President-elect George W. Bush and incoming Vice President-elect Dick Cheney joined a host of dignitaries in honoring U.S. veterans at the George Washington University Friday. The event, one of the first in the inauguration celebration, was held in the Smith Center.
“It is a special privilege to have veterans convening here today,” said GW President Steven Joel Trachtenberg.
Among the veterans in attendance were 101 of the 150 living recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest military honor that our country can bestow.
Sen. John McCain, Gen. Colin Powell, Defense Secretary William Cohen and former Sen. Bob Dole were all in attendance to join Cheney in paying tribute in a moving ceremony.
Former senator and presidential candidate Dole spoke to the “ordinary men and women asked to do extraordinary things.”
“Leadership without responsibility is not leadership at all,” Dole said.
Outside the Smith Center, a group of approximately 50 students and others protested various U.S. government activities, from the sanctions against Iraq to ending the Drug War.
“GW is radicalized,” said Bernard Pollack, a student activist.
Pollack and others from the Washington area plan to join with demonstrators during Saturday’s inauguration activities.
“We’ll probably bring 1,000 people to the inauguration,” Pollack said. “They represent diverse groups that are opposed to the Bush-Cheney presidency.”
“People are here protesting — but that is a right that we fought for,” said Dole to the assembly of veterans from numerous U.S. conflicts.
Cheney spoke of the “new era of purpose and pride” that the new administration would bring to the military.
“(American) people are reluctant warriors,” Cheney said.
Cheney also alluded to a campaign promise of the Bush-Cheney ticket, which was to strengthen a military plagued with missed recruitment goals and diminishing ranks. Cheney pledged to have the military be “proud to serve and proud to stay.”
Bush, the event’s surprise guest, echoed Cheney’s remarks about strengthening the military and ensuring that it is well-housed, well-trained and well-paid. Bush said that if the military were well-prepared to win conflicts, it would prevent conflicts from occurring.
“The military and morale must be strong,” Bush said.
“This event was real exciting. And the speech by Bush shows his commitment to the military,” said Bill Eldridge, chairman of the GW College Republicans.
Eldridge, who was one of several College Republicans in attendance, said that the unexpected appearance of Bush was “awesome.”
“It is something to see Cheney pay tribute to veterans at an event that was planned to honor him,” Eldridge said.
“This is an unbelievable tribute,” said Brian Pasquarelli, treasurer for the GW College Republicans. “It was a well-done event that really showed (Bush and Cheney’s) support of veterans.”