Donald Rumsfeld, Former U.S. Secretary of Defense, Speaks at the Leadership Institute

September 5, 2012 | By Lauren Hart

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld met with friends and supporters of the Leadership Institute this morning at the monthly Wednesday Wake-Up Club Breakfast. Secretary Rumsfeld was America’s 13th and 21st U.S. Secretary of Defense serving in the Bush and Ford administrations.

“Let me just thank the Leadership Institute for all you folks do,” Secretary Rumsfeld said. “This is a terrific organization and what LI is doing is enormously important…LI is something that deserves recognition.”

In his remarks for breakfast attendees, Secretary Rumsfeld gave his thoughts on current affairs and answered many questions from the audience.

“I worry about intelligence,” Secretary Rumsfeld shared today at the Leadership Institute. “I worry about the fact that we live in a dangerous and difficult world and there are a number of closed societies. It’s very difficult to have a good grip on what’s taking place in the world. It’s even more worrisome that weapons have become increasingly lethal and the proliferation of highly lethal weapons has increased.”

He continued, “What worries me most is American weakness. Throughout my adult life, the United States has been an important presence in the world. The fact that we’ve existed and the fact that we’ve behaved responsibly with respect to how we’ve managed our economy…that provided stability in the world, a deterrent. It suggested to people that the United States was there, we were part of the rib cage in the world, the structure, and people had to take account of that.”

He then recounted a phone call he received from a statesman in Southeast Asia: “Don, I never dreamt I’d live to see the day when adults in the White House would be modeling America after Europe, a failed model. And of course, that’s basically what we’re doing,” Rumsfeld said.

“You cannot accumulate and incur, what is it today or yesterday, $16 trillion of debt and not place an almost impossible burden on the next generation,” he said. “We have demonstrated to the world and this statesman that we as a nation are not behaving in a responsible way from the management of our economy. And that signal goes out across the globe and it’s registered in people’s heads and it gives them the freedom to know they can do things that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to do.”

When Secretary Rumsfeld served in the Navy during the Eisenhower administration and then in Congress, the United States spent 10 percent of its GDP on defense, he explained. Today, we spend less than 4 percent.

“The debt and the deficits have not been a result of defense budgets, but a result of entitlements,” he argued.



He added, “Throughout our history, when things got bad, good people changed their priorities, got out of their chairs and did more than they were doing previously. They were energized by their concern…If there’s ever been a time in my 80 years where good people needed to get out of their chairs and push that pendulum back, this is it. And it is particularly important for the coming generations that we do not leave them a country where youngsters coming along will have to look forward to a future that was not as bright and not as optimistic as it has been for each of us in this room.”


Mr. Rumsfeld recently completed writing his number one New York Times bestselling memoir, Known and Unknown.  The book spans his career and includes extensive primary documentation, much of which has been made public on a supporting website, www.Rumsfeld.com.

To watch the full video remarks from today's breakfast, please go here.

For more on Secretary Rumsfeld’s bio, please go here.

For future LI Wednesday Wake-Up Club Breakfasts, please go here.