2011 Liberty Medal Recipient
Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was awarded the medal in a public ceremony on Thursday, September 22, 2011 at the National Constitution Center on Independence Mall in Historic Philadelphia.
In his five-decade career in public service, Dr. Robert Gates has served eight presidents – in uniform, as the director of the CIA and as the civilian head of America’s armed forces. From the era of the Cold War to the complex challenges of the 21st century, he helped transform U.S. intelligence and military operations to meet emerging realities, and advocated for the safety and empowerment of American servicemen and women. Having served both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, Dr. Gates is the only Secretary of Defense in U.S. history to have served presidents of different parties. He retired on June 30, 2011.
"Secretary Gates’ steadfast commitment to the well-being of our men and women in uniform makes him an ideal recipient of this year’s Liberty Medal," said President Bill Clinton, Chair of the National Constitution Center. "As he embarks on his next chapter, we are pleased to honor his many years of distinguished service to our country."
"Secretary Gates has made unparalleled contributions to national security, defense and intelligence, while transcending party politics in order to put our nation’s best interest first," said National Constitution Center President and CEO David Eisner. "Secretary Gates sets an unsurpassed standard for what it means to make your country and your world better as a result of your service."
"Secretary Gates has proven himself to be a true leader – as Director of the CIA, president of Texas A&M University and as Secretary of Defense," Governor Tom Corbett said. "This year’s Liberty Medal could not go to a more worthy person; Secretary Gates has worked tirelessly to support liberty and democracy worldwide, and his efforts have greatly advanced our nation’s safety and security."
"Secretary Gates is a true American hero who has dedicated his life to our country," said Mayor Michael A. Nutter. "He conducts himself with a quiet dignity, but is vociferous and determined in his support for our troops and for causes of freedom around the world. He is a most-deserving addition to the list of illustrious leaders who have been awarded the Liberty Medal, and Philadelphia will be proud to welcome him for the ceremony in September."
Dr. Robert M. Gates was sworn in as the 22nd Secretary of Defense on December 18, 2006. Following his term under President George W. Bush, he was asked to remain in that office by President Barack Obama. His unprecedented transition from a Republican to a Democratic administration furthered his reputation as a pragmatist and a problem-solver who earns bipartisan support.
As defense secretary, Dr. Gates oversaw the 2007 surge of forces in Iraq, leading to a dramatic drop in violence and paving the way for significant troop drawdowns in the years since. In Afghanistan, he implemented a similar surge in 2009, resulting in much improved security.
Gates also has fought to end troubled weapons programs and to reduce overhead to make the department operate more efficiently, saving hundreds of billions of dollars that are being reinvested in higher military priorities, as well as deficit reduction. Described by TIME magazine as “candid and fearless," he has demanded accountability from military and civilians alike and won accolades for getting our soldiers all they need to succeed in the missions they have been given and to come home safely.
A tireless advocate for the welfare of American troops, Gates has been called the "ultimate soldiers’ secretary." Thinking of the troops as his own sons and daughters, he has made it a top priority to care for them and their families. His push for the purchase of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs) and the production of drones, cameras and sensors provided a safer way to conduct operations and saved the lives of countless American soldiers. He also played an instrumental role in reducing the amount of time to get wounded soldiers from the battlefield to a hospital in Afghanistan.
Prior to his historic tenure as Secretary of Defense, Dr. Gates had an illustrious career at the Central Intelligence Agency, which he joined in 1966. He spent nearly 27 years as an intelligence professional, including nearly nine years at the National Security Council, serving presidents of both political parties. He served as Director of Central Intelligence from 1991 to 1993 and remains the only career officer in the CIA's history to rise from entry-level employee to director. He served as Deputy Director of Central Intelligence from 1986 to 1989 and as Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Adviser at the White House from 1989 to 1991. In 1967, Dr. Gates was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force and served as an intelligence officer at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.
Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has been awarded the National Security Medal and the Presidential Citizens Medal, has twice received the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, and has three times received the CIA's highest award, the Distinguished Intelligence Medal.
Dr. Gates and his wife, Becky, have been married over 40 years and have a grown son and daughter. Gates is looking forward to returning to Washington state to be reunited with his family.