Secretary of Defense Robert Gates returned to Texas A&M Friday to received a distinguished honor from the 41st President.
George H. W. Bush presented the former Texas A&M president with the Bush Award for Public Service, an honor given to only five people before Gates.
The ceremony was held before a crowd of 3,000 at Reed Arena, a crowd that gave Gates a lengthy standing ovation as he took the stage to receive the award.
"Bob Gates is a man of exceptional skill and total integrity, the kind of leader that you can rely on to do the right thing when it matters most," Bush said in introducing Gates. "When the going gets tough, it's wonderful to have Bob Gates leading our great military. And I'm biased, of course, but I firmly believe that in Bob Gates, our national has the right job at exactly the right moment in our history."
Gates began his remarks with the traditional "howdy," then praised Former President Bush.
"Someday, the world will recognize the boundless debt it owes this President Bush for his leadership during a time when, without precedent in modern history, a great and powerfully-armed empire came to an end without a war," Gates said. "I am humbled to be his friend, and to be honored by him."
The defense secretary's speech firmly focused on public service, as he ran down the lengthy list of ways people choose to serve their nation. Much focus was paid to those men and women who wear military uniforms, as well as their families, who he said serve in their own way.
“I believe if you scratch deeply enough, you will find that those who serve -- no matter how outwardly tough or egotistical or jaded -- are, in their heart of hearts, romantics and idealists and optimists," Gates said.
The current President Bush called Gates to serve again as the defense secretary, this after years of service as Texas A&M's president.
Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Reverend Billy Graham are the previous Bush Award winners.