I believe that Gates’s speech was not only inspiring for the graduates; it also showed his own personal courage.
In a time marked by political leaders who distrust and malign the media–particularly in our current conservative White House–Gates told the 27,000 in attendance at Annapolis to “remember the importance of two pillars of our freedom under the Constitution: the Congress and the press.”
He stressed to the graduates that members of the military “must be nonpolitical,” and that it is important to have openness and truthfulness when reporting to the Congress. He cited the essential nature of the press as a guarantor of information to ‘the people’ (you and me) by pointing to the influential reporting about poor conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, a scandal exposed by the Washington Post.
It just struck me as a brave thing for Gates to do, as he is a senior administration official. He has long been an example of someone who believes in accountability and openness, traits that appear lacking in some circles in Washington.
Thus far, it seems that Gates was an excellent pick by President Bush for his Defense Secretary. The man has shown himself to be competent, respectful to others, appropriately forthcoming in his meetings with Congress and media, and he seems to inspire far more confidence within the military than his predecessor Mr. Rumsfeld. Moreover, it is nice to have a senior Bush administration official by his own volition deliver a comment like this: “The press is not the enemy and to treat it as such is self-defeating.”
By the way, as noted above Gates is a 1965 graduate of William & Mary, and he also gave the commencement address on our undergrad campus this year.