The National Football Foundation & College Football Hall of Fame announced today Robert M. Gates, former U.S. Secretary of Defense, as 2011 recipient of the NFF Gold Medal. The organization’s highest honor, the Gold Medal recognizes significant career success, and those who have excelled in amateur sport, particularly football.
Like I’ve said numerous times before, the game of football is a metaphor for war, playing football can serve as a stand-in for military service, and the business of football and the military-industrial complex are completely intertwined and have been since day one.
Originally presented to U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower at the inaugural NFF Annual Awards Dinner in 1958, the Gold Medal boasts an impressive list of past recipients, including seven U.S. Presidents, four U.S. Generals, three U.S. Admirals, one U.S. Supreme Court Justice, 28 Corporate CEOs and Chairmen, John Wayne and Jackie Robinson. Gates will become the 57th recipient of the award, and he follows Bill Cosby, the highly acclaimed entertainer, humanitarian and scholar, who claimed the honor in 2010. (See below for the full list of past recipients.)
Gates began his career as an intelligence analyst in the 1960s, and he steadily climbed the government ranks during a four-decade career that spanned service to eight U.S. Presidents, including positions at the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Council, and the Department of Defense. He became CIA director under President George H.W. Bush, serving from 1991-1993, and he holds the distinction of being the first person to ever rise from an entry-level position to CIA director. After a stint in academia, Gates returned to Washington in 2006 at the request of President George W. Bush to succeed U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and to help fight simultaneous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
After the Democrats assumed control of both houses in the 2006 mid-term elections, Bush realized he could no longer protect Rumsfeld, an embattled official who (rightfully) came under a heavy amount of criticism. Although he was the ultimate unintentional quote machine.
“there are unknown knowns, known unknowns, known knowns, unknown unknowns,”
“we know where they are, they’re in Tikrit, and east, west, north and south of there.”
Rumsfeld resigned and Gates became the only U.S. secretary of defense in history to serve under presidents from both political parties when President Barack Obama asked him after the 2008 election to continue his service with the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He retired in June 2011 as defense secretary during a ceremony where he accepted the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President Obama.
Between retiring from the CIA in 1993 and before returning to Washington in 2006, Gates pursued a career in academia. He served as a lecturer at nine universities, sat on advisory boards at the University of Oklahoma and the College of William & Mary, and evaluated student theses for the international studies program at the University of Washington. Gates also served as President of Texas A&M.
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