Robert Gates, former defense chief, to deliver annual Marshall Lecture

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian Arts & Features Reporter



The United States’ 22nd Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, will deliver the 17th Marshall Lecture in Vancouver next month.

Gates, who started as an entry-level employee at the CIA and rose up the ranks to become a deputy national security adviser at the White House, director of Central Intelligence and eventually defense secretary, will speak at 11 a.m. April 11 at Hudson’s Bay High School, 1206 E. McLoughlin Blvd. The event is free and open to everyone.

“We are honored to have Secretary Gates deliver the 2013 Marshall Lecture,” said Elson Strahan, president and CEO of the Fort Vancouver National Trust, which sponsors the annual lecture series. “General Marshall and Secretary Gates have not only shared a professional connection in their service to our county … but they also share a dedication to and passion for education that is an inspiration and in keeping with the core mission of the Fort Vancouver National Trust.”

Gates has had a stellar and storied career in national service. He joined the Central Intelligence Agency in 1966 and also became a second lieutenant and intelligence analyst in the Air Force. He returned to the CIA in 1969, left again in 1974 to serve on the staff of the National Security Council, and returned to the CIA in 1979.

He was nominated to become CIA director in 1987 but withdrew his name because of his role in the Iran-Contra scandal. He was nominated again in 1991, and confirmed — making him the only CIA employee ever to rise all the way from entry-level employee to leader. He served as CIA chief until 1993, and then stepped into private life until he became Secretary of Defense in 2006, under President George W. Bush.

President Barack Obama kept him on in the role until he left in 2011. On his last day in office, Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor.

Gates has also won the National Security Medal and the Presidential Citizens Medal; he has won the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal and the CIA’s Distinguished Intelligence Medal three times each.

The Marshall Lecture is the signature event of Celebrate Freedom, a joint program of the Trust and the city of Vancouver. The lecture honors General George C. Marshall, who served at Vancouver Barracks as commander of the 5th Infantry Brigade from 1936 to 1938. Marshall went on to win worldwide fame as what Winston Churchill called the “organizer of victory” in World War II, serving as United States Army Chief of Staff and chief military adviser to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He became Secretary of State and earned the Nobel Peace Prize for his plan to rebuild Europe after the war.

For more information about the Marshall Lecture and Celebrate Freedom, visit or call 360-992-1800.