Ten. And then?
Updated: Jun 4
Wow! Another life milestone passed. Today marks the tenth anniversary of my retirement from NSA, and from Federal Service.
When Susan and I decided it was time, I felt a mix of excitement and sadness. I had never had a professional job except at the National Security Agency. The last few weeks were a blur: handing off projects, saying goodbyes, and making future plans.
Someone gave me some good advice, and I followed it. On that last day of work, Susan and I were already packed and had plane tickets in hand - we were heading straight to Florida to visit with friends. No time to think or regret - a clean escape.
Two weeks later, I was back inside the building for my retirement ceremony, hosted by Gen Alexander.
To mark today's anniversary, I'll share the script of my retirement remarks (below). The script tails off at the end and might seem a little flat. But I knew I didn't have to write it all out, most of what came out of my mouth came straight from the heart.
I'll write soon about the end of my NSA career, and what came next. But for now, let me just say that every day I am grateful for the opportunity to serve my country and my community, working with people that I respect and cherish.
Thank you all for coming today. Susan told me that I should just say “thanks” and be done with it, but that just won’t work for me. After 35 years, there’s too much to say and too many people to thank. But don’t worry - I’ll try to be terse.
I am particularly honored knowing that many of you have come a long way to be here, and knowing that many of you still work for a living. And some of us do not. At least not for a few weeks or so.
You may not realize it, but you are a very eclectic group, representative of all of the people in my life and my career. I have had the chance to work with and learn from an amazing group of people, spanning every part of the Agency, the rest of government, the military, the industry, and everything else you can imagine.
At the risk of leaving someone or something out, I just wanted to say a few words about some of the overlapping groups of folks here today, and why I am so appreciative of your influence on my life and career.
First, the People who welcomed me to NSA and taught me.
I was so lucky to enter NSA in a work environment that was an amazing mix of intellectual rigor, mission accomplishment, and off-the-wall fun. I’ve often said that on any given day, I couldn’t tell if I was working on the Math Faculty or in a Fraternity House. For you NSAers, think “Dickie G”. It took me years to realize that not everyone was so lucky, and so I‘ve done my best to create that same environment in every job I’ve had.
Next, the People who gave me opportunities.
People who challenged me with great assignments, encouraged me to move into management jobs, asked me to step up to bigger responsibilities. People who saw something in me that I did not see. People like Bob M, Jim A, Dan M, Angie G, Dick S, Joe M, Joan, Debbie and so many others.
My Friends across government
People from NIST, and DHS, and OMB, GSA, State Government, my friends at MITRE, and the National Labs, the “rest of NSA” …. I have really loved being in service to the Nation as your Partner and Friend. Our few differences of opinion were just overwhelmed by our common commitment to the security of the Nation. And yes, we a re proud to be Federal employees.
My Friends across the security and IT industry.
Thank you all for your tremendous partnership in the name of the common good. When I decided that the right path for the IA Mission at NSA was to open up our partnerships, you were there to welcome me. In government, we tend to cartoon industry, that everything is measured by the bottom line. But that’s not been my experience at all. We’re all in this for the national good.
My Friends in uniform, current or former
Susan and I both grew up in enlisted military families, so we have at least an inkling of what you do and what you give up in service to the Nation so that we can enjoy freedom. Thank you all. And it’s been my pleasure to find a way to serve you back.
The community of IA professionals
This is the business I was hired into in 1977, and that I never left. Defense can be, or at least used to be, a lonely and thankless business. So thank you all for your dedication and accomplishments. The Nation needs us more than ever.
The IA Leadership Team
I’ve said this before to you, but let me say it publicly again. We were the kids on the sidelines just a few years ago, watching our predecessors; and it wasn’t always a pretty sight. But when our turn came, I can tell you that I feel nothing but pride having been part of this team. Special thanks to Debbie and Rob, Jim, Neal, etc.
My “core team”
Whether for decades, or for a few years, there’s a group of us who have been working together, no matter the organizational structure or who the bosses are. It's a lesson I learned from the legendary Rick Proto early in my career - your personal network will outlast everything the organization will throw at you. Super Special thanks to Andi and Cathy, helping me through this last year. They are representative of the many people who have been my support team.
Many close friends
My family friends, my work friends. I am blessed with many friends – from school, soccer, community and Church. Friends for decades. And to be grounded in that reminds me of why our jobs really matter.
My Mother-In-Law; My little sister., thanks for joining us here today.
From my personal Mission Statement (written in 1993)
- My family is the center of my life, and source of my strength and joy. I strive to be a spouse that gives love fully and unconditionally, that seeks and gives strength, that shares dreams. I teach my children, by example, how to lead a meaningful and joyous life.
- for our kids : Somehow, despite our many mistakes, we raised 3 Smart, independent children, each thoughtful and concerned about the world and the welfare of others, and each an interesting person. Wow!
for Susan: thru all of our adventures together since the late 70’s (?), and especially in the last few, we’ve been through just about everything that life can throw at you, and it’s still amazing together. And in our first few glimpses at the next chapter, it’s getting even better. Lucky me.
FINALLY - My Dad
My dad was my inspiration for public service. He was an authentic West By-Gawd Virginia hillbilly (and proud of it), a child of the Depression who knew poverty, unemployment, and hunger. He was a Navy SeaBee in WWII, then joined the Army for a full career, Civil Service afterwards. He ran away from home with a 7th grade education, but eventually got his GED and a College degree – and became the first Master Instructor at Aberdeen Proving Ground (of Diesel Mechanics). From him I learned many things, among them: to do your best no matter how humble your circumstances; and that Happiness is a choice. For all that he saw, when others might have chosen despair or anger, he chose joy.
I share my Dad’s middle name, Wilson – and he was named after the President at the time of his birth, Woodrow Wilson
You are not here merely to prepare to make a living. You are here to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, and with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world. You impoverish yourself if you forget this errand.
//Swarthmore College, 1913
~ Woodrow Wilson (1856 - 1924)
That’s the kind of life my Dad lived - a life of quiet service to others through Family, career, Church.
Thanks again to each and every one of you, and to the folks you represent. I have been so very blessed: to have a great family, to have had a great career, to serve my country, and to work in the company of great people.
Every day has been a good day – some more so than others, I must admit.
My career arc has been:
· Wow, I have a real job!
· Wow, this is a really COOL job!
· This is my career, I should try and get better at it.
· This is a really IMPORTANT job.
· This is my calling, I am supposed to be here, this is my place in the Universe, or as the kids say, “I’m livin’ the dream!”
And so I have to end with a musical thought.
"I'm still living the dream we had; for me, it's not over." -- Neil Young, "Big Time"