Rand Beers '64, this year’s recipient of the James Wright Award for Distinguished Service, is part of the long green line of Dartmouth alumni who have served their country in the military. A graduate of Dartmouth’s Navy ROTC program, Beers served as a Marine Corps officer in the Vietnam War from 1964–1968.
After working for the foreign service for more than a decade, Beers went on to serve with distincition in many top-level national security roles, including as director of peacekeeping and as acting secretary of homeland security. Learn more about his career.
Dartmouth Uniformed Service Alumni presented Beers the award during the fourth annual Veterans banquet at the Collis Center on November 6, 2015. Previous recipients of the Wright award include World War II veteran Clinton Gardner ’44 and Marine Corps major general Burke Whitman ’78.
Here are Beers' remarks:
Thank you Winnie Huang, President Wright, and other guests this evening.
As some of you may know, I come from a family of preachers and teachers and public servants and it never occurred to me that I would do anything else. As a kid, I had always wanted to go to West Point, but when it came time to go to college I chose Dartmouth and the NROTC, only to discover that Sylvanus Thayer the father of West Point was a Dartmouth graduate. How ironic, trading the “long grey line” for the even longer “green line”. I have now taken the oath of office “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States” eight times, the first time at Dartmouth. And I have been blessed to have had the opportunity to be a public servant all these forty-two years -- as a Marine Corps officer in Vietnam, at the State Department, at DHS including as Acting Secretary, and amongst all that, four NSC assignments under the last five Presidents. Not a career I could have planned, not a career I could have expected, but certainly a career I have cherished.
It’s now been fifty-five years since I became a lowly Midshipman at Dartmouth, and I have witnessed a lot of history and a lot of changes. When I came back from Vietnam in 1968, I returned to a divided country in which many viewed the US military in a very negative light and did so for a number of years thereafter. Fortunately, that view has largely disappeared. But sadly, it has been superseded by an equally troubling view, namely that government as a whole is the problem, that government officials are the problem, and public servants and the public programs they administer have become scapegoats for all that is perceived as wrong in the country. This is not to say that the government is without fault, but those problems do not translate into the wholesale condemnation of government.
You know, after all these years, I guess I am still in many ways a naïve idealist. I came to serve because of the mission. I didn’t come for the money. I didn’t come expecting a forty hour work week with lots of time off. I came to be a part of an effort to protect our citizens from harm. I came to help make our country and our world a safer and more secure place. I came believing that if people of good will come together and work hard they can accomplish a lot and we will all be better for it. These are the ideals instilled in me by my family; these are the values taught me at Dartmouth; these are the notions laid down at our country’s founding. And I know these are sentiments held by all of you or you wouldn’t be here. Service, College, Country.
We all know that the world we live in can be a dangerous and unforgiving place. We know that the decisions are often difficult. We know not every problem can be solved. We know there will be mistakes. We know there will be criticism and second-guessing. But still we come to serve. And we choose to come knowing that this is not a path that most of our citizens choose.
Public service, in all its forms as represented in this room and beyond, is what protects and holds this country together both for the moment and for a better tomorrow through military and economic crises, through natural and manmade disasters and through political foolishness. And I am proud and honored to be able to say that I have been a small part of that public service, a small part in helping to protect this country in which I was so fortunate to have been born. That, for me, is thanks enough for a wonderful career."
Thank you for this wonderful honor. Your humble public servant. –Rand Beers '64, November 6, 2015