SPEECH: Remembering George P. Shultz

Madam President, as many of us know, our country is mourning the loss of a great man, a man who I believe was one of the greatest of the Greatest Generation.

Yesterday, we all received the sad news that George Shultz, Secretary Shultz, died in his home in California yesterday. He was 100 years old. He just celebrated his 100th birthday in December.

He was a man of great intelligence, of courage, of integrity. He exemplified service, what is great about this Nation, and hope for our country--not just for our country but countries around the world. Democracy itself was something that this great American promoted. 

He leaves behind his wife Charlotte, 3 daughters, 2 sons, 11 grandchildren, and 9 great-grandchildren. Of course, our prayers for his family are going out to all of them during this difficult time.

There are people who have lived history, and there are people who have made history. Secretary Shultz made history. He lived a life in full, and he was always giving back to his country, to his fellow Americans.

He was one of only two, I believe, American citizens who held four different Cabinet posts in the U.S. Government. He was OMB Director, Secretary of Labor, Secretary of the Treasury, and, most importantly, Secretary of State for almost the entire two terms of President Reagan's tenure during some very perilous times in our country's history.

As Secretary of State, there is no doubt that Secretary Shultz, along with President Reagan, did so much to win the Cold War, to bring down the Berlin Wall eventually, to successfully not just defeat in the Cold War the Soviet Union but to foster the infrastructure of democracy around the globe. If you read about his exploits, if you read his autobiography, you will see so much of what George Shultz did for our country, which was so important. 

It is not an exaggeration to say we are living in a more peaceful and prosperous world--there is no doubt we have challenges--because of men like Secretary Shultz.

One of the great honors of my lifetime was to get to know Secretary Shultz over the last several years. I had the opportunity to meet with him many, many times and to listen and learn--and his mind was so sharp--from the stories that he would tell. This, to me, is another great example of leadership--people who, even in the end years of their life, are still mentoring others, whether Senators or students. 

He would regularly teach classes at Stanford as part of the Hoover Institution out there. He kept writing books until his 100th birthday.

I had the opportunity to wish him a happy birthday in December and was even on a Zoom call with him. I will say, in my experience with him, certain things kept coming out, themes of a life: service, of course, patriotism, integrity, trust, and also the U.S. Marine Corps.

You know, when it comes to the issue of integrity, you look at Secretary Shultz's career, his life, and he always had integrity as the highest principle, and he talked about that, not just integrity to do the right thing, which meant sometimes saying no, but he did this throughout his career. And, then, at the very twilight of his career, he talked about not just integrity but trust--trust as the coin of the realm of a good life, of service.

As he was turning 100 in December, he put out a little pamphlet. It is right here. I read the whole thing. I encourage my colleagues to read it:

Life and Learning after One Hundred Years. Trust Is the Coin of the Realm. Reflections on Trust and Effective Relationships across a New Hinge of History. George P. Shultz, December 13, 2020.

Who does that when they are 100--put out a pamphlet on trust? Well, George Shultz did that

In the pamphlet, Secretary Shultz wrote that one lesson he learned as a child and retained over and over again was the importance of trust. As he says in this pamphlet:

When trust was in the room, whatever room that was--the family room, the schoolroom, the coach's room, the office room, the government room, or the military room--good things happen. When trust was not in the room, good things did not happen.

I think, certainly, we can learn that here in the U.S. Senate, where trust is the coin of the realm here. There is no doubt about that.

This idea of trust is a lesson that stayed with him throughout his career and a concept that he believed--when you read all his writings and talked to him the way so many of us have had the opportunity to--helped lead to the end of the Cold War--trust. President Reagan, General Secretary Gorbachev together eliminated intermediate-range nuclear weapons, which laid down the foundation for the peaceful end of the Cold War in which the United States was victorious. 

This pamphlet by Secretary Shultz on trust can be found online at


Even to the end of his days, he was still looking at providing guidance to the Senate. I had a talk with him, as I mentioned, just about 5 weeks ago about his coming to testify in front of the Armed Services Committee, a tradition started by another great American, John McCain, chairman of the Armed Services Committee. Every January, we would start with some statesmen with a lot of knowledge and history, and George Shultz was always part of that, testifying in front of the Armed Services Committee at 98, 99 years old, with Henry Kissinger, the junior man in the room, who was just a year or two younger. 

Senator Reed and I were just talking recently about bringing Secretary Shultz back to, once again, testify in front of the Armed Services Committee, and I am sad to say we have lost this great American before he can do that again.

Let me conclude with this: The other thing I loved about George Shultz is that he was, first and foremost, a U.S. marine. Until the end of his life, he spoke about the pride he gained from serving in combat in World War II as a Marine Corps officer and the many, many lessons he learned throughout his life from his service in the Marines.

The first time I ever met the Secretary, I went into his office. I thought there would be a bunch of pictures with famous people--there were some of those--but there were Marine Corps recruiting posters everywhere.

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, another great American, recounted in her excellent op-ed about the legacy of Secretary Shultz just yesterday in the Washington Post. He told her that being Secretary of State was ``the best job in government.''

When she got nominated to be Secretary of State, he called her to give her some advice. They were very good friends. He was a mentor of hers as well. He said it is the best job in government, the Secretary of State. And then he corrected himself: It is the best job except for when I was a Marine Corps captain.

That is what he told Condi, so he was first and foremost a marine.