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TRANSCRIPT: Ward Addresses Students of Morehouse College
General William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command, addressed students of Morehouse College as a featured speaker for the Crown Forum, September 16, 2010. The Crown Forum exposes students to speakers with social conscience and global
General William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command, addressed students of Morehouse College as a featured speaker for the Crown Forum, September 16, 2010. The Crown Forum exposes students to speakers with social conscience and global perspective. Ward encouraged the students to serve as leaders and role models in their school and throughout their careers. "What you do, your example, be you a freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, graduate studies, the roles that you will play are roles that will mean so much to our nation, but also to our global community. And be sure of the role that you will play in that in helping to define this community," Ward said. He also talked about his role at U.S. Africa Command and how important Africa is in the global community. "We often hear that Africa must play a larger role in the consciousness of Americans; not just black Americans but all Americans," Ward stated. "U.S. Africa Command is a large step in that direction. Our efforts and our activities in Africa, formerly conducted by three different commands, are now showing to both Americans and Africans that the continent is important." The complete transcript is provided below: GEN. WILLIAM E. WARD: Wonderful. Wonderful. Wonderful. This is pretty loud. (Laughter.) I don't want to run anyone out of here but I absolutely am honored, thrilled and deeply humbled to be able to come to this institution with such a great history, reputation, legacy, but also, mission to continue on doing what it has done so marvelously for so many years: producing men of character who know that they, too, have a role to play in promoting a better human race. And the fact that I've been honored with coming here to say a few words to you about that journey and about those things that are being done in today's current environment that you may, or may not be aware of, to help foster an increased perspective for you to take to your life's work is something that any of us who have graying hair, or no hair, or -- the teeth are real -- (laughter) -- to be able to offer that to you is something that truly gives great meaning to what we do, and for me, in particular, a rich sense of thankfulness for this opportunity. Dr. Franklin, thank you, sir, for introducing me to this fantastic forum and providing me this opportunity to be here. Dr. Jackson, thank you for all that you do. I had a pleasure of speaking with Dean Carter a bit ago. Dean, I enjoyed that immensely, so thank you. And to my good friend, Dr. Julius Coles, thank you for that fantastic introduction. All the things that you were saying there, sir, if my mom were sitting here, she would be looking around trying to figure out where this guy -- who is this guy? Where is he coming from? The good news, my dad, who's no longer with us, looks down and he's smiling because although, he didn't see Kip Ward in this state, he certainly had a vision for Kip Ward. And through his eyes, I was able to do some things that enabled me to be here today. So I know he's smiling upon this occasion as well. And Dr. Jackson, thanks for recognizing Joyce because she is my partner now for over 39 years since we left out of Morgan together and so she, too, has been a part of this journey. So I'm happy that she's here with me as well. I might add a quick, quick note. I noticed on our program here that the Honorable Michael J. Bond will be on the program a bit later. I might offer -- and I mentioned this to the councilman that his father was the commencement speaker for Joyce and myself when we graduated from Morgan. So this business of six degrees of separation was probably only about three. And the older I get, it's coming down to two and one. But truly, a small world. As large as we are, we're, indeed, a global community. And every day I see reflections of that. To those others here on the stage, thank you for joining me. And for those of you who have come to witness and listen to this soldier talk for a bit, now, each of you is distinguished in your own right. And as I've traveled over the continent of Africa, now, almost monthly for the last four years, I've come to adopt a tradition that our African partners and friends use when it's hard to recognize everyone because invariably you'll leave someone out. And at the conclusion of it you'll say, well, I should have said, I should have acknowledged, I should have said something about that person. And to lay all that to ease, the tradition that the African way of doing business points to, is to merely recognize each of you as distinguished, distinguished persons by saying, welcome and all protocol observed. So "all protocol observed" to each of you distinguished, distinguished members. I had some comments prepared. And what I think I'm going to do is use those. But I'm going to talk a bit more to you about something that I think may be a bit more in line with some of your thoughts, some of your questions. But before I do that because this is an institution of higher learning, esteemed as it is, I think maybe a small story might be in order for you. Now, you all know about genies in bottles. And you say that's hogwash. I mean, there's no such as a genie. There's no such thing as a magic wish. You're wrong. Because this is a true story! A chemistry professor -- and I say chemistry because genie -- stuff comes out of a bottle. Now, had it been a political science professor, you would have certainly said it's all hogwash. But a chemistry professor and two of his students walking through a centennial park -- and I won't name the city -- but they did come across an antique oil lamp. And they sought and said -- just knowing that this is probably nothing, one of them picked it up and began rubbing it. But to their amazement -- puff of smoke -- out comes a genie. And the genie says, I only can grant three wishes. There are three of you here; not quite sure who did the rubbing. But three wishes. One student decides, I'm going to go first. And the student was from an island nation. And the student said, my dream goal is just to be driving a speedboat in the Bahamas for the rest of my life. The student was gone. The wish was granted. Next student, also from an island nation, something about water, and says, well, for me, it's about surfing in Hawaii and sipping on Mai Tais for the rest of my life. Poof. The student was gone So chemistry professor is the remaining one to have a wish granted. Well, the professor says -- (chuckles) -- I want those guys back for lab after lunch. (Laughter.) And I'm sure all you have professors with that same sentiment: wanting what's best for you -- and not frivolous ways but in ways that help to guarantee, reinforce your foundation. And to use an old clichhhà that was popular many years ago in the Army: providing you the opportunity. The background, the foundation, the basis to, in fact, be all that you can be. And that's what your being here is about. So the sacrifices, the care, the concern that has been displayed by so many, to include yourself through your commitment to be here, to prepare yourselves to take these roles that you undoubtedly take, is indeed what makes all of us so proud as you prepare yourselves to be all that you can be. And that's a big deal. Like my alma mater and, clearly, the distinguishing characteristics are similar, but so for sure different, not only are you getting a great education here at Morehouse, you also are getting the life skills that will help prepare you for the roles that you will assume ahead. Now, first, let me talk about the state of Africa and why I think that what I do is important to all of us. And I'll give you some insights from my career. And while you probably won't remember Ward, that general that spoke to you this day, I hope that you will walk away from here thinking a bit more about the continent of Africa and the role that one part of your government plays in that towards one end, towards one purpose. And that purpose is in helping to create a more stable environment in such an important part of our global community that, in the end, will serve the best interests of the citizens of the United States of America, but also, the interests of the people of the 53 nations of the continent of Africa, including its island nations. As was pointed out, I had the distinct honor of being the commander of one of the United States' six geographic commands. So what does that mean? I implement and oversee the Department of Defense's activities on the continent and its surrounding island nations. Now, you may say, well, what is that all about? What is that all about? To be sure, you will leave this historic institution, take on the world and will accomplish great things. So why is Africa Command important to you? Well, Africa matters to all of us. It is my experience that when many Americans think of Africa, the first things that come to mind are challenges rather than opportunities. Africa's challenges are known: war, strife, disease, trafficking and so on. But I do not want to dwell on these, although rest assured, we pay attention to these issues. To me, Kip Ward, more important than the challenges are the opportunities that are abound throughout Africa, opportunities that with help that continent and its 53 nations can help achieve for its people in ways that they have not realized in the past. I could talk about demographics: the fact that the continent of Africa has over 1 billion people, 1 billion people. The population of the United States is about 360 million. And that 1 billion is projected to double in the next 50 years. I could talk about the abundance of natural resources. I could talk about the growth in GDP in spite of the recent economic downturn. But we look at Africa in terms of opportunities that exist because of the importance of it to its people and to us. We want to build stronger bonds of friendship, cooperation, economic exchange between nations of Africa and the United States, and all the while, promoting an environment where the American lives are both secure at home and abroad, where African interests are promoted and where the strategic objectives of African nations are better realized. We often hear that Africa must play a larger role in the consciousness of Americans; not just black Americans but all Americans. U.S. Africa Command is a large step in that direction. Our efforts and our activities in Africa, formerly conducted by three different commands, are now showing to both Americans and Africans that the continent is important, but important in some very unique ways that I will get to. U.S. Africa Command coordinates all United States military assistance in Africa and supports the efforts of our other government agencies in what they do -- the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, as well as other U.S. government agencies. After numerous engagements, we have built an African security vision on the continent by listening to what African leaders, both military, as well as civilians, as well as civil sector, have told us about what they see as important for their security sector. Now, let me mention to you a few things on a personal level about some things I have learned over the years that have served me well and hopefully may give you some thoughts to reflect on. And I am very, very serious. The more I think I know, the less I understand that I don't know. There is a small island off of the east coast of Africa: Comoros, in the South Indian Ocean. I don't know if any of you have been there or may be aware of it or not. It is nearly 100-percent Muslim. I visited Comoros several months ago. Its population is nearly about 700,000 people. Comoros has a history of political strife. It has a history of coups that have occurred over the several years, about 20 or so coups that have been attempted. It dates back to when Comoros gained its independence from France in 1975. Their constitution was a break from the typical cycle. They tried to install a federal government over three semi-autonomous islands, each having its own president. There is still tension in the Comoros. But in spite of that tension, I was struck with their military and their willingness to transform, and a military not to serve purposes of expansionism, but to serve purposes of providing for the sovereignty and the protection of their people -- what all governments are designed to do. And so for us, as we work with the nations of the continent of Africa, our purpose is to listen to them, to learn from them and to do what we do as we help to increase their own attempts in having the capacity to provide for their own security. And that is the essence of how we do our business. Not to occupy any nation, not to establish large military forces in any of those 53 African nations, but to listen to them, to cause a dynamic to occur as best as we can contribute to it that responds to those things that we are asked to do by our friends and partners, so that as they build their capacity, working together regionally, working together continentally to have a better ability to provide for the protection, the security of their people, so that development can flourish as best it can, in ways that will serve the peoples of their nations, ultimately producing a more stable continent. And that is in the best interest of the United States of America. Now, how do you fit into that? And what about that matters to you? Well, just as we are today connected globally in ways never before, where vast oceans, huge mountains, great deserts were at one point in time barriers, provided protective shields, if you will. In today's environment, they are super highways -- super highways for those who would seek to do harm to us wherever we may be. And the good news is the nations of Africa with this common vision have recognized that collectively, they can make a difference in protecting their borders and advancing the interest of their people. Now, you probably haven't thought about this just yet. But being at this institution has automatically given you a level of responsibility placed on your shoulders that you will for sure move forward in some substantial way, responsibilities that you will have to provide guidance, mentorship and leadership. And even though now you don't quite know it, as you heard Dr. Cole say, when I graduated from Morgan, I had no idea that now over 39 years later, I would still be wearing the cloth of our nation, the cloth of our nation. And make no mistake about it; it remains the best nation on this earth. The inherent duty, responsibilities that you will have to your family, your institution, your peers, to your country, to global society -- heavy-- you are being well-prepared for that mission. My advice to you is simple. It is not convoluted, nor complex. But it is taking all that you are provided and who you are as an individual, your person, yourself, all that comes from those who love you, those who did their best to make sure that you were here yourself, those who served this great institution, your faculty, the conserve, the legacy, the parade of Morehouse graduates who now adorn pages of history with their achievements, their contributions to society, how you fit into that. Truly, truly, truly great steps that you will for sure be taking. You will set the example. You will lead. But in all of that taking some of the precepts that we have used as we stood up your nation's newest command, how will we go about our business. Will it be done in a way that is arrogant? No. Will it be done in a way that presumes we know it all? No. Will it be done in a way that says our way is the right and only way? No. But done through listening, done through learning from others, done from something that I call seeing your foxhole where you occupy your ground from the perspectives of others, so that when you do what you do, you do it more cognizant of the surrounding environment and quite candidly, with a greater potential of making an impact on that environment because those with whom your actions will make a difference know that what you do reflects their best interest. We have tried to live that method of doing business in all of our interactions on the continent. And so now today when I visit the various nations and I have meetings with media, college groups, civic society and they say, you know, General, three years ago, we didn't know what you guys were doing. We didn't know if you were here to militarize us, to colonize us, to take over, to take control of our resources. But now after three years, we see that that wasn't the case because as we see what you do, your engagement with our security sector, things that are being done are reflective of the things that we told you we wanted to see happen in those various engagement activities. Are we perfect? No. But are we committed to that? You better believe we are. And we are committed to it in a way that causes hopefully our activities to be more cohesive with, to be better harmonized with what is being done by our Department of State, our United States Agency for International Development and our other government activities as I have mentioned before, including Treasury, Commerce, Homeland Security, Energy, Agriculture. And not that we are responsible for those activities, but we certainly recognize that what we do ought to be as supportive of and as harmonized with those activities as they can possibly be, contributing to them in a way that I call adding value and doing no harm. That's what we are doing. That is how we attempt to do that on behalf of the people of the United States of America and our partners in Africa. And so, this business that we are about is different and I fully recognize that over the last few months here, you've had some military type folks here. Your commencement speaker--Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. That doesn't reflect in my mind's eye any direction that this institution goes in. What it does reflect is an understanding that what went on 10, 20 years ago is not the vision that we have today. And because of who you are here at Morehouse, you are on the front edge of that on how you understand that as you move forward. Recognizing stability does not occur through military means alone, we certainly need security just as when you walk a street at night. You want to walk hopefully free of danger. Nations have responsibilities to provide for the security of their people. You do that through security organizations, not to wage war, but to promote peace. I'll give you an example. The Gulf of Guinea--12 nations, west coast of Africa. Territorial waters. Resources are there--oil, fish. Four years ago, nine heads of state came and said we do not have the ability to safeguard our territorial waters. Can you help us? Didn't say bring your war ships, patrol our waters. Didn't say bring your garrisons, station along our ports, protect our ports. And we didn't offer that either. They said, we want to do this for ourselves, but we need help, training, the equipment, working together as nations. And where our foreign policy says we will provide that type of assistance, that is what your United States Africa Command is now doing. And we are doing it in ways that is making a difference to those nations, as well as other nations around the littorals of the continent. And we are doing it in other ways as we work our military-to-military engagement activities with our partners, harmonized with the activities of our other areas of government in ways that help create what? A more stable environment. Period, dot, stop. That's it. And I have been privileged, fortunate to stand up this command, to form this command with those organizational principles in mind. It is different from what you may have read about. But I wanted to come to Morehouse and let you know what it really is, so that as you take these roles, positions of responsibility that each of you will invariably take, your perspectives are formed with that type of understanding as you continue to move forward. This is a time for me that gives me such great, great hope because I know that as the day comes when Ward stops wearing the cloth of this nation -- and I have seen many, many variations of it over the last -- over 39 years -- one thing stands true. And that is as we do what we do, our activities are reflective of policies that are set. And one thing about our country, some things you like, some things you don't, but if you vote and if you are active, you get what it is representative of how we feel as a people. Not the case in a lot of places, not the case. And so what you do, your example, be you a freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, graduate studies, the roles that you will play are roles that will mean so much to our nation, but also to our global community. And be sure of the role that you will play in that in helping to define this community. (Applause.) I will leave you with one final thought here. Yeah, you thought it was over, didn't you? (Laughter.) Time out, hotrods, time out. The relationships that you build now, those that you get to know, your classmates, your professors, your faculty, and as you leave and go off to your various fields of endeavor, it's all about relationships. It's about how you get to know someone else before you form the opinion, before you make the conclusion. The relationships, and with relationships comes trust, confidence. When you have that, things are, indeed, possible. I wish you all the very best in all that you do. I looked here and I see some folks wearing uniforms. And not that they will be -- I probably doubt that any of them will be around 40 years like I am almost, but it doesn't matter. Just like you, it is experiences that you are gaining now, experiences that help define your character, discipline, being responsible, being accountable. Wearing this uniform has certainly taught me that, the importance of all those characteristics, those attributes. And regardless of your life's endeavor, those are life skills that matter to all of us. Good luck. God bless us all. I look forward to reading the names of all of you as you continue to move forward in magnificent ways. Thanks very much. (Applause.)
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