WEST POINT, N.Y. (Oct. 8, 2010) -- During a dinner in his honor, former Secretary of State James A. Baker, III addressed the Corps of Cadets Oct. 7 on the impact which military service played in his life as a leader, statesman and politician.

"Service to our country, and particularly military service, is encoded in our DNA," Baker told the West Point cadets.

Baker described his stint in the U.S. Marine Corps as uneventful, yet it provided him the traits which have guided his service to the nation ever since.

"The first is the work ethic that military service instills," Baker said. "That work ethic is legendary. That work ethic will serve you (well) in whatever you do for the rest of your lives."

Baker made his second visit to the U.S. Military Academy as the 53rd recipient of the West Point Sylvanus Thayer Award. On a crisp autumn evening, the cadet brigade marched onto the parade field, presenting a pass in review to honor the Thayer Award winner.

"This is an extraordinarily impressive ceremony and a really signal honor," Baker said.

Earlier in the day, he met privately with cadet brigade officers to discuss leadership.

"We had a very moving and wonderful dialogue," Baker said. "They are a very impressive group of young men and women."

The Thayer Award is presented annually by the West Point Association of Graduates to an outstanding U.S. citizen whose services and accomplishments in the national interest exemplify personal devotion to the ideas expressed in the West Point motto, "Duty, Honor, Country."

Previous recipients include presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, whom Baker had served under as Secretary of State and Chief of State, respectively. Baker's portrait now hangs in the Thayer Award Room among astronauts, generals, journalists and other cabinet officers.

"It means a lot to me to be honored in the same way those two presidents I served under were honored," Baker said. "But as I looked around the photographs in the Thayer Room, I noticed former secretaries of state have been honored as well...a number of people I had worked with in government."