Washington: US President Barack Obama
on Thursday bestowed the "Medal of Freedom", America`s highest
civilian honour, to the outgoing Defence Secretary Robert
Gates for his service to the nation.
Attendees at the farewell ceremony, including Gates,
were surprised when Obama asked him to stand up and receive
"Bob, this is not in the program, but I would ask you
to please stand. As President, the highest honour that I can
bestow on a civilian is the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It
speaks to the values we cherish as a people and the ideals we
strive for as a nation," he said.
Adding that life of Gates is a lesson, especially to
young Americans, he said, "Today, we not only pay tribute to a
remarkable public servant, we celebrate the principles for
which he served and for which our nation stands."
Obama said: "He has led the Department of Defence with
courage and confidence during our nation`s wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan, and ensured our armed forces are better prepared
for the conflicts of today and tomorrow."
Gates sounded emotional as he said that this was a
"It is a big surprise, but we should have known a
couple of months ago. You`re getting pretty good at this
covert ops stuff," he said.
Gates has served as the country`s Defence Secretary
for more than four and half years spread over two
"A practice and spirit of cooperation is equally
important for relationships with other elements of the
government, especially those dealing with intelligence,
development and diplomacy," he said.
In his last address as the Secretary of Defence,
Gates said, "The blows struck against al Qaeda, culminating in
the bin Laden raid, exemplify the remarkable transformation of
how we must fuse intelligence and military operations in the
Gates is being succeeded by Leon Panetta, the CIA
Director, who was confirmed by the United States Senate early