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Homeland Security

American Forces Press Service

Rumsfeld Gives Students the Pentagon's Perspective on Terrorism, Iraq

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 7, 2003 -- Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld today shared the Pentagon's perspective on the war against terrorism and Iraq with more than 100 visiting high school students.

The students were participants in the annual U.S. Senate Youth Program, sponsored by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation. Created in 1962 by the U.S. Senate, the program brings outstanding students here from across America for a week's visit to witness how the federal government works. The students toured the Supreme Court, the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Pentagon and the White House.

Of the 104 students in this year's group, two students each were selected by their state boards of education; two by the Washington, D.C., Board of Education; and two by the Department of Defense Education Activity from DoD-run overseas schools. The Hearst Foundation paid trip expenses and also provided each student a $5,000 scholarship.

The student group, which had visited with President Bush just the day before, received a Pentagon tour before meeting with Rumsfeld.

The secretary opened his remarks by urging the students to stay abreast of the government's role in current events. Regarding the debate over what to do about Iraq, Rumsfeld remarked that global terrorism -- possibly married with the destructive capability of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction -- "poses a problem for the world of a different order" from Cold War threats.

"That's why you're seeing these debates ... they are tough questions," he explained.

The government of Iraq, Rumsfeld noted, is a repressive dictatorship that invaded Kuwait in 1990 and has used its chemical weapons of mass destruction on its own people and the Iranians.

"It is a country that the world has tried to deal with unsuccessfully for at least 12 years since the end of the Gulf War," the secretary pointed out. All diplomatic efforts to convince Iraq to disarm have failed, he noted.

Iraq continues to develop weapons of mass destruction despite 17 U.N. resolutions; consequently, it is a threat to the United States and freedom-loving nations of the world, Rumsfeld pointed out.

"And, there are al Qaeda in Iraq," he added.

Department of Defense Education Activity high school seniors Joe McFadden, 18, from Ansbach High School in Germany, and Timothy Nikolai, 18, from Mannheim American High School, Mannheim, Germany, said they were impressed with Rumsfeld's address. The two introduced the secretary to the assembly. Both said they'd like to work someday for the federal government.

McFadden said it was "fantastic" to meet the president and the defense secretary. The students also had toured the Sept. 11 memorial in the Pentagon. The experience, he said, convinced him "there are some things worth defending ... and worth fighting for."

Nikolai said he has been "interested in government for a long time. ... This (trip) gave me a chance to test that interest and find out, yes, it is a real interest." He noted with pride that his father is an Army officer currently serving in the Persian Gulf region.

Keith Taton, president of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, in Reston, Va., said the Senate program attracts "the best and the brightest" students from across America. It gives students an opportunity to explore employment options within the federal government, he added.

"Many of our top American leaders have said, 'Don't forget public service,' to include the armed forces," Taton remarked.

The students also "get a great chance to come together and quiz some of America's greatest" leaders, he concluded.


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