<b>GENERAL CASEY:</b> Great to be here with you this afternoon. I started my day by having breakfast with 30 reporters. I can tell you; this is an infinitely better deal.

[Laughter]

Congressman [Gregorio K.] Sablan, [Northern Mariana Islands], welcome. Thank you for joining us. [I want to also give a] special welcome to all of the proud parents and stunned brothers and sisters.

[Laughter]

Thanks for coming here to help us recognize these magnificent young leaders. I would say to the parents, I don't think there would be one of them here that wouldn't thank you profusely for instilling in them the values and the ideals that made them the men and women that they are today. So, how about [we give] a big round of applause [for the parents].

[Applause]

And tomorrow is military spouse appreciation day, and I just came from the Military Spouse of the Year awards, and so I would ask is for all of the military spouses, past and present, to please stand up and join me in a round of applause for their support.

[Applause]

A special thanks to the MacArthur Leadership Foundation for promoting leadership excellence. As we look to the challenges of the 21st Century, the one thing that rings clear to us is that it is going to take leadership and leaders of character and competence to chart our way through the challenges of the 21st Century. And what you're seeing here today is the next generation of veteran Army leadership. All of these award winners have demonstrated the tremendous quality that we're privileged to have in our Army today. And it's yet another indication that our nation can continue to be proud that we can bring forward generation after generation of Americans who believe so strongly in the message of values and ideals that this country stands for that they are willing to serve in a time of war.

Now, as I read through the letters of recommendation that came and accompanied all these great young officers, I was absolutely stunned by what they've accomplished in such a short period of time in their careers. Their performance is typically described as superfluous. The greatest company commander, most knowledgeable junior officer, and greatest junior leader I've ever seen.

Among them they've commanded multiple companies-most of them in combat. They built and organized local security forces from scratch. They coordinated reconstruction projects and worked to bring essential services and rule of law to villages and neighborhoods they have never known.

They transformed extremist strongholds to areas of stability, security and hope. They've also conducted research and written books. They're leaders in their communities. They're coaches and mentors, organizers of charity events and community outreach programs, and they've overcome personal loss and adversity to grow stronger and to become mentors for the next generation of leadership.

All of this clearly to me demonstrates that they serve in the ideals of General Douglas MacArthur. A hundred years ago General MacArthur was a lieutenant with about seven years of service, about the same number of years as some of you. His first posting was in the Philippines. He was doing reconstruction work in a country where the United States was engaged in fighting a counter-insurgency.

He went on an eight month tour of South and East Asia, observing the armies of that region. He then served for a time as a military aide to President Teddy Roosevelt, exposing him to a perspective that few of his peers enjoyed. Later he worked civil engineering projects in Wisconsin before being assigned to an engineering unit at Ft. Leavenworth where he was in 1910, after having a very busy seven years.

Fortunately for General MacArthur those broadening experience set him up well for the challenges he was to face in the future because, as we know, his career got more and more interesting. In fact, 65 years ago this month, MacArthur was in the middle of fighting during World War II. So as I said earlier, we need broad leaders-leaders of character and competence to handle the challenges of the 21st century. We've got [that represented here today] and I couldn't be prouder. You embody a spirit that our country will need to lead it forward in the decades ahead. You embody a spirit that President Obama spoke about in his inaugural address, and 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 and whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are the 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 that spirit that must inhabit us all. It is precisely that spirit that inhabits the honorees today, and I couldn't be prouder to be in your Army. Thank you all very much.

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