Robert Gates will be Spring Commencement Speaker for The University of Texas at Austin

March 27, 2012

AUSTIN, Texas — Former Secretary of Defense and former Texas A&M University president Robert M. Gates will deliver the keynote address during the 2012 spring commencement ceremony at The University of Texas at Austin on May 19.

Robert Gates

Robert Gates

Gates, who is currently chancellor of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., will address the about 8,000 spring graduates and their guests during the 8 p.m. ceremony on the university’s Main Mall.

“Robert Gates is not only a former colleague and an intellectual leader but a model of service to our nation,” said Bill Powers, president of The University of Texas at Austin. “I’m personally eager to hear what he has to say and excited that our new graduates and their families are going to have the benefit of his global insights.”

“Because of his leadership in higher education and prominence in the public sector, I think Secretary Gates will be a great speaker to talk to students about their accomplishment of graduating from a great institution, and how to leverage that to tackle the challenges of the future,” said Student Government President Natalie Butler.

Gates served as the nation’s 22nd secretary of defense from 2006 to 2011 and is the only secretary of defense in U.S. history to be asked to remain in office by a newly elected president. He served under eight U.S. presidents, including George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

On Gates' last day in office, President Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honor.

Gates began his public service career in 1966, when he joined the Central Intelligence Agency. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S Air Force the following year and spent nearly 27 years as an intelligence professional, including service at the National Security Council and White House. He was director of Central Intelligence from 1991 until 1993, the only career officer in CIA's history to rise from entry-level employee to director.

He also served as interim dean of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M from 1999 to 2001 and president of the university from 2002 to 2006.

Gates has been awarded the National Security Medal, the Presidential Citizens Medal, has three times received the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, and has three times received CIA's highest award, the Distinguished Intelligence Medal.

He is the author of the memoir "From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insiders Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War," published in 1996.

Until becoming secretary of defense, Gates was chairman of the Independent Trustees of The Fidelity Funds, the nation's largest mutual fund company, and on the board of directors of NACCO Industries, Inc., Brinker International, Inc. and Parker Drilling Company, Inc.

Gates has also served on the board of directors and executive committee of the American Council on Education, the board of directors of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges and the national executive board of the Boy Scouts of America. He has also been president of the National Eagle Scout Association.

A native of Kansas, Gates received his bachelor's degree from the College of William and Mary, his master's degree in history from Indiana University and his doctorate in Russian and Soviet history from Georgetown University.  Gates was installed as chancellor of the College of William and Mary in February 2012.

For more information, contact: Robert D. Meckel, Office of the President, 512 475 7847.

38 Comments to "Robert Gates will be Spring Commencement Speaker for The University of Texas at Austin"

1.  Majesta Majorca said on April 1, 2012

For once, couldn't UT invite someone who is actually notable for something we can be proud of to deliver the commencement address?

War Criminals and Syncophants for the GWB administration makes me sick and ashamed.

Although I will be graduating this year, I would not consider for one moment sharing the stage with this man who is responsible for the deaths of thousands.

2.  Majesta Majorca said on April 2, 2012

I am ashamed that my commencement ceremony will honor a man I consider a war criminal, along with George W. Bush.

I am also disappointed that honest criticisms of Robert Gates and what he represents are not allowed on this comment site.

3.  Majesta Majorca said on April 2, 2012

It is a shame that someone like Robert Gates, a professional spy and someone who helped to engage the U.S. in wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan is going to speak to our graduates.

Couldn't we get a guy who isn't in the killing business?

4.  Majesta Majorca said on April 2, 2012

Robert Gates is responsible for thousands of deaths and should not be honored, but arrested.

A war criminal should not be speaking at my commencement.

Couldn't you people find someone honorable?

5.  Samara K. Siegfried said on April 2, 2012

I am saddened that you would consider having this man as a speaker. What has he done for humanity? His actions are not that of a leader.

6.  Mark McKown said on April 2, 2012

A controversial figure, I guess he is speaking without a fee. I can't think of another reason he would be this schools choice.

7.  Majesta Majorca said on April 2, 2012

I apologize for my multiple posts. I had been posting for a couple of days and none of my posts were showing up, so I thought (mistakenly) I was being censored.

I am happy to know that comments critical of this commencement speaker are being allowed.

8.  Majesta Majorca said on April 2, 2012

This is what happened in 2009 when Gates was invited to the University of Washington to speak at their commencement ceremony.

"War Criminal Robert Gates Protest - 2009 University of Washington Graduation

We, the undersigned students, faculty, staff, alumni and other concerned members of the University of Washington community, strongly object to the decision to have Secretary of Defense Robert Gates speaker at the June 13th UW commencement. Robert Gates should be held accountable for and prosecuted by appropriate legal authorities for the following violations of international law.

* Prosecuting illegitimate pre-emptive wars of aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan
* Bombing civilian populations in Iraq and Afghanistan
* Failure to prosecute officials that carried out the crimes of torture in both Guantanamo and secret C.I.A. rendition sites.

These crimes are fundamentally incompatible with the ethical values of truthfulness, tolerance, and violation of Geneva Convention and the U.N. charter.

War criminals should not be allowed to speak at commencement ceremonies. The University of Washington should rescind its invitation immediately.

There are clips from this video on YouTube here:

9.  Joseph Gauthier said on April 3, 2012


You seem to be conveniently forgetting that Robert Gates also served under President Obama for several years...

10.  Jeff Phillips said on April 5, 2012

Let us not forget he was the former president of A&M.....hmmmm, I guess us "T-sippers" are officially going soft......

11.  Paul Beaver said on April 5, 2012

The Aggies rat out on Texas and leave the Big 12.

Then Texas goes and invites the former President of Aggieland to come and give the keynote address at 2012 Spring Commencement.

Somewhere along the line, the UT Administration must have forgottn why some students choose to be Aggies....and others choose to be LONGHORNS.

12.  Rich said on April 5, 2012

Boooooooooooooo.....Bad choice. Not due to his time as Secretary of Defence but rather because he is an aggie. Lame.

13.  Laura said on April 5, 2012

It is sad that you feel this way. It is because of men like him that we are able to enjoy the freedoms we have in this country.

14.  Joe H said on April 5, 2012

I can't believe that there are so many socialists posting on our beloved UT Web-Site. He's not a War Criminal, you fools. What I also can't believe is that UT has invited an Aggie to give our Commencement Address - now that's sickening.

15.  Majesta Majorca said on April 5, 2012

I have not forgotten that Gates served under Obama.

It is a shame that Obama has not ended both wars, but at least he has officially declared us out of Iraq.

Problem with that is: There are still plenty of our soldiers (and private contractors) still in Iraq and we have made it a very dangerous place to live.

That Robert Gates can work for both Democrats and Republicans simply means that he is truly a hired gun.

Our country has not been made safer by these wars in the Middle East. Having soldiers in Saudi Arabia was what originally enraged Saudis like bin Laden and set them on a path to hate America.

Our country has become insane with oil addiction and the quest for international domination, both economically and militarily. This cannot go well in the long run, as it has not gone well in the past few years.

Those of you just starting out in life, you are facing life in a very diminished version of the American Dream and I guess one of the architects of our country's greatest mistakes, the policy of never-ending war, is maybe the perfect, albeit cynical, person to address the Class of 2012.

Good luck, Class of 2012, if Robert Gates is your idea of a great man, you are truly already sunk.

16.  Majesta Majorca said on April 5, 2012

Yeah, right.

What would someone has to do for you to consider them a war criminal?

Invade a country who never attacked us?

Bomb innocent civilians? Kill hundreds of thousands of them? Torture? Be responsible for the deaths of thousands of American soldiers? The maiming of countless others?

Well, Robert Gates has helped do all of these things.

Honorable? I don't think so.

17.  Melody Simon said on April 5, 2012

Yes, he is a war criminal - the Iraq War was initiated based on lies. That has well been established by now. Also, my education at UT taught me the difference between socialism, fascism and communism - something that the majority of this country seemed to have missed. This choice of speaker is a huge disappointment, not least because he's an Aggie.

18.  Joe H said on April 5, 2012

A couple of inconvenient FACTS: 1) Bin Laden (remember 9-11??) operated under the protection of the Afghanistan Taliban, and 2) Iraq invaded Kuwait (do you not remember that either?), and as part of the Treaty to end that War, Saddam agreed to allow UN Inspectors unfetterred access in Iraq. He later reneged, so that Treaty became Null & Void - so we finished him off. Please quit spewing your venomous hatred of the GREAT USA. If you don't like it, you are FREE to leave.

19.  I'myerdad said on April 5, 2012

So Bobby decides to grace Sodom and Gomorrah with his prescence. I sincerely hope he doesn't get anything on his shoe.

20.  Agbq07 said on April 5, 2012

Dr. Robert Gates is an amazing speaker and I've gotten the opportunity to two of his speeches that put me to tears. He was one of the most respected men in Washington during his time as Secretary of Defense and both political parties appreciated his ability to remain independant.

Gates is anything but a war monger, his focus while Secretary was to make our military safer for the individual, reject high spending budgets for new toys and put it into protecting soldiers, and worked to bring home the troops faster without jeapordizing Iraq's ability to stand on their own.

If you must protest for whatever reason, please be respectful to listen to what he has to say. I promise you will be suprised about how he feels about the entire situation in DC.

21.  Judd Bristo said on April 5, 2012

Gates didn't become SECDEF until well after the invasion of Iraq.

22.  Ralph Yoas said on April 5, 2012

I graduated from UT-Austin in 1959. Perhaps I have mellowed with age but, in my opinion, Robert Gates was one of the more balanced Sec'y of Defense we have had. Don't forget his willingness to take on the powerful in Congress and cut the budget and programs where needed.

23.  texanjeff said on April 5, 2012

Someone has a LOOOOOOOOT of time on her hands...

24.  Lea Elizabeth said on April 5, 2012

I personally find it disgusting for you to be on here attacking this man who has done nothing but strive to keep this great country safe. You label him a "War Criminal" and stated he is responsible for the deaths of thousands, you gripe because we invaded Iraq. But yet, by invading Iraq, we stopped ANOTHER true war criminal with Saddam Hussein. We also finally found Bin Laden and he was terminated. Those things were all done under Dr. Gates' eye. What about the deaths of the thousands of Americans on 9/11? Did you expect the United States to just sit back and say "Yeah, it's okay for you to come over here and kill our people....on our own soil." If that is the type of mentality that you have, then you are seriously disturbed. Before you start attacking this man, you need to get your facts straight and stop spewing off socialistic propaganda. And if you continue to strive to live by this mentality you are projecting, perhaps you would be better off with our friends in Canada.

25.  JT said on April 5, 2012


How many times have you been to Iraq or Afghanistan?

To respond to your "Bombing innocent civilians" comment. It's called war and innocent people die unfortunately. Also, this is an unconventional war. The enemy does not wear a uniform and blends in with civilians. In fact, the enemy actually uses civilians (women and children) as shields.

By "Torture," I'm guessing you mean water boarding and sleep deprivation. This is nothing compared to having your head cut off by a pocket knife like the enemy does. Also, pretty sure this technique led to the courier for UBL and his eventual death. Were you happy when UBL died?

"Responsible for the deaths of thousands of American soldiers." This is a volunteer military. Each soldier CHOSE to enlist into the military to SERVE and PROTECT their country. Their deaths were not in vain. Our troops serving in the middle east have kept terrorism at bay and have denied terrorist safe havens in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"Invade a country who never attacked us." Robert Gates was not even the Secretary of Defense when we invaded was Rumsfeld.

Robert Gates has dedicated his life to serving the United States of America. His job as Secretary of Defense was to do what he felt was right to protect the citizens of this country. You may not believe what he did was right from 2006-2011, but you should RESPECT the man for his life of service. It is more than you have and will ever do in your lifetime. It is HONORABLE!

26.  Jim '96 said on April 5, 2012

I truly hope these comments were not composed by an actual UT student or graduate. Reductionism? Misrepresentation of the facts and fabrication? Personal attacks? Stating opinion as fact? Just about everything one would expect *not* to find in an effective argument, rolled into a ball and coated with vitriol.

Texas could do much worse than to have Dr. Robert Gates speak at commencement. If you dislike him because of his stint at A&M, then you're just as petty as we accuse the Aggies of being. If you dislike him because of your own radical agenda, then I suggest you find another forum, as I highly doubt you're going to change anyone's mind by posting your manifesto in the comments section of this article.

Hook 'em.

27.  chris said on April 6, 2012

tell me a little bit about the LBJ library on campus and who its named after. I sometimes forget which foreign affair his presidency will always be based upon.

28.  jose said on April 6, 2012

Gig'em Aggies!!!


29.  B Miller said on April 6, 2012

You can thank Dr. Gates and American soldiers for securing your freedom to post your thoughts on this website. I am not going to be a graduate of UT, but if given the opportunity to listen to one of the men responsible for eliminating the terrorist behind the 9/11 attacks I would feel honored, blessed, and lucky.

30.  Joe H said on April 6, 2012

We invaded Afghanistan because the Taliban was protecting Bin Laden (remember 9/11?). We invaded Iraq becasue they invaded Kuwait in 1990 and after we kicked him out of there, instead of destroying Saddam and Iraq then, we signed a Treaty, which he agreed to let UN Weapons Inspectors Unfettered Access. He since then reneged on that, so that Treaty was Null & Void, so we finished him off. Hardly War Crimes by anyone in the GREAT USA.

31.  Pablo Serna said on April 6, 2012

His public service record is incredible. Many of us will never accomplish as much in our lifetime. Whether you agree with his politics or not, he has contributed much to the course of American foreign policy in the past 20 years.

32.  Yusa Yuro said on April 7, 2012

As a UT alumnus, I am somewhat embarrased that many of these comments made by supposed UT graduates sound like they were made by kindergartners. Take your headphones out of your ears, learn to think for yourself, and show some respect.

33.  chris said on April 7, 2012

Secretary Gates is a wonderful human being and a great leader ! He has done a lot for humanity and had always made sure that the soldiers were taken care of so that they could serve the country to the best of their abilities and safest possible ways and made sure they got prompt assistance when they're injured!
Don't forget that he won the President Medal of Freedom which is the highest civilian award!

34.  DAVE PHILLIPS in Reno, NV said on April 10, 2012

O.K., I'll "cut across the faux cynicism" of UofTexas under-graduates' misplaced diatribes on next month's Commencement [May, 2012]. ** How many have actually read Robert Gates' prior books - plural? OR - more likely - are you merely, uncritically, reflecting the classroom broad brush treatment some of your faculty express, while hiding behind - only their - 'academic freedom', eh? ** How many know Gates is working on yet another memoir from public office, and that his record of service to this nation rivals anything these 20-somethings shall likely realize in a lifetime? ** Also on your Austin campus is a retired US Navy Admiral - Bobby R. Inman, whose service - like Mister Gates - included highly decorated time with the US Intelligence Community! ** You in the Texas heartland rightly should be proud of both Messrs. Inman & Gates. ** Even from this distance between your campus and where I shall soon resume private college teaching at Incline Village, NV -- I ADMIRE BOTH MEN!

35.  DAVE PHILLIPS in Reno, NV said on April 10, 2012

PLEASE SEND ME A COPY OF THIS "Press Release Announcement' for my records, with advance thanks! -30-

36.  Kris said on April 16, 2012


37.  John said on April 20, 2012

I graduate this Spring and I am totally pumped about him being there. Politics aside he was a Secretary of Defense and Director of Central Intelligence, it's going to be interesting for sure.

@Majesta Majorca: I guess we should just let the whole 9/11 thing slide. "War Criminal" give me a break.

The ONLY downside - he was president of ATM. I'll just pretend he was there trying to fix the place....

38.  jacob said on May 28, 2012

If you couldn't attend A&M at least you can be mentored by Aggies.