The distinguished 15th chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Richard B. Myers, accepted the Nixon Library’s 2005 Architect of Peace award at a black-tie candlelight dinner in the Library’s elegant new White House East Room on Thursday, November 3, the same day he was selected by President Bush to receive the nation’s highest honor, the Medal of Freedom.
Until his retirement October 1 as a four star General, he served as senior military advisor to the President, Secretary of Defense and the National Security Council.
The tribute gala was attended by nearly 300 Southern California civic, business and government leaders, plus many former senior White House aides. President and Mrs. Nixon’s younger daughter, Julie Nixon Eisenhower, met the General and his wife Mary Jo, daughter Erin and son-in-law Michael Voto on arrival at the Library’s front steps and later presented the 2005 Architect of Peace award, a crystal shooting star created by Tiffany & Co.
In moving remarks after a warm introduction by old friend and gala chair General William Lyon of Orange County, General Myers drew parallels between the controversial wartime efforts of
President Nixon in Vietnam and President Bush in Iraq. He quoted RN’s 1969 “Silent Majority” address when the President said there were some “who urged that I end the war at once by ordering the immediate withdrawal of American forces.”
General Myers likened that to the present situation with many in America urging that the troops come home now, even before the job is done. “As President Nixon said in that famous address, the question before us is not whether some Americans are for peace and some Americans are against peace. The great question is how can we win America’s peace?”
He praised President Nixon statement that he wasn’t going to take the easy way out, he was going to do what was right. “And that’s what we’re doing in Iraq.”
Honoree Myers, a decorated combat fighter pilot, stressed the continuing threat to America’s security and said it’s as high now as it was at 9/11. He repeatedly praised the morale and courage of the American military in Iraq and Afghanistan and called attention to a table of uniformed Marines attending the dinner, all senior officers from Camp Pendleton.
“Thanks to men and women like these,” he told the audience, “we are going in the right direction in Iraq in terms of the political, security and economic situation.”
In welcoming remarks, Nixon Foundation chair Donald L. Bendetti, told the General “by being with us this evening, you are supporting our efforts to protect and extend President Nixon’s legacy of peace.”
In a toast, Ambassador George L. Argyros said: “In the case of President Bush and President Nixon, there is no shortage of critics willing to proclaim that they made the wrong decision. But they made their foreign policy decisions based on what they thought was best for the United States in the next decade, the next generation, the next century.”
The evening began with welcoming remarks from The Rev. John H. Taylor, Nixon Foundation executive director, followed by presentation of the colors by a Camp Pendleton Marine Honor Guard.
Guests applauded a dramatic video presentation featuring tributes by President Bush, Secretary of State Rice, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, and Senate Armed Services committee chair John Warner. In her remarks, Secretary Rice teased the honoree about his devotion to his school, Kansas State University. “General,” she said, “as anyone can tell you, the Pac-10 is the only game in town.”
With that, the robust University of Southern California Trojan Marching Band entered the East Room loudly playing Fight On and led by Dr. Art Bartner. The colorfully uniformed band lined up in front of the stage to perform Stars and Stripes Forever and America. The band marched out playing Conquest to a standing ovation. Several VIPs in the audience were Trojans including dinner chair Lyon, and board members Katherine Loker and Gavin Herbert. The Myers family attended the SC/Stanford game the following Saturday as the guests of General Lyon.