The National Constitution Center has made an excellent choice in naming Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates the recipient of this year’s Liberty Medal.
Gates, who retires today, is the only Pentagon chief to serve two presidents of different parties. He joined the cabinet of President George W. Bush in December 2006, and was reappointed by President Obama.
During that time he has overseen troop surges in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He has been a strong advocate for soldiers as well as a responsible steward of military resources in tough economic times.
Gates’ service to the nation goes back decades, with senior posts in five administrations. The Kansas native was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Air Force in 1967, and then went on to a career in the CIA. He was named director in 1991 — the only career officer to rise to the top job at the agency.
Throughout Gates’ career, but especially during the last four and a half years as defense chief, the one-time Eagle Scout has been the very model of the professional, even-tempered, and nonpartisan adviser every president needs.
Established in honor of the bicentennial of the Constitution, the Liberty Medal has been awarded annually since 1989 to recipients whose efforts have helped secure liberty for people around the world.
Among the past honorees are three presidents; statesmen and leaders from Europe, Asia, and Africa; two Supreme Court justices; artists; human-rights activists; peace envoys; scientists; and a U.S. secretary of state.
The Liberty Medal will go to yet another worthy recipient when it is awarded on Sept. 22.