges affecting national security solely in terms of the military because, I quote, they are as broad as life itself. Your thinking has to be pitched on a much wider plane, he said. He also talked about how security depends upon mutual confidence and trust. He submitted that we would be – that we would best achieve what we sought to achieve by a – quote, a common understanding of the problems, by approaching these things on the widest possible basis with respect for each other’s opinions and, above all, through the development of friendships.

Now, no one better understood the power of relationships than the person who stood at this podium on that day, General Dwight David Eisenhower. And no one better embodied this essential value of trust. One of his main biographers noted of Ike, whenever associates described Eisenhower, there was one word that almost all of them used. It was “trust.” People trusted him for the most obvious reason: he was trustworthy.

Perhaps more notably, he knew how to trust. You recall the story of D-Day. The Allied force was ready to go. Eisenhower and his coalition team had prepared for everything except the weather. At the end of the day, the most completely planned military operation, arguably of all time, hinged on the wild card of wind and waves. More than 5,000 ships were moving toward France. Three million soldiers, 11,000 aircraft and a procession of vehicles and equipment expanded to London and beyond.

With – while gale-force winds rattled his quarters, Eisenhower had to make the call to continue to launch or postpone for favorable seas, which had some risk. He considered the varied counsel of his Allied advisers, and he called on his weatherman, Group Captain J.M. Stagg, a Scotsman in the British Royal Air Force. Stagg predicted a break in the weather. Eisenhower had grown to trust Stagg and accepted his advice. He said famously, OK, let’s go. And we all know the outcome.

We also know, like Ike knew long ago, that trust enables us to achieve more together than we could ever achieve individually. This place knows something about trust. Trust, in part, attracts some of our nation’s best intellects to invest their talents here as faculties and as mentors. Trust inspires dozens of nations to send their current and future leaders here to learn from each other and about each other. This institution inspires trust and new relationships between nations and among agencies and industries and trust in the futures of the many leaders educated here.

The renaming of this school to bear the name and hence the legacy of Eisenhower, says as much about what it represents as where it can go. It reinforces the school’s tradition of excellence, a premier postgraduate experience for military, government and industry leaders.

But it also reinforces its relevance as a consulate for interagency, interdisciplinary and international partnership. It speaks – it speaks to a charge to conceive of partnership on a much wider plane, as I’ve said, to consider not just the partners we have, but those we would like to have. It recognizes that the environment of warfare is constantly changing, and those leading are future require education and training in order to stay ahead of its course. It expands upon what’s been advanced here in a whole of government approach to education in the future of public service, where thinking beyond and through the traditional dividing lines is the expectation. And it emphasizes that this institution is not only about preserving our national defense, but also about pursuing national and international security with innovative and affordable resource strategies. After all, strategy insensitive to resources is rhetoric.

What this school does and will do is significant to the progress of security and stability in this constantly changing world. Every relationship and every idea matters, especially when those things are applied to the very difficult, complex challenges we face today. Together we know that a fuller understanding of the means of conflict give character to our eventual peace. And we well know how relationships and ideas have changed history for the public good.

General Eisenhower said in that same speech on these grounds that our national partnerships and personal friendships would matter most in the future. For, as he said, and I quote, the greatest crisis of our time is ideological. That remains true today. What we think, and we believe and what we fight for together makes all the difference.

As you look today upon the Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy, as you think about the power embodied in the integration of its staff, of its faculty and of its students, as you consider that we will have to think our way through the complex problems and challenges we face as a nation, you then realize the importance of this moment.

May the spirit of Dwight David Eisenhower continue to inspire us to a lifetime of service for our countries. Thank you. (Applause.)