SECDEF Gates speaks at United States Military Academy (West Point, NY) Excerpt: Closing remarks of Secretary Gates in his 25 Feb. talk to the cadets at West Point. These remarks could apply equally to the midshipmen and cadets at all service academies : I have spent the last few minutes addressing some of the real challenges facing the Army, and discussed some of the frustrations experienced by bright young leaders working in any large bureaucracy. But I would like to close by telling you why I believe you made the right choice, and indeed are fortunate, to have chosen this path. Because beyond the hardship, heartbreak, and the sacrifice – and they are very real – there is another side to military service. You have an extraordinary opportunity – not just to protect the lives of your fellow soldiers, but for missions and decisions that may change the course of history. You will be challenged to go outside your comfort zone and take a risk in every sense of the word. To expand what you thought you were capable of doing when it comes to leadership, friendship, responsibility, agility, selflessness, and above all, courage. And you will be doing all of this at an age when many of your peers are reading spreadsheets and making photocopies. One of my favorite quotes from the Revolutionary War era is from a letter Abigail Adams wrote to her son, John Quincy Adams. She wrote him, “these are times in which a genius would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life or [in] the repose of a pacific station that great characters are formed. …great necessities call out great virtues.” I typically use that quote in commencement addresses encouraging public service at civilian universities, but those words apply most of all to you, on whose brave and broad young shoulders this era’s “great necessities” will be borne. Each of you – with your talents, your intelligence, your record of accomplishments – could have chosen something easier or safer and of course better-paid. But you took on the mantle of duty, honor and country; you passed down the Long Gray Line of men and women who have walked these halls and strode these grounds before you – more than 80 of whom have fallen in battle since 9/11. For that, you have the profound gratitude and eternal admiration of the American people. As some of you have heard me say before, you need to know that I feel personally responsible for each and every one of you, as if you were my own sons and daughters, for as long as I am Secretary of Defense that will remain true. My only prayer is that you serve with honor and return home safely. I personally thank you for your service from the bottom of my heart, I bid you farewell and ask God to bless every one of you.