Five of the seniors were asked to sit on stage with Gates and Constitution Center President & CEO David Eisner during the Q & A session which took place before an audience of 200 people including ROTC cadets from St. Joseph’s University and the University of Pennsylvania.
For 90 minutes Gates answered questions on a range of topics–from the future of the military, to the status of Middle East diplomacy, to the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t tell policy.
He also discussed his experiences serving two consecutive Presidents (George W. Bush and Barack Obama), and the relationship between the press and the military, specifically embedded reporters during a war.
“The good thing is, a wide array of journalists have had firsthand exposure to the incredible young men and women in the military,” he said. “I have yet to find a reporter who has been embedded who doesn’t come away absolutely awestruck by the quality of the young people in our military.
“The problem, though, with an embedded reporter,” Gates continued, “is that it’s like watching the war through a soda straw. They get a very limited perspective.”
The students found Secretary Gates’ remarks both insightful and enlightening and they were thrilled to have the opportunity to meet and shake the hand of such a significant force in American politics.
John Damstra of Newtown Square, found the experience memorable. “We had an incredible opportunity to engage in a discussion with one of the most influential policy makers of the past decade,” the twelfth grader said. “This was a great experience that not many high school students can claim to have had.”
The 67-year-old Gates stepped down on July 1 after serving as defense secretary since 2006, under Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Barack Obama. He presided over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and was involved in key decisions including the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy for gays in the military.
Gates is the only Defense head to serve under both a Republican and Democratic president. He is also the only CIA Director to have reached that level after starting there in an entry-level position.
Devon Prep is a private, Catholic, college preparatory school for young men in grades six to 12 conducted by the Piarist Fathers. The school is located on a 20 acre campus in Devon, Chester County and enrolls nearly 300 students who hail from Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties as well as parts of Philadelphia. For more information call 610-688-7337 or visit www.devonprep.com or www.facebook.com/