Former U.S Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates accepted the 2012 Elliot L. Richardson Prize for Excellence in Public Service in a March 14th ceremony in Washington, DC. The Richardson Prize was established with support from The Hitachi Foundation and Hitachi, Ltd. to honor those individuals who possess the generosity of spirit, integrity, rigor and pursuit of excellence in public service that were Richardson’s defining qualities.

Secretary Gates served with distinction during an era of involvement in two wars – Iraq and Afghanistan. And he is the only Secretary of Defense in U.S. history to be asked to remain in that office by a newly-elected President. President Barack Obama is the eighth president Gates served. He was first appointed to the post by President George W. Bush.

Joe Kasputys, who served with Richardson in government and was recruited by him to the Hitachi Foundation Board, opened the evening’s event with a moving tribute. “Somewhere, Elliot Richardson is smiling,” said Kasputys. “The principles of the award and characteristics of Elliot’s distinguished career are appropriately and honorably associated with tonight’s honoree.”

Mr. Gates is one of only two people in U.S. history to have initially served as entry-level federal civil servants and to rise to Cabinet rank. Gates joined the Central Intelligence Agency in 1966 and spent nearly 27years as an intelligence professional. He served nine years at the National Security Council, The White House, serving four presidents of both political parties. He is the only career officer in the entire history of the CIA to have risen from entry-level employee to director.

Mr. Gates was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor, on his last day in office by President Obama. He has also received the National Security Medal, the Presidential Citizens Medal, three National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medals, and three Distinguished Intelligence Medals from the CIA. He is the author of the memoir From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insiders Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold Ward and is working on a new memoir expected for publication in late 2013.

About the award: Elliot L. Richardson was the founding chairman of the Hitachi Foundation, a post accepted in 1985 at the invitation of then Hitachi President Dr. Katsughige Mita. Richardson’s vision guided the Foundation through its formative years and for the first twelve years of its existence. His purposeful leadership and graceful touch are reflected across the full breadth of the Foundation’s programs even today. With support from The Hitachi Foundation, Hitachi Group Companies, and other donors, the Prize was established to recognize individuals for extraordinary public service in the fine tradition of Mr. Richardson who served as a beacon of integrity and commitment to the public service. Previous recipients of this award are Colin Powell, Alice Rivlin, George Schultz, Norman Mineta, Sandra Day O’Connor, Lee Hamilton, George Mitchell, James Baker, and Tom Kean.

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