June 30th, 2011
10:50 AM ET

As he leaves job, Gates gets Presidential Medal of Freedom

In his last full day on the job, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honor. President Obama gave Gates the medal during a tribute in front of the Pentagon.

"I'm deeply honored and moved by your presentation of this award," Gates said. "It was a big surprise. But we should have known. ... You're pretty good at this covert ops stuff."

Gates' career has spanned four decades of public service, throughout the administrations of eight presidents. He is being succeeded by former CIA Director Leon Panetta.

Considered the ultimate Washington insider, Gates, himself a former CIA chief, replaced Donald Rumsfeld in 2006. Gates served as secretary of defense in the administrations of both George W. Bush and Obama.

On Thursday, Gates described the transition between the Bush and Obama teams as "a first of its kind" during a war in over 40 years.

Obama called Gates "one of the nation's finest public servants," noting Gates' "profound sense of duty" that led him to continue serving in the Obama administration despite his desire to return to civilian life.

Obama said Gates "challenged conventional wisdom" to reduce wasteful military spending and save "hundreds of billions."

"Today we see the lifesaving difference he made," Obama said.

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Filed under: Medal of Honor • Pentagon
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. michaelfury

    Why didn't Rumsfeld get one?


    June 30, 2011 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
  2. Mad Hatter

    Wow you do have a "voice" michael.

    June 30, 2011 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  3. saywhat

    @ michaelfury
    he killed more.

    June 30, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |

    No surprise here. The right-wing thugs in Washington never fail to honor their own!!!

    June 30, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Oreo

    For the real story check out FOX.

    June 30, 2011 at 8:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Matt

    He did a good job, he did what all tried to do which was leave, but on our own terms, we had lost in late 2005, the only way was up, so it takes a man of certain courage to know we have lost yet take on the job. Which is why he did fell obligated to do it. That was what the Afghan 5 year plan was on our terms in our national interest. But to end it and that was what President Bush order close the gates of hell, end the wars.

    You know what it is like to see defeat like looking into the eyes of a corpse and it is scary. All that you hold dear gone.

    That is what the Arab spring is about we will not stop, they started WW3 and we will end it on our terms. Iraq was not Bush's fault he did not start WW3, but he had to deal with it.

    In the end victory was an intelligence failure by the ISI, their psychological profile of the Bush/Cheney tandem was incorrect.

    July 3, 2011 at 4:36 am | Report abuse |