Gates says Goodbye to Pentagon

09:30, July 01, 2011      

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Retiring U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledges applause as U.S. President Barack Obama and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen (obscured) participate in Gates' farewell ceremony at the Pentagon near Washington, June 30, 2011. Gates will be replaced by former CIA Director Leon Panetta. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

Retiring U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday wrapped up his four-and-a-half years in the Pentagon, with an unexpected gift from President Barack Obama.

During a farewell tribute ceremony at the Pentagon, Obama praised Gates for his services for the country, and awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom -- the highest award a president can confer to a civilian.

"I can think of no better way to express my appreciation to someone I have come to admire and whom I consider a friend," Obama said. "I can think of no better way to express the gratitude of the nation for Bob Gates than with a very special recognition."

Calling the award a big surprise, Gates said he was deeply honored and moved by the president's presentation of the award. He thanked President George W. Bush for nominating him for the job in 2006, and President Obama for retaining him in it during the change in administrations in 2009.

Gates announced last August that he would quit the job at the middle of this year. His successor -- Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Leon Panetta -- will take over the job starting next month.

Source: Xinhua

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