Today I had the pleasure of attending lunch with Ray Mabus, United States Secretary of the Navy. Former Governor of Mississippi, Secretary Mabus served in the Navy as a surface warfare officer and was appointed Ambassador to Saudi Arabia under President Clinton.
Secretary Mabus described the nomadic life of a sailor, saying that they’re always traveling from port to port.
A sailor doesn’t look at borders, he said. A sailor looks at the horizon. A sailor looks at possibilities.
As you might expect from the Secretary of the Navy, Mabus spoke highly of the role of the United States Navy around the world – calling explicit attention to the Navy’s role in keeping sea lines open.
U.S. Navy as we know it can trace its origins to 1794. Congress ordered the construction of six frigates, dramatically growing the United State’s maritime presence which, since the close of the Revolutionary War, had consisted solely of the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service.
U.S. merchant ships had been coming under attack by pirates, and the U.S. needed a strong naval fleet to ensure economic security. But, as Secretary Mabus argued, the U.S. didn’t stop there.
For the past 70 years, the United States Navy has kept shipping lines open for anyone conducting peaceful trade. We are the only nation, Secretary Mabus argued, that has explicitly aimed to protect all ships, not only those flying under our own flag.
Secretary Mabus also commented on the promotion of Michelle Howard, whom he raised from vice admiral to admiral just yesterday. Admiral Howard is the first female four-star admiral in U.S naval history.
It shouldn’t have been news, Secretary Mabus reflected, adding that Howard was simply the best officer for the job.
The military should reflect the population it serves, Secretary Mabus argued. We lose too much, he added, when we put up artificial barriers – preventing women or gays from fully serving in this way.