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SPEECH – National Security Agency: Stokes Educational Scholarship Program Awards Ceremony
August 4, 2011
At the outset, I want to extend a special and heartfelt recognition to the parents of the Stokes Educational Scholarship Program graduates for they are the ones who through their encouragement, support and sacrifices have made this day possible, and without whom none of this would be realizable. To all of the NSA Executives in attendance this morning, and especially Deputy Director Inglis, I congratulate you for your efforts in support of this important program and for your personal commitment to ensuring the program’s success. Regardless of a program’s ultimate importance – and the Stokes Educational Scholarship Program is indispensable to the NSA in satisfying its diversity and critical skills recruitment goals – no program or initiative can enjoy sustained success without the overt commitment and participation of senior management. The workforce gets its guidance from senior management; if senior management, all the way up to the top, establishes a priority and commitment for a program, the workforce will understand that there is an expectation that the program be fully supported and they will follow and adhere to the direction that senior management establishes. In this regard, I want to thank Deputy Director Inglis for his commitment to the Stokes Educational Scholarship Program. Your past and continuing efforts as evidenced by your participation in today’s ceremony further establishes the Stokes Educational Scholarship Program as an indispensable tool in NSA’s ability to attract the critical skills it needs to successfully fulfill its mission today and into the future.
They say you save the best for last and in keeping with that tradition, I congratulate the graduates whom we all join in this celebration to honor and pay tribute to your accomplishments. You represent some of the best and the brightest in your particular educational fields that our Nation has to offer. Years ago when you were accepted into the program, it was done with the expectation that you would be standing here today being honored as you are. But it would not be without your own commitment and hard work. You have not disappointed us, we are so proud of you and you have lived up to our greatest expectations. However, your accomplishments to date are just the first steps. We expect much more from you in the future. Robert F. Kennedy stated that “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.” To those who have been given this opportunity, so much is expected.
Today’s celebration marks the 25th year of the Stokes Educational Scholarship Program, a silver anniversary, and you are the 21st graduating class. Those before you helped pave the way for today’s celebration and you have a responsibility to reach back and share the knowledge that you have gained with those students who are currently in the program as well as those students who will one day follow in your footsteps. In effect, you are Ambassadors of the Stokes Educational Scholarship Program, and I encourage you to structure your careers here at NSA in a fashion whereby you are not simply at NSA as an employee, but as part of the NSA community.
An old African proverb says that “it takes a village to raise a child.” Think back to your early years, people who helped you along the way, whether it was a community activist, a religious leader, a teacher, counselor, aunt, uncle, cousin, friend of the family or coach. The fact is that none of us have made it on our own; what success we have enjoyed is a factor of all the support and guidance we received from others coupled with our individual commitment to work hard and succeed. Be an active member of the NSA community, get to know your colleagues, talk with your supervisors and solicit their guidance, after all they have been where you have yet to travel. Take the opportunity to volunteer for assignments, don’t make NSA just a job, make it a rewarding career. The opportunity is before you, the NSA and the intelligence community is an exciting place to work and one way to expand the community is to nurture those younger than you. Just as when you were seniors in college and the freshman class came in, you had the experience to guide them in a direction that could make things easier for them and make their college experience more rewarding and enjoyable. You shared with them what courses to take, which professors to avoid, what dormitories to live in, who had the best pizza and burgers and yes, the best places to hang out on Friday and Saturday nights. You passed on what you knew and it helped others. Reach back, grab their hands; pass on your knowledge, each one teach one so that the NSA and the United States of America benefit from your guidance to future graduates.
It has been more than a decade since I’ve been in this building and as I walked the halls this morning, I thought to myself, so much has changed, yet so much has remained the same. As the former Senior Counsel to the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, U.S. House of Representatives, I used to spend endless hours in this building working with, negotiating, educating myself on programs and policies and sometimes even arguing with NSA officials over policy and budgetary issues. I was on the Committee when the Stokes Educational Scholarship Program was authorized in the Fiscal Year 1987 Intelligence Authorization Act. Back then it was called the Undergraduate Training Program, or UTP for short, and there were many who opposed the creation of this program. I share this with you because it is important to know your history in order to unlock the mysteries of tomorrow.
The Stokes Educational Scholarship Program is the brainchild of Congressman Louis Stokes of Cleveland, Ohio. Congressman Stokes served thirty (30) years in the House of Representatives from 1969 through 1999. As Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Stokes was distraught with the lack of minorities in the intelligence community and when officials were questioned as to why there was not adequate representation, the answer he often received was that they could not find qualified minorities and when they did, they could not compete with the salaries and other benefits the private sector was offering. Congressman Stokes refused to accept such answers and thus he drafted legislative language for NSA and the Central Intelligence Agency, that provided Opportunities – and I might add, opportunities that Congressman Stokes never enjoyed as a youth – for you and those who preceded you and for those who will follow in your footsteps. This program has provided opportunities to almost 300 graduates at the NSA. I myself stand before you today as a beneficiary of Congressman Stokes’ commitment to equality of opportunity for it was he who appointed me to the Intelligence Committee making me the first African American in history to serve on that prestigious Committee.
I want to share with you a little bit more about Congressman Stokes, because as Stokes graduates, you bear his name; you are beneficiaries of his quest for civil rights, equality, and social and economic justice. You are living proof of his belief that all people can succeed when given the opportunity.
Congressman Stokes was the first African American in history elected to Congress from the state of Ohio. During his matriculation in the House of Representatives, Congressman Stokes twice served as Chairman of the House Ethics Committee; was Chairman of the House select Committee on Assassinations, which investigated the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.; was Chairman of the Veterans Affairs, HUD & Independent Agencies Appropriations sub-Committee; served on the House select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran and when he retired from Congress, he became the first African American in the history of the U.S. Congress to retire having completed 30 years in office. Then on July 8, 2003, his former colleagues in the House of Representatives honored and paid tribute to his exceptional service to our country and awarded him the Congressional Distinguished Service Award.
Congressman Stokes is the recipient of 26 honorary doctorate degrees from colleges and universities and there are several buildings named in his honor, including:
- The Louis Stokes Cleveland Veterans Administration Hospital
- The Louis Stokes Annex to the Cleveland Public Library
- The Louis Stokes Health Services Center at Case Western Reserve University
- The Louis Stokes Head Start Center
- The Louis Stokes Health Sciences Library at Howard University and
- The Louis Stokes Laboratories, Building 50 at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland to name a few.
I worked on Capitol Hill for many years with Congressman Stokes, and I was privileged to get to know him very well. He is an honorable man, a man of integrity, a man of distinction, a compassionate individual, he is a great American and notwithstanding his lofty status and great accomplishments and achievements, Congressman Stokes is an affable and humble man.
He presently works at Squire Sanders and Dempsey, a global law firm, in its Washington, D.C. and Cleveland, Ohio offices. I encourage you to search the Internet for information on Congressman Stokes, learn about the man behind the name and take a moment to contact him and introduce yourself and tell him a little about you and your career, I know he would appreciate hearing from you and while you’re at it, say to him the two most important words in the English language: “Thank you”.
Congressman Stokes could not have established this program without the support and commitment of those at NSA and one person in particular I want to mention is Ms. Minnie Kinney. As you walk the halls of NSA there are photographs of Ms. Kinney who like Congressman Stokes shared the belief and commitment to equality of opportunity. I had the pleasure of working with Ms. Kinney and I can tell you she was a dynamic, energetic and committed intelligence professional who helped to persuade – and if you ever met Ms. Kinney you know how persuasive she could be – others at NSA of the viability and necessity for this program. Take the opportunity to ask some of your managers about Ms. Kinney, I’m certain many of them knew her, and understand her commitment to this program as well as her contributions to NSA. Know your history, know the people who made this program possible and provided this opportunity to you and pass on that knowledge so that future graduates have an understanding of the great Americans who made this program a reality.
As graduates of this prestigious program and employees of NSA, you have the opportunity to climb an endless ladder to heights you have never achieved before. An important factor in your climb up the ladder of success will be your supervisors and managers. Seek out their advice and guidance, solicit their input on career related decisions, don’t be afraid to get to know them. And for the supervisors and managers, you also have an obligation to help steer these graduates in the right direction so that they have an opportunity to reach the highest heights. It is also important for you to make things interesting for them, to challenge their minds, to encourage them and to support them. After all, a tremendous investment has been made in their future and unless they are challenged, encouraged and supported, it may be difficult to retain them for any length of time. Earlier I implored the graduates not to make NSA just a job, but rather to make it a rich and rewarding career. As supervisors and managers you have the responsibility to create a work friendly, family friendly, youth friendly, challenging, stimulating, diverse and career enhancing environment with incentives that offer these graduates the chance to survive, thrive and build a rewarding and self-fulfilling intelligence career at NSA.
In closing, I again want to congratulate the 2011 Stokes Educational Scholarship Program graduates. You have chosen to dedicate your talents to the public sector and there is no greater reward than public service. Now I know you have read the newspapers, seen on the television, heard on the radio and read in various social media about individuals criticizing the federal government, demeaning federal workers and there are those citizens who even want to destroy the federal government. Remember that your contribution to the country will not be measured by the money you make or by the accolades you receive, but rather by the way in which you share your unique gifts with the world. And the only place to find those gifts is within yourself.
While some of your college classmates have gone on to lucrative jobs in the private sector, you are on the frontlines of contributing to the formulation of policy that will ensure the continued security of America, of our national and homeland security, of our financial security of our morals, values, democracy and Constitution which provides freedom, justice and equality to all. And while your classmates who work in the private sector may touch upon and impact specific areas and individuals in society, the work you do – whether it is in support of evolving our understanding of and analytic information gathering techniques against loosely formed groups of non-state actors, enhancing our techniques and capabilities to target new over-the-horizon terrorism techniques that will develop, preparing for the shifts in financing methods and the ways that illicit actors choose to move funds, developing new techniques to address off the grid and rogue financial systems outside the scope of current information-gathering activities, counter-narcotics efforts, counter-proliferation activities, techniques against state actors or whatever discipline you are involved in – your work will influence policy makers and our political leadership, your efforts will impact every American even those yet to be born, your work will touch citizens around the world who themselves embrace the principles of democracy, justice for all, human and civil rights for all. Moreover, your work will ensure that those individuals who berate the Federal Government and federal workers, continue to enjoy the fundamental right of freedom of speech that allows them to express themselves openly and freely as well as guarantee that those individuals who associate success with money and turn a negative eye towards government service, have the liberty to continue to enjoy their riches in this,the land of freedom and opportunity.
You all may have a vision of what your future career will look like, and at this point in time, I understand your vision may be a little cloudy. But let me suggest to you the following: your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes. So today I remind you all to look into your hearts and be awakened to the intelligence community, be awakened to a rewarding and enriching career at NSA, be awakened to achieving heights that we expect of you, but which you may not yet know is possible and be awakened to the prospect of introducing the next generation to a higher standard of living.Back