Welcome, everybody! Nice to see you here on a Friday afternoon. And to all the families that have had that rare treat of negotiating the Pentagon security system ... I'm glad you made it! [Laughter]

How many Army spouses do we have here today' Can I ask all of the Army spouses to stand up, please' [Applause] Today just happens to be Military Spouse Appreciation Day. So thank you all very much for what you do every day.

Representative Bordallo ... Madeleine ... nice to have you with us. Governor Mabus ... Ray Mabus is the Secretary of the Navy designee. He's one of the few people in Washington who is actually trying to lose a word from his title. [Laughter] We look forward to the day when you're confirmed, Ray, and you can join us here.

I'd like to especially recognize the parents of our young leaders here for your role in shaping them. I'm sure that, if they haven't told you already, they would freely admit that it was you who instilled in them the values, the drive, and the ideals that have made them the men and women that they are today. So how about a big hand for the moms and dads who are supporting them' [Applause]

A special thanks to the MacArthur Foundation for promoting leadership excellence through their sponsorship of this award. We have been at this with the MacArthur Foundation for 22 years now. This year, we will recognize 28 of our best young leaders. I think all but two are here today ... one is deployed ... and the other - actually - it is her due date today.

These award winners demonstrate the tremendous quality we are privileged to have across our Army. They are yet another indication that this country can be proud of another generation of Americans who are willing to step forward in challenging times and to lead.

I'd like to give you just a glimpse of what this group has done collectively because it's remarkable. First, their performance is typically described using superlatives ... "the best company commander" ... "the most knowledgeable junior officer I've ever met." These are top performers who led in the most difficult and most dangerous missions and brought out the best in the men and women they led.

They've commanded multiple companies ... most of them in combat. They've led air assaults into rugged terrain. They've led raids against extremists terrorizing local populations in Iraq and Afghanistan. They've led and coordinated hundreds of combat engagements with skill and coolness under fire. They've built relationships with leaders of other services, other government agencies, indigenous forces, village elders, and contractors. They've built and organized local security forces from scratch. They've trained local police and army units. They've coordinated reconstruction projects. They've worked to bring essential services and the rule of law to villages and neighborhoods. In short, they've transformed extremist strongholds into areas of stability, security, and hope.

They're accomplishments reflect the complex environments that we ask our young leaders to operate in. They have proven that they understand this complexity through their agility and adaptability. They have mastered our doctrine of full-spectrum operations. They are equally as effective in combat operations as they are in building consensus among village elders.

They've written books. They've conducted research. They've done things that have had an impact far beyond themselves and the men and women that they lead. They're leaders in their communities, coaches and mentors, organizers of charity and community outreach events. They're role models. And that's just what they did last week. [Laughter]

They have - without a doubt - demonstrated the ideals of General Douglas MacArthur, the namesake of the award they'll receive here in a few minutes. One hundred years ago today, Douglas MacArthur was a lieutenant with six years in the service ... about the same as many of you out there.

By that time, he had already experienced some very diverse assignments. For example, his first posting was to the Philippines, where he did reconstruction work in support of a U.S.-led counterinsurgency operation. Later, he went on an eight-month tour of South and East Asia, where he observed and reported on the armies in the region. He served for a time as an aide to President Teddy Roosevelt, getting some very, very unique experiences. Later, he worked on civil works projects in Wisconsin before getting assigned to an engineer unit at Fort Leavenworth, which was exactly where he was in 1909. Not a bad six years. Some of you could probably match that.

As we know, his career got even more interesting. It was sixty-five years ago this month when MacArthur was in the middle of fighting the New Guinea campaign during World War II. No one - himself included - could have predicted that the United States would be engaged in brutal combat in the obscure, almost uninhabited jungles of northern New Guinea. We need to stay just as agile and as adaptive in our thinking in today's 21st century security environment ... because, as an Army, I'm sure that we will be doing something in a few years that none of us are thinking about today. And we'll be counting on the leadership of leaders like you.

We thank you for your magnificent service to this great country at a critical time in our Nation's history. You embody the spirit of service that our country will continue to draw upon in the challenging years ahead. This ceremony is very timely ... just a few weeks before Memorial Day and our Army's birthday ... when we reflect on the legacy of sacrifice and selfless service of all of our men and women in uniform.

I'd like to quote to you from President Obama's inaugural address, where he held the men and women of the armed forces up to the American people as an example of the spirit that this country would need to prevail in the difficult challenges ahead. Here's what he said: "As we consider the role that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service - a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment - a moment that will define a generation - it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all."

You leaders embody that best of that spirit and the best of our country. Congratulations.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16