Mattis Emphasizes ‘Service to Others’ as Key American Strength

  • Published
  • By Lisa Ferdinando
  • DoD News, Defense Media Activity

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis saluted community volunteers and emphasized the importance of service to others, saying giving back and putting others before self are core to America’s strength.

Mattis spoke last night at the Tri-Citian of the Year awards ceremony in Kennewick, Washington. The annual ceremony in southeastern Washington honors individuals who demonstrate an exceptional commitment to service above self.

Mattis said he was happy to be back in his home state, and credited his parents and the community for instilling in him the enduring values of service.

His four decades in the Marine Corps taught him about service culture, the warrior ethos and traits that make a good leader, Mattis said.

“I am not just the secretary of defense … I'm the secretary of your defense,” he said. “As a result, I am answerable to you. I am accountable to you and I want you to know I take that very seriously.”

Helping Others ‘Cuts Your Own Troubles in Half’

Mattis commended event attendees for their service in the community and commitment to helping the next generation.

The goal that all children should wake up in communities that believe in them, nurture them and provide the support they need to thrive, “reminds us again that goodness can be done in the world when people unite together,” he said.

"Through your service you may carry your choice about what kind of world we want for our children,” he said. “We all know what America stands for; we have to be equally clear of what we will absolutely not tolerate in the world and we're willing to put ourselves on the line for it.”

Service above self and putting others’ well-being above your own are “simple but worthwhile ideals, and to do so cuts your own troubles in half and it amplifies the good and truism," he said.

He saluted all those who serve, highlighting service can entail so many things, to include helping children at school or families who need food, or serving as a police officer, firefighter or member of the military.

"We are masters of our own character, choosing what we stand for in this life," he said. "It's often in the service to others that we are able to have the biggest and most positive impact, permitting us to learn about ourselves and to test ourselves as we see each other through the rough patches in life."

Importance of Inclusiveness

Mattis stressed the importance of inclusiveness and equality. He noted Kennewick sits on the Columbia River, a significant location in American history.

It was there at the mouth of the river in 1805, a black man, a slave named York; a Native American woman named Sacajawea; and two young Army officers, Meriweather Lewis and William Clark, voted as equals in deciding to cross the river to winter.

It was the first time in the history of the republic that a black man, a Native American, a woman, and white men voted as equals, Mattis pointed out.

"I think that long-range Army reconnaissance mission that you and I know as the Lewis and Clark expedition is one we should all be proud of and remember what [Abraham] Lincoln said, 'Follow your better angels,'” he said.

Mattis added, “That's what they did that day. That's our responsibility."

(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis speaks at the Tri-Citian of the Year awards ceremony in Kennewick, Wash., May 3, 2018. Mattis emphasized the importance of community service, saying service above self, inclusiveness and helping others are core to America’s strength. Tri-Citian courtesy photo