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Entries in Portrait (2)

Monday
Oct292012

Robert Gates Official Portrait Ceremony Goes on Despite Hurricane Sandy

DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley(WASHINGTON) -- While most of official Washington came to a standstill Monday because of Hurricane Sandy, a small room of VIP’s gathered at the Pentagon to honor former Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Making his first visit back to the Pentagon since he departed his post last summer, Gates was on hand for the unveiling of his official portrait.  Like those of his predecessors, Gates’ portrait will hang in the hallway outside his old Pentagon office.

The approaching hurricane led to the closure of the federal government on Monday, and the Pentagon was no exception. But that didn’t stop current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other VIPs from continuing on with Monday’s planned unveiling.

“It’s not every day you have to brave a hurricane in order to come to a portrait unveiling," said Panetta, who then joked, “But then again, to those of us who’ve been in this job, it’s like dealing with a hurricane every day, so we’re used to it."

Braving the elements for Monday’s ceremony were National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert.  Top staffers from Gates’ years of service in both the Bush and Obama administrations were also on hand for Monday’s event.

Panetta praised Gates for his leadership and dedication to national service, and, perhaps most importantly, his concern for the troops deployed under his command.  Panetta pointed to Gates’ decision to purchase the heavy vehicles known as MRAPs that provided greater protection from roadside bombs in Iraq.

“Hearing from our troops how much they valued that protection is, I think, a lasting legacy of Bob,” Panetta said. “He helped save lives."

“I know that we’re all here to unveil a portrait but, in reality, a portrait is made up of oil and canvas and fades with time,” Panetta added.  “I think the most important portrait of a person is the memory that we hold that person in our hearts and the respect and honor that we have for that individual.  That portrait in all of our hearts for Bob Gates will last forever.”

Gates exhibited the candor and dry humor that marked his tenure as defense secretary. He pointed out that the portrait unveiled Monday was painted by Ray Kinstler, who also painted Gates’ portrait nearly 20 years ago when he served as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency in the early 1990s.

Gates joked, "A sure sign you’ve been in Washington too long is when Ray Kinstler has more than one crack at your portrait a generation apart.”

Between writing his book and preparing for Monday’s event, Gates said, he had time to reflect on the things and people he missed from his tenure.  But he did not miss the meetings, conferences and hearings associated with the post -- or the constant travel and jet lag for meetings with counterparts. For instance, he had required bi-monthly meetings with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

He definitely did not have a fond recollection of what he termed a “less edifying experience of being shaken down by the defense minister of Kyrgyzstan for rent at Manas airbase,” which was a crucial transportation hub for troops and supplies headed into Afghanistan.

But despite what he called his, “grousing about the foibles of Washington” and the “aggravating aspects” of the job, Gates said serving as defense secretary, “was the singular honor and highest calling of my professional life.”

He spoke glowingly of his experiences with the troops under his command who were fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq and said he never took lightly the responsibility of signing their deployment orders.

Gates expressed the hope that scholars studying his tenure would walk away with the recognition, “that I came to work every day with the simple question:  Are we doing everything we can to get the troops everything they need to succeed in their mission, to come home safely and, if wounded, to get the best possible care when they come home?”

Gates’ provided his own assessment on that front: "In some instances, the answer was satisfactory; in others, less so.”

The former defense secretary recalled the words of a predecessor, Gen. George Marshall, whom he said took seriously the obligations that come with sending “our military to war.”

“He said we must do everything we could to convince the soldier that we were all solicitude for his well-being,” said Gates. “You couldn’t be severe in your demands unless he was convinced you were doing everything you could to make matters well for him."

At a time in which the Obama administration is under fire for allegedly not responding to distress calls from Americans in a terror attack that left four dead in Benghazi, Libya, Gates' words were especially moving: “That’s what I hope people will remember when they walk down the E-ring corridor and see my portrait,” said Gates, “that our comfort and safety are borne on the brave and broad shoulders of those young men and women in uniform, and it is our duty -- our sacred obligation, in Marshall’s words -- to make things well for them.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May312012

George W. Bush Cracks Jokes During White House Return

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/GettyImages(WASHINGTON) -- While President Obama frequently blames his predecessor for the “mess” he inherited, on Thursday he warmly welcomed former President George W. Bush back to the White House to pay tribute to his legacy, saying the bond they share as presidents transcends their political differences.

The 43rd president and his wife, former first lady Laura Bush, were back at their former home for the official unveiling of their portraits, a presidential tradition that dates back to 1800.

“In this job,” Obama said, “no decision that reaches your desk is easy; no choice you make is without costs. No matter how hard you try, you’re not going to make everybody happy. I think that’s something that President Bush and I both learned pretty quickly.

“That’s why, from time to time, those of us who have had the privilege to hold this office find ourselves turning to the only people on Earth that know the feeling,” he said. “We may have our differences politically, but the presidency transcends those differences.”

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Obama often publicly blames Bush for the economic crisis and the nation’s continued high unemployment, as well as many of America’s foreign policy challenges. After three and a half years in office, Obama said he now has “a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by the presidents who came before me, including my immediate predecessor, President Bush.”

While he graciously welcomed Bush back to the White House, Obama did mention the struggling economy he inherited, thanking his predecessor for helping him transition into office during the economic crisis.

“President Bush understood that rescuing our economy was not just a Democratic or Republican issue; it was an American priority. I’ll always be grateful for that,” Obama said.

“I will always remember the gathering you hosted for all the living former presidents before I took office, your kind words of encouragement,” he added, before joking, “Plus, you also left me a really good TV sports package. I use it.”

President Bush seemed to relish being in the spotlight as he cracked jokes about his now-permanent place in the White House.

“Thank you so much for inviting our rowdy friends to my hanging,” he quipped, repeating a line his father, former President George H.W. Bush, said at his portrait unveiling in 1995.

“I am also pleased, Mr. President, that when you are wandering these halls as you wrestle with tough decisions, you will now be able to gaze at this portrait and ask: What would George do?” he said, chuckling.

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He also had a message for the current first lady, Michelle Obama.

“When the British burned the White House…in 1814, Dolly Madison famously saved this portrait of the first George W.,” Bush said.

“Now Michelle,” Bush added, pointing to his portrait, “if anything happens, there’s your man.”

The room erupted in laughter.

The painting, by artist John Howard Sanden, depicts Bush standing in the center of the Oval Office.

Surrounded by his family and former staff, Bush paid tribute to his father, who sat in the front row in a wheelchair alongside his wife, former first lady Barbara Bush.

“I am honored to be hanging near a man who gave me the greatest gift possible: unconditional love. And that would be number 41,” a misty-eyed Bush said of his father.

Bush 43 then introduced his wife, calling her the greatest first lady ever.

“Sorry mom,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. “Would you agree to a tie?”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio