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TRANSCRIPT: GEN. and Mrs. William E. Ward at the 2010 Essence Leadership Award Ceremony
On July 4th, GEN and Mrs William E. Ward were recognized by Michelle Ebanks, Chief Executive Officer for Essence Communications in a ceremony during the magazine's 16th Annual Music Festival, for their nearly four decades of leadership and
On July 4th, GEN and Mrs William E. Ward were recognized by Michelle Ebanks, Chief Executive Officer for Essence Communications in a ceremony during the magazine's 16th Annual Music Festival, for their nearly four decades of leadership and service to our nation. A photograph of GEN and Mrs Ward can be found on the AFRICOM Flikr site.

The following is a transcript from the awards presentation:

MICHELLE EBANKS: (In progress) -- and this city that's in the diaspora, with the greatest African presence. And we have our four-star general, who is based there in Germany -- you said it's Stuttgart?


MS. EBANKS: Oh, okay. And to work with the African countries and not to come in to take over or to dictate, but, General, as you explained, to walk in first and get an understanding. What can we do to help you, as an African nation, as African leaders, be stronger? To help you educate your countrymen, give them opportunities and hope, so that you're not there under the rule of someone else?

And to have that kind of vision and leadership -- when you have every weapon, every force to come in and dictate, but yet, to come in with a heart of compassion and to have, you know, these African countries that have been colonized for so long and devastated to be strong is something that we are all tremendously proud of.

And of course, nearly four decades in service, at his side this entire time, has been the amazing Mrs. Joyce Ward. (Applause.) And I know you can see in the pictures here, while the general is out, you know, meeting with the leaders of countries and helping them to help themselves, then Mrs. Ward is out in the community -- you know, in the schools -- meeting with women, with families. How can we help you? What do you need?

The stories, Mrs. Ward, that you told about the conditions, with women who were pregnant and giving birth and not having, you know, access to medical care. And how do you go in and bring solutions so that they have dignity and safety and they have access to education? You are that inspiration within those communities. And to see how you both work together is something that we cherish.

And for nearly four decades, to have that legacy is something that our children look up to and, you know, our community looks up to. And we wanted, on this 4th of July, to honor you both with our 2010 Essence Leadership Award. So on behalf of the 16th annual Essence Music Festival, on behalf of our entire audience, on behalf of African-Americans, on behalf of Africans, on behalf of people around the world, I want to say thank you and thank you for being here. (Applause.)

GEN. WARD: Hey, mom. All right. (Applause.)

JOYCE WARD: Good morning. For Cheryl and the Essence team, wow. (Laughter.) I kept asking Kip, as a matter of fact, why am I here? You know, like, I'm just a volunteer. And of course, you know him. He told me, just go up there and look good. (Laughter.) I said, I tell you what: I'll go up there and do what I've been doing for almost 40 years -- (inaudible).

I am really speechless. But I knew that was going to happen because I did not know that I was a part of this until we were in flight. See, I have no staff. (Laughter.) His staff decided to tell me in flight. So I said, was that because you figured I wouldn't show up?

This is quite an honor and I just am speechless, but I do have a couple things I wanted to share with you. I have been given a little award, as a matter of fact, you know, for volunteer service -- not that you don't see that that often. You know, like the USO, the Red Cross, even the U.S. Africa Command gives out certificates for -- (inaudible).

The Department of Defense, even the president of the United States have given awards. And I've been very blessed to receive from three presidents the presidential award for volunteer service, even from our current president, President Obama. (Applause.) He has nothing on AFRICOM. (Applause.)

As I said, this is certainly an honor for me and I appreciate this from my heart. The little bit I give is certainly returned to me tenfold. Each time that I see the smile on the little one's face when he or she receives a toy; a young one that all you have to do is hand them their own book or possibly a soccer ball; a young teen, by encouraging her not to give up on her dream and to keep reaching for that; or even the caregiver with tears in her eyes when she says to me, you know, nothing gives me any more pleasure than to be able to take care of my best friend's children.

But I'm scared. I want to know who's going to be there to take care of her children and my children because I, too, am HIV-positive. Or when one of the ones she's taking care of, the oldest, is 13 years old and he turns to me and he says, all I want is to be able to go back to school. I love taking care of my brother and my sister. But if I can get my education, I can take care of them by myself.

He didn't ask for money. He didn't ask for clothes. He wants that education. This is why it's worth what I'm doing. I encourage you to continue to take care of our children. Take care of them throughout the world. Find your passion in volunteering. Encourage your children -- (inaudible) -- growing to find their passion in volunteering.

Give our children the opportunities to succeed. You do it already. I know I'm preaching to the choir here. But tell your friends, tell your neighbors. Tell anyone. It is up to us to give our children the opportunity. So again, I'm so humbled. Happy 40th birthday, Essence. Thank you for giving me such a high, high honor. And thank you for inspiring so many. (Applause.)

GEN. WARD: You know, first, I am awfully speechless. This is an award that Joyce and I both treasure and we relish. You know, last night, as we were at the concert, I'm thinking to myself, tomorrow morning's coming pretty early. (Laughter.) But I remembered what my mom and dad used to tell me. They said, okay, you can go out and party on Saturday if you want to, but get up Sunday morning and go to church. So I was inspired to be here this morning regardless.

It is indeed an honor to receive this award from Essence. Michelle, Angela and the entire Essence family, thank you for this very prestigious honor. But thank you for all that you do each and every day for our country, to show them that there is hope for the future, through the things that your magazine displays, the articles, and to cause our women -- but also, all of our citizens -- to know that, indeed, there are things that can be achieved and there are things that are done on their behalf, for them to take advantage of and to move ahead.

So as Joyce and I, for these, now -- I guess this is kind of neat here. This is Essence's 40th anniversary. We are approaching our 40th anniversary -- (applause) -- a wonderful, wonderful time to receive this honor.

As I, in my current role as commander of United States Africa Command, do what the president, our nation, has asked us to do in the cause of promoting stability. It is for one reason. And that reason is to allow an environment to exist that, indeed, would be conducive to the sorts of things that people everywhere desire for themselves and for their children and their children's children.

And that is to have an opportunity to go to school, to be living in a state of relative decent health, to be able to have the economic advantage of knowing that I don't have to worry about where I will get my next meal. And while those conditions are certainly existing to varying degrees here in our country, when you look at other parts of the world, what we have is indeed noncomparable to what goes on in other locations.

And so while we're not perfect and while there's certainly room to improve, those of us who are indeed fortunate to have been able to receive a birthright to be labeled an American -- how fortunate we are. And how we give back to those who are here less fortunate, but also in a global way, is also critically, critically important.

The small bit that Joyce and I have been able to do in a career of service -- we're at war. Now, 39-plus years, I've been able to proudly wear the cloth of our nation as we attempt to do just that. It's been service that we've so richly appreciated and for which we are so very, very thankful.

And as Joyce often tells me, I said, where we are is a blessing, to be sure. And we do not take that for granted. And I told Joyce and I said, you know, hon, when I met you 43 years ago, just think of what you have now been able to see because of that. (Laughter.)

You know, we were back in her hometown not very long ago and we happened to see one of her former boyfriends. (Laughter.) And he was a very decent and honorable profession. He was a gas-station attendant. And I said, Joyce, there he is, right there. If you'd married him, see. No, no, if I'd married him, you'd be pumping the gas station. (Applause.)

Thank you very, very much. Of the awards that I've received, this ranks at the very top because it comes from the family that I love. So on behalf of Joyce and myself, once again, please accept our deepest thanks and gratitude for this most memorable and wonderful award that we've just received. Thank you, we love you. God bless you. Take good care. Hoo-ah. (Applause.)

MR. : Don't stop. Can you give it up again for -- (applause).