SOUTH BEND — The future security and prosperity of the United States and the world depend to a large degree on maintaining a properly armed, trained and funded American military, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates told the University of Notre Dame’s graduates of the class of 2011 during Sunday morning’s commencement.
Although the nation faces great fiscal challenges, a strong military is necessary to sustain alliances, protect trade and reduce the chances of future wars, Gates said during the ceremony in Notre Dame Stadium. He was the principal speaker and received an honorary degree.
It’s a recurring theme for Americans to conclude after each war that the fundamental nature of man has changed, and that our nation will no longer have to rely on "size, steel and strength," he said.
That would be a mistake, according to Gates, who is retiring next month.
"If history — and religion — teach us anything, it is that there will always be evil in the world, people bent on aggression, oppression, satisfying their greed for wealth and power and territory, or determined to impose an ideology based on the subjugation of others and the denial of liberty to men and women," he said.
More than 3,100 students received their degrees under sunny skies on the field in Notre Dame Stadium.
Gates described himself as a strong advocate of soft power — using diplomacy and development in the interest of foreign policy and national security.
"But make no mistake, the ultimate guarantee against the success of aggressors, dictators and terrorists in the 21st century, as in the 20th, is hard power — the size, strength and global reach of the United States military," he said.
Gates urged the graduates to continue Notre Dame’s tradition of public service in their lives after graduation.
Among those also honored Sunday with honorary degrees were former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz and retiring Notre Dame Alumni Association director Charles F. "Chuck" Lennon. A beaming Holtz received a loud round of applause from the crowd even before his name was read and he stepped to the 50-yard line to receive the degree.
For the full story, check back later on this Web site and read Monday’s South Bend Tribune.