A glorious farewell“A humble American patriot; a man of common sense and decency; quite simply, one of our nation’s finest public servants,” U.S. President Barack Obama said referring to retiring Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Obama spared no efforts in expressing his highest respect for the outgoing secretary at a farewell ceremony at the Pentagon last Thursday.
Obama, above all, praised Gates’ decision to serve the country even when he could have left the administration when Obama won the 2008 presidential election. As a token of his appreciation for Gates’ selfless dedication to the security of the American people, Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor a president can bestow to a civilian in the United States.
Gates became the first U.S. defense secretary to consecutively serve two presidents with different political affiliations. He was originally appointed by Republican President George W. Bush in 2006 and was retained by Democratic President Obama. After being appointed as defense secretary by Bush, he took the job of handling two wars - in Iraq and Afghanistan. By successfully tackling the two wars through his signature practical approach, Gates left an exemplary legacy of serving the country beyond the shackles of partisan ideology.
What made it possible was Obama’s ability to embrace. If Obama had been devoid of bipartisanship to extend a hand to a public servant who had served under a Republican administration, Gates could not have the honor of the most successful defense secretary in the U.S. history.
All that would have been impossible if Obama had narrow-mindedly turned his back against those who served under his previous administration. Gates also silenced many who had criticized him by meeting Obama’s expectations while speaking straight from his convictions.
The president and high-ranking officials are people on the same boat. If a leader treats others from different political backgrounds as if they are enemies, a successful government is less attainable. On Korean soil, where everyone is busy realigning their positions to seek political gain once a new administration is launched, you can hardly expect the emergence of successful public servants.
What counts most is the genuine qualification and leadership of a leader. Some say the mighty days of America are slowly coming to an end, but we saw its unfading power through the honorable farewell of Gates last week.