The ICAS Lectures


Remarks At Dennis Blair Liberty Award Dinner

David Chu

ICAS Annual Liberty Award Dinner

December 14, 2016, 6:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Cannon Caucus Room
United States Congress
Washington, DC

Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.

Biographic sketch & Links: David Chu

Dec 14, 2016 Blair award dinner speech

Dennis Blair

It was my great privilege to meet ADM Blair some 25 years ago. And that meeting conveyed a key element of his character: His willingness to stand up for what he believes, even at some personal cost to himself.

Actually, it was the second meeting that taught me this about Dennis Blair. The first was routine. I was serving as a civilian official in the US Department of Defense. Our dining room was closed for renovations, but we were allowed to dine in the Pentagon room reserved for the Joint Staff. A bit like a high school cafeteria, the various "cliques" did not sit with each other, but rather with their own kind. Military officers would not join our civilian group for lunch. But a young, new Admiral (technically Rear Admiral lower half) nonetheless asked if he could sit with us-that was Dennis-and a good conversation ensued.

The next day he sat down with our lunch group again. Again, he was the exception-no other military officer would join us. When we pressed him, he confessed that he had been counseled not to associate with our "tribe". But he didn't think that right, and ignored the counsel he had received.

Since Admiral Blair was subsequently promoted, and eventually reached the highest rank in the contemporary American military, he clearly didn't pay too high a price for his unwillingness to conform to the social norms of the Joint Staff. His willingness to buck convention, and to advocate for what he believed the right thing to do, left an indelible impression on me. I will not review the various controversies in which Admiral Blair has found himself over the succeeding years. No one reaches the positions he's held without becoming embroiled in controversy. What's important, I believe, is whether you have the courage of your convictions when these controversies occur. Admiral Blair clearly does.

With some public figures, it can be hard to determine exactly where they stand. As a former public servant, I always found those situations unnerving. The result is a loss of trust. One never feels that loss with Admiral Blair.

I should also add my great respect for Admiral Blair's often innovative analytic instincts. He will frequently come at issues from a different perspective than most. You might not agree with his conclusions, but he'll make you think again about your own position.

That may explain why Admiral Blair remains a respected figure in the Pacific community, called upon for quiet advice by a number of governments. And that certainly explains the award he is receiving tonight!

This page last updated December 16, 2016 jdb