Caspar Weinberger (15th Secretary of Defense) Eulogy
Mr. Vice President, Lady Thatcher, Excellencies, Members of Congress, Secretary Schlesinger, Secretary Carlucci, Secretary Powell, Members of the Reagan Cabinet here today, and General Vessey and friends and family of Cap Weinberger.
For many years, a quote from Winston Churchill hung in Cap Weinberger's office. It said:
"Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never, in nothing, great or small, large or petty never give in."
That was the trouble with Cap -- you never knew where he stood.
The truth is you always knew where Caspar Weinberger stood:
- He stood with the men of the 41st Infantry Division during World War II.
- He stood with General MacArthur, as a member of his intelligence staff.
- He stood with Governor Ronald Reagan when he sought to balance the California budget; and
- He stood with President Ronald Reagan when he sought to win the Cold War.
And Cap Weinberger stood with the millions of people he never met, in cities like Prague and Budapest, East Berlin, as they struggled behind what he called a “Soviet prison wall” that reached “from the Balkans to the Baltic.”
When I received word of Cap's death, my first thought was that America has lost a soldier, a public servant, and a patriot. But more than that, so many, and particularly so many gathered here, also had lost a friend.
Cap served in Washington, in one way or another, for the better part of 30 years -- having won a reputation as a cost cutter as California's budget director. He said the work in Washington, D.C., was not that different, except that “you just had to add about nine zeros to everything.”
Cap was a man of good humor and quiet dignity -- a gentleman. He was also decisive. One of his best decisions, he probably would have told you, was to learn how to play chess. I'm told that, during World War II, on his long journey across the Pacific, an Army nurse named Jane Dalton was the only nurse who played chess. And their chess matches led to a friendship and a courtship and finally a marriage that would last 63 years.
Jane, our thoughts and prayers are with you and with Cap Jr. -- and Arlin and your family -- just as Cap's thoughts were with you every day of his life. You know, there are those fortunate people who trace their achievements to the love, the support, and the advice they receive from their families -- and certainly Cap was one of them.
Cap used to say that the definition of happiness is “service to a noble cause.” That idealism was undoubtedly born and strengthened in Cap as a child, in the warm California sun, and I suspect by stories Cap remembered that his father told him about the early days of our Republic.
I was told that when he was about 15, he wrote his Congressman, asking to receive copies of the Congressional Record, so he could read it. Imagine -- some of us didn't read the Congressional Record regularly when we were in the Congress, let alone at age 15.
His interest in public service was not limited to politics. He tried to join the Royal Air Force before America entered World War II. When his eyesight precluded that possibility, he finished Harvard Law School, before volunteering to join the Army, still several months before the attack on Pearl Harbor.
He found an Army with few real weapons to train with. And he must have remembered that lack of readiness when he came to the Pentagon some four decades later.
Cap led the Department six years after the last of America's military left Saigon, and one year after Soviet troops had invaded Afghanistan. Millions were pleading in silence for freedom from behind that Iron Curtain.
When President Reagan nominated Cap to that post, the Soviets mistakenly assumed that, because he was charming, which he was, he would be malleable. They learned differently.
Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin would eventually tell Moscow, with some dismay, that Weinberger “supported all of Reagan's statements on foreign policy, without reservation, except that he tended to make them sound even tougher.”
Today, some think back on the Cold War as if victory in that war was inevitable. That was not the case.
In 1984, Secretary Weinberger traveled to England to participate in an Oxford Union debate on the topic of whether America and the Soviet Union were, in effect, “morally equivalent.” Think of that.
“Euro Communism” was in vogue back in those days. Millions marched against the United States -- not against the Soviet Empire. The arms race was viewed, by some, as just a misunderstanding, or even as America's fault.
If my memory serves me correct, Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick had a thing or two to say about that.
But Cap remained determined to rebuild America's military -- with equipment and weapon systems critical to victory in the Cold War, and I might add, many of which remain vital to our security today. Indeed, as we deploy the first component of an initial missile defense system, we do so in tribute to Cap Weinberger's persistence.
Cap understood well that America was not what is wrong with the world. That we should be proud of our values and proud of our history. Together with President Reagan, our troops, and the American people, he made changes that helped restore pride in our country's uniform and helped win the Cold War.
And of course the United States did not do this alone. Some forget that even before Ronald Reagan came into office, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was issuing a clarion call for human freedom. Lady Thatcher, we are honored by your presence. Seems to me it says a great deal about Cap Weinberger, and it says a great deal about the very special relationship between our two nations.
In 1987, Cap turned over the Department of Defense to our mutual friend, Frank Carlucci, and Cap would go on to provide his insights and wisdom to the readers of Forbes Magazine. And over the past five-plus years, he has generously provided me with his keen advice and his unfailing support, for which I am deeply grateful.
Last month, I visited Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where a group of brave passengers on Flight 93 gave their lives. At the memorial site, in that very quiet field, there was a sign posted that quoted the verse from Scripture: "Blessed are the peacemakers."
That is how history should remember Caspar Weinberger. His goal was an era of hope and peace. One in which the people of Eastern Europe lived in freedom. One in which the Berlin Wall no longer divided families, but instead existed only in memory, or its shards sold as souvenirs of a discredited era.
Today we live in that world. A world made safer and freer by Cold Warriors like Cap Weinberger.
As we celebrate his life, and as He welcomes Cap home, may God bless his family, and may God bless the country he so loved and served so well.