In the grand ballroom of the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills, members of the Pepperdine community near and far gathered for the 41st annual Pepperdine Associates dinner held Saturday, April 8. The event’s theme, “Convicted Civility,” resounded throughout the evening’s festivities, particularly in the poignant words of featured speaker Robert Gates, chancellor of the College of William & Mary and former United States secretary of defense (2006-2011).
In a candid and engaging conversation with School of Public Policy dean Pete Peterson, Gates, who served as an officer in the United States Air Force and then for 27 years in the Central Intelligence Agency, expounded on his own understanding of the fine balance between strongly held beliefs and peaceful and constructive expressions of those beliefs. The conversation offered Gates the opportunity to reflect on the qualities of leadership—such as honor, integrity, and moral authority—that he has both observed and practiced in his storied, decades-long career.
As the former United States secretary of defense, and the first in US history to be asked to remain in that office under a newly elected president, Gates is widely viewed as a champion of bipartisanship, compromise, service, and diplomacy. Now the chancellor of the College of William & Mary, Gates is advancing those same virtues of civility in higher education, recognizing that we are a society fortified by the strength found in our differences and that, in order for us to succeed, we must always come together.