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Last modified: Saturday, December 19, 2009

Defense Secretary Robert Gates addresses IU winter grads

December 19, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree and addressed 2009 winter graduates today (Saturday) in Assembly Hall during Indiana University's 180th Commencement. The ceremony, in which 2,113 students were eligible to participate, was presided over by IU President Michael A. McRobbie and IU Bloomington Provost Karen Hanson.

Gates and McRobbie image

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and IU President Michael McRobbie during moments prior to Indiana University's 2009 Winter Commencement.

"We live in a time of great necessities, a time when we cannot avoid dealing with serious problems here at home or the burdens of global leadership and responsibility," Secretary Gates told the IU Class of 2009. "The stakes are too high. It is now that America needs its best and brightest from all walks of life to come to the fore. If in the 21st Century America is to continue to be the land of the free and the home of the brave, a force for good in the world, for freedom, justice, the rule of law, and the inherent value of each person, then the most able and idealistic of our young people -- of you -- must step forward and accept the burden and the duty of public service."

Secretary Gates, who holds a master's degree in U.S. history from IU, attended the traditional reception held for the commencement speaker on Friday night which was attended by faculty leaders and university administrators. He also presented graduating ROTC students with their commissions in a small ceremony held in the robing room just before the procession of graduates into Assembly Hall.

Secretary Gates, who has worked in the administrations of eight U.S. presidents, has served as the nation's 22nd defense secretary since December 2006, when he was sworn in under former President George W. Bush. He is the only defense secretary in U.S. history to be asked to remain in that office by a newly elected president, President Barack Obama. Before assuming his current position, he was president of Texas A&M University.

His wife, Rebecca, earned her master's degree in education at IU Bloomington in 1967. The couple has two adult children, Eleanor and Bradley. Eleanor is a 1997 graduate of the IU School of Journalism.