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Former Senator Jim Webb Declines to Accept Naval Academy Alumni Association’s Distinguished Graduate Award

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The drama apparently never ends with Jim Webb….

Former Senator Jim Webb Declines to Accept Naval Academy Alumni Association’s Distinguished Graduate Award

March 28, 2017

Over the past few days the decision by the Naval Academy Alumni Association to include me as a recipient of this year’s Distinguished Graduate Award has been protested by a small but vociferous group of women graduates based on a magazine article that I wrote 38 years ago.  While this article was controversial, many of these protests have wrongly characterized my reasons for having written it, my views of women, and also my record of government leadership in addressing opportunities for women in the military and in our society.  Having opened up more billets for women in the Navy than any Secretary of the Navy before me, it is particularly ironic to see that these same women who are criticizing me for a magazine article in 1979 have benefited so greatly from the policies I unilaterally put into place in 1987.

I did not apply to be considered for the Distinguished Graduate Award, nor did I participate in the decision to give me the award.  My classmates from the Class of 1968 nominated me.  I believe this nomination was made based on my leadership performance at the Naval Academy, my record as the most decorated combat veteran of this class, my having become the first Naval Academy graduate in history to serve in the military and then become Secretary of the Navy, my having become one of only three (now four) Academy graduates ever to be elected to the United States Senate, and my literary and journalistic achievements, including having written what is widely recognized as the classic novel of the Vietnam War, as well as having received an Emmy Award for my PBS coverage of the Marines in Beirut in 1983.  It is also appropriate to mention that I wrote and guided to passage the Post – 911 GI Bill, the most generous veterans’ education bill in history, which has already enabled the education of nearly 2 million veterans.

From conversations with the Alumni Association, including information passed down from top Navy leadership in the Pentagon, it is clear that those protesting my receipt of this award now threaten to disrupt the ceremonies surrounding its issuance.  I am being told that my presence at the ceremony would likely mar the otherwise celebratory nature of that special day, and as a consequence I find it necessary to decline to accept the award.

Since my support and dedication to the advancement of women in the military have been so wrongly characterized, I am including below the statements of three women who have worked directly for me during my time as Assistant Secretary of Defense, Secretary of the Navy, and as a United States Senator.

Personal Statements from women who have directly worked with Senator Jim Webb:

Caroline Krewson, Retired Colonel, USAF and SES civilian:

Jim Webb was my direct supervisor from 1984 to 1988 when he served as the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Reserve Affairs) and the Secretary of the Navy.  Secretary Webb was a highly encouraging mentor who contributed significantly to my military and civilian careers.  I was able to achieve the rank of Colonel in the Air Force and become a member of the Senior Executive Service in part because of the advice he provided to me when I was a young captain.  Secretary Webb’s record of support for women in the military is clear.  He opened up more billets for women than any Secretary of the Navy in history.  His record of commitment continued uninterrupted until today, and also included his work as a United States Senator for removing the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell restrictions.  I found Secretary Webb to be fair-minded and willing to evolve on issues.  This is a rare trait in today’s political climate and something to be celebrated.  He is a thoughtful leader and one who brings great credit to the institutions that have shaped him.

Rear Admiral Bette Bolivar, USN, USNA ’85:

“It is rare for any young junior officer to be assigned a tour working directly for the Secretary of the Navy; however, I was given that fortunate opportunity to work for SECNAV Webb at a time when the Nation – and the Department of Defense –needed someone “at the helm” with the combat & political experience, honor, and integrity to lead our Navy.  During my 30+ years in the Navy, I remain a strong advocate and disciple of Mr. Webb’s unique ability to lead and “make things happen.”  Most noteworthy were his Post-9/11 GI Bill and his ability to influence the re-aligning of military basing in East Asia.  It was through him, his friendship, and his mentorship, I learned early on in my career that a sense of accountability is the burden of leadership and when I’m given the authority to make decisions, I also inherit the responsibility to accept the consequences.  I attribute many of my successes (including achieving the rank of a Rear Admiral) to Mr. Webb’s sound advice, guidance, and mentorship.  I have followed Mr. Webb’s career for over 30+ years and have learned so much from his transitional leadership.  I know of no other former SECNAV or U.S. Senator that represents the true meaning of Honor, Courage, and Commitment.  I am honored to have served alongside Mr. Webb over the years – and can think of no one more deserving to receive the USNA Distinguished Graduate Alumni Award.”

Juliet Beyler, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy:

Ms. Juliet Beyler, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Military Manpower and Personnel), a Marine Corps veteran of the Iraq War who worked as a member of my Senate staff for nearly three years, wrote the Naval Academy Alumni Association to endorse my nomination for the Distinguished Graduate Award.  She wrote, “constantly teaching and advising, I credit him with changing the way I think about and evaluate complex policy issues.  As a retired enlisted Marine and commissioned officer, former Marine Corps civilian employee, and now Department of the Navy career senior executive who has spent the last 31 years of my life in public service, I cannot think of a more representative candidate to be your Naval Academy Alumni Association’s 2017 Distinguished Graduate. Jim is absolutely the right kind of leader you should choose to highlight for future graduates to emulate.”

  • Elaine Owens

    While I disagree with the women of the Naval Academy threatening demonstrations if Jim Webb were to receive their distinguished alumni award, Webb will never live down his adamant opposition to women at the military academies or in combat roles from years past. He didn’t pull any verbal punches. Here’s a bit of that:

    “By attempting to sexually sterilize the Naval Academy environment in the name of equality, this country has sterilized the whole process of combat leadership training, and our military forces are doomed to suffer the consequences… men fight better… men fight better without women around…What are the other alternatives [to women attending service academies]? We could stop allowing women to attend the academies at all. ROTC scholarships and OCS appointments would remain available to women, as would career opportunities short of combat roles.”

    https://www.washingtonian.com/1979/11/01/jim-webb-women-cant-fight/

    “Sexually sterilize”? Women at the service academies symbolically “castrate” male cadets?? He says that the only way to keep the presence of women from emasculating men is to ban them from the academies and relegate them to roles in the military the will guarantee to keep them from rising to the top echelons of the military.

    Webb’s career, both in the military and out of it, make him a worthy recipient of the award; however, Webb has to live with the contradictions in his career as well. He’s a Republican…or a Democrat… or a Republican. He says women in leadership roles in the military is part of a “war on the military culture,” or in 2015 how happy he is with women graduating from the arduous ranger training. He’s a walking contradiction. I am thankful for one thing Jim Webb did. He rid Virginia politics of George Allen. Otherwise, I can’t figure the guy out, and I don’t want to try.

  • notjohnsmosby

    Whenever you read about something political repugnant about Jim, you’ll feel better if you keep repeating in your head “Webb eliminated George Allen, Webb eliminated George Allen, Webb eliminated George Allen”.

  • Quizzical

    Is Jim Webb’s public service career over? It doesn’t sound like it from this statement.

    • Let’s hope so if he’s going to continue to act like a Trump-supporting, progressive-bashing lunatic.

  • elsa6545

    Congratulation for your Graduate Award and i think it should be inspired the others students to do more better in education. I hope you are now idle for them and they are try to be as like you.