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 Marine Security Guard Commencement Address
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Posts: MSGBn Quantico Author: Unknown
Source:  http://www.state.gov/s/d/former/armitage/remarks/38566.htm

Richard L. Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State
Quantico, Virginia
November 20, 2004

(10:00 a.m. EST)

Marine Security Guard Commencement Address
Richard L. Armitage,
Deputy Secretary of State

Assistant Secretary Taylor, thank you very much. I appreciate your kindness, appreciate your following instructions and cutting off.

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Colonel Rizzio, Sergeant Major Brown, faculty and relatives, friends and colleagues – and, of course, members of the United States Marine Corps, it is a privilege to be here today and it is a pleasure to congratulate those of you who are about to graduate.

This honorable service you will soon join is more than a mere professional affiliation. For those of us who carry out the business of statecraft, our colleagues are almost like kin. It is the kind of bond anyone who has served in the Marine Corps – and certainly those of us who have seen combat – will find somewhat familiar in its texture.

The personnel of the Department of State serve at home and overseas, sometimes in extreme circumstances, and always with high stakes. We share a sense that we are engaged together in a great task. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that there are times when the fate of the nation may hang in the balance, will hang the balance on our success or on our failure. It is a service, a tradition as old as the nation, though not quite as old as the United States Marine Corps. So today, I hope you will permit me to welcome each of you into our family.

You were carefully selected for this duty and I know that you’ve just been through a very rigorous training regimen, as well, one that ranged from all you need to know about hand to hand combat, to more than you thought you would ever know about shaking hands. I understand you’ve even gone through exercises inside a faithful replica of an embassy building. But there will be one important difference when you deploy to your posts over the next few weeks: There will be actual human beings inside those buildings. And not just any human beings, but a peculiar species known as the Foreign Service Officer. So allow me to tell you something about your new brothers and sisters in the service of our nation and what you can expect in the coming days.

Now let’s face it: The Foreign Service Officers and Foreign Service National employees at our embassies and all our consulates may not always be the most physically impressive lot. Admittedly, the weight room at Foggy Bottom is rarely full. You may have occasion from time to time to remind your new colleagues that your mission is to protect information, as well as to protect people. But I believe you will also find them to be worthy peers, in their selfless dedication to the country and in their courageous devotion to the cause of freedom. In many cases, they have friendship and they have experience to offer you as you confront a fascinating range of customs and languages and cultures. And in turn, in the demanding days ahead, they will look to you to play a vibrant part in the life of the embassy community.

Indeed, you join us at a time at the Department of State that's unique, a time of danger. Many of you may have already been to the front in this war we are waging today against terrorism. But we need to remember that the front isn’t only in Afghanistan and it isn't only Iraq. It’s in Turkey, it's in Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, Spain, Morocco and Indonesia, and of course right here in America.

Because today, we face a foe that hides in the shadows of scores of countries, even in our own. And today, it is our way of life itself that has come under attack. And so, in order to prevail and defeat this particular enemy, we need to wage a different kind of war.

Marine Security Guard Commencement Address

To be sure, as our President has said, we have to be prepared to take the fight to the terrorists, just as we are doing now in Afghanistan and in Iraq. But we also have to work in partnership with a vast number of nations, not only in those two countries I've just mentioned, but in any country where terrorists lurk and where terrorists operate. We have to be prepared to meet the enemy everywhere, including in the battle for hearts and the battle for minds. Terrorism, after all, is not a country or an army; it is an idea. Ultimately, we can only triumph over terrorism with a better idea. I believe we are fortunate, indeed, to have the best idea there is: The idea of America.

And so, in a sense, with your graduation today, you become warriors twice over. First, you are a warrior because you are Marines. That’s a given. And I am confident in that capacity that you will meet any foe and that you will win any fight. But from this day forward, you also join your new colleagues as warriors in the battle of ideas.

Consider that in the last year alone, the Marine detachment in Moscow delivered Christmas toys to refugee children, which boosted the morale of both the local and embassy community in a country where our relations can be strained. Marines stationed in Tunisia saved a significant amount of classified media, both equipment and paper, from a flood in the embassy building. In Karachi, Pakistan, a Marine sergeant prevented the detonation of a vehicle-borne explosive device, which probably would have destroyed much of our consulate building there. In Iraq, the Marine Security Guards have had the unusual distinction of serving at our first embassy to be established in an active war zone, which has required them to contend with everything from hostile mobs to almost daily mortar attacks.

In each of these cases, Marines have made it possible for their colleagues to carry out vital foreign policy goals. So there is no question that it matters what you do. But one thing I want to make perfectly clear to all of you today is that it also matters who you are. When you stand at Post One, you stand for America. Literally, of course, in that you are defending U.S. Government property, but also figuratively. Anyone who enters an embassy sees you first. To them, you will be the embodiment of the idea of America. They will look to you to set a standard of integrity, the standard of courage, the standard of loyalty, the standard of commitment, and especially, of love for your country.

Indeed, I recently returned from a trip that took me to both Iraq and to Afghanistan, and I can tell you that I saw all of that in the Marine detachments there. I saw more. Most of you won’t be serving in such extreme circumstances, but the stakes are the same. Each of you will be defending our national interest and advancing the cause of a brighter future for us all. That is, quite simply, what it means to serve as a Marine Security Guard. If you have it in you to be a hero, if you have it in you to be a Marine, then I know that you will prosper in this service.

So, as your new colleague and as your new cousin in this Foreign Service family, I want to thank you for joining this elite battalion at a critical time in the history of statecraft, a critical time in the life of our nation. And as a former officer in the United States Navy, I believe it is entirely appropriate for me to say at this point, congratulations and welcome aboard, and I wish you fair winds and following seas.

Thank you very much.


Released on November 22, 2004


Class Graduation Commencement Address
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