Chuck Hagel: Effects of Sexual Misconduct 'Ripple Far and Wide'

Defense secretary's West Point commencement speech addresses sexual abuse in the military.
17:32 | 05/25/13

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Transcript for Chuck Hagel: Effects of Sexual Misconduct 'Ripple Far and Wide'
Like every man and woman who has stepped forward to serve in uniform. You made a courageous decision to offer yourself were very purposeful life. This institution has educated trained and inspired you to help shoulder the -- defense of our nation. You've learned the meaning of duty honor and country. And you'll now be asked to lead our nation's soldiers. An awesome responsibility. My time -- appreciate me for -- As it did for so many in the stadium today. And while tactics and techniques in training. All surely have changed. In the decade since I was -- here. And since many who have -- The basic principles. Of soldiering and leadership. Remain Hussein. Character and courage. Are still the indispensable prerequisite -- of life and leadership. In Vietnam island to combat is a furnace that can consume you. Or it can afford -- into something better and stronger than you work for. But it requires leaders. To help bring up -- basketball's. Many U and the corps of cadets were prior service have already learned. Learn these hard -- of war you've also seen what is expected of young officers. Young officers in today's new military. New demands. Of a shifting and complicated world. Great leaders are men and women who know who they are. What they believe. And where they want to go. Great leaders listen. And they listen carefully. Behind my desk in the Pentagon hang the portraits of two of the army's greatest leaders. Men who played defining roles in shaping of America and the world. Dwight David Eisenhower West Point class of 1915. And George catlett Marshall. -- your body every dimension of leadership. In particular they were intense listeners and deep thinkers. And they knew when to act. And when not direct. There are differences and there are consequences for -- They were never intimidated by failure or mistakes. We all have them we all make today but they learned it made adjustments and made wider wiser decisions as a result of those experiences. Most important part of leadership is taking responsibility for your actions and decisions. And holding all around you accountable. The military career general Eisenhower provides one of the greatest examples of this kind of accountability. And you all I'm sure know the story. On the eve of the Normandy invasion which you would command. Eisenhower scribbled a message on a piece of paper in the event that. Eisenhower's -- words hung in my senate office for twelve years. And they rare. Our landings have failed and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place. Was based on the best information available. The troops the air and the navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. Give any blame or fault attaches to this attempt. It is mine alone. That is accountability. And I often think of that story when I look at Eisenhower's portrait in my pentagon office. Eisenhower simple and honest statement should be a guiding post for all. All of us in positions of authority and responsibility. And for all of you. As you embark. -- your military careers. Remember always that the coin of the realm of leadership. Is trust. In preparation for your career you've been taught how to shoot and -- that -- -- accomplice to -- course toward an objective. You've scrambled through these Granite Hills is new cadets and euros learning how to guide -- shelves. Then you -- them again as rising person's learning how to cut others. You know by now that the greatness of leaders lies in her ability to shoot an asthma that is straight and true. Even under hostile fire. Or trying circumstances. I'd just as -- -- Agile be flexible. But don't get thrown off course -- -- always present distractions. And uncontrollable so life where they were always impressed. Leaders don't cut corners. We are faced with difficult decisions you'll always note. That the right thing to do is the right thing to do do it. Listen to yourself. And be guided by what you believe is right. Standing against the crowded choosing a harder right instead of the ease your wrong. As the -- prayer which -- can be very lonely and frightening times. And it requires immense moral courage. But it -- -- if you will over the long haul and throughout July. As you embark and you -- profession you're charged with a clear responsibility of helping ensure that the army of there is prepared for the future. Just as Europe -- prepared here on the Hudson. Pay attention to your environment. Pay attention to your surroundings. And pay attention to all around. And listen carefully to your and -- For -- and CEOs will help you engage in navigate. And -- keep you out of the deep ditches command. The army -- senator today you better today is emerge. This army today is emerging and in many ways recovery. It's recovering from more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. During what has been the longest period of sustained combat an American history. The ground forces have shouldered -- very heavy bird. During the fighting in the done. And adapting under fire to a kind of conflict. Far different than what the army's leadership trained and prepared for after the Cold War. A new army is being -- And you'll be present it. -- that new army that's being shape. And you'll have the responsibility. Of helping shape. And you'll have the responsibility. For helping lead it. And this all during a very complicated. And uncertain time in the world. The past decade and reinforce -- consistent theme in history of America's. Forces. We can never predict when. Where and hop. We will be called upon to fight. The only thing we can predict. Is that wars are unpredictable. And they remain a fundamentally human endeavor. Those who believe that war can be waged with precision from a distance. With minimal personal risk. Would do well to remember us. These great uncertainties have implications for the kinds of thinkers and leaders the army in America -- need you to beat. The challenge will face is how to build on the skills honed during the past decade of war. While preparing for conflicts and are likely to take on a new. An unfamiliar form. Have to do this. In an army that we'll have fewer people. Have less money than -- had in recent years. You're entering the military at a time when the world was undergoing. Historic transformation. In new world order is being constructed. This -- Like others before it calls for American leadership and engagement. That leadership -- include continuing to build coalitions of common interests. Strengthening alliances. And forging. New ones. The words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt -- his fourth inaugural on January 20 1945. -- even more loudly today when he said. We have learned that we cannot live -- -- -- That our own well being. Is dependent on the well being of other nations far far away. We have -- to -- citizens of the world members of the human community. Understand that there are rarely quick and easy solutions to every problem. There are evolving solutions. That require managing problems to the higher ground resolution. And ultimately. To a solution. Too many costly strategic and tactical mistakes have been made by not appreciating. This complicated reality in world affairs. All this will matter little however if the army you lead. Is not maintain -- they're ready discipline and cohesive force. -- the army returns to garrison after more than a decade of constant deployments. Some of the strains and stresses placed on soldiers and their trauma injuries -- And the same time. Budget constraints are forcing the -- along with all ourselves. To curtail training and cancel exercise it's impacting readiness and morale. Meanwhile other threats to the health and the quality of the all volunteer force are increased. Alcohol. And drug abuse. Suicide and mental illness sexual harassment and sexual assault. You'll need to do not just deal. With these debilitating insidious. And destructive forces. -- rather you must be the generation of leaders that stopped. This will require your complete commitment to building a culture of respect. And dignity. For every member of the military and society. Sexual harassment and sexual assault military temporary profound. The trail. A profound betrayal. Of sacred -- And sacred trust. Discouraged must be stamped out. We're all accountable and responsible for ensuring that just happens. We cannot fail the army or America. We cannot fail each other. And we cannot fail the men and women. That we -- As President Obama said yesterday at the Naval Academy. These crimes have no place have no place in the greatest military on earth. While the army today continues to be under stress. It is also far more professional adaptable lethal and capable than it's ever been. It is likewise drawing more diverse. We are all benefited. From the continued expansion of opportunities for women. To serve our military. The united states military has long benefited from the service of gay men and lesbians. Now they serve openly -- -- honor integrity and respect. That makes this army. Much strong. You know from your time here arrest warrant will continue to learn from the world. Of all generations and leaders. Americans. Of past generations. Of America's army's leadership. This will be important as you confront the new challenges. Of today. And tomorrow. This morning. I have focused on your responsibilities. To the soldiers who command and to the institution to lead. But the army. Also has obligations to you. In particular. It has a responsibility to put in -- culture and an organization that enables you to grow and succeed. I -- hope. Our leaders sitting here today. All of army's leadership across the globe. Work every day. To achieve that. Accomplished. An important objective that never ever ends. America will always need an army to cultivate its best and brightest leaders provides them and their families with incentives to remain insurers. We always take care of our people. You must always take your your people. In preparing for today. I reflected on many of my. Experiences. I reflected on my own experiences. In particular. During my days in the -- And all the couple great opportunities I've had in my life to serve this country. And I thought about what insights I might. Be able to leave you with the and not. To minimize this opportunity that you've given me to be with you today. That reflection brought me to -- concluding observations. If your reflection not about my own experience not about me. Rather it's about someone else. A professional soldier who walk these grounds -- a young cadet fifty years ago. Robert George heats. Was a member west point's class of 1965. He was outstanding writer who helped put together general Douglas macarthur's memorial -- -- established west -- history club and became its first president. After graduation he completed airborne ranger schools married his high school sweetheart. And volunteer for duty in Vietnam. A few months after arriving in Vietnam. Captain -- took command. Of my company. -- company second battalion 47 infantry. Night after division. Within ten days of taking command. On February 2 1968. Shortly before -- -- -- He was killed. I was there. Captain -- disparity at West Point cemetery along side other heroes. Other heroes. Of the long -- line. Including 33 of the more than ninety West Point graduates who have died in uniform since September 11 2001. One of -- keeps Brothers Walter -- And his West Point roommate Robert -- -- here with us today. Captain keeps -- funerals service. A letter he had sent as a cadet was -- a lot. He wrote of being an idealist. Committed to upholding and defending American values and virtues. His letter included the following words. I am gonna fight to save the ideal now. I -- until the -- idea. The world can only be saved -- people who were striving for the ideal. I know we show where. It can be no other way. Wherever you go. Whatever you do. Remember that like Robert George keeps. You chose to be -- soldier. At a very defining time in our nation's history. You two are fighting for an ideal. As a classic -- -- thirteen motto says. You are defending the dream. America needs you. And it will count on you to uphold this ideal. In captain -- worse. It can be no other way. Thank you for your what you do for a country. And thank you to your -- Please. God bless you. Okay.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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