Richard Armitage was the 13th United States Deputy Secretary of State, serving from 2001 to 2005. He served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War and then after the fall of Saigon moved to Washington D.C. to work as a consultant for the United States Department of Defense, which sent him to Tehran and Bangkok.
Throughout the late 70s and early 80s, Armitage worked as an aide and foreign policy advisor to politicians including Senator Bob Dole and President-elect Ronald Reagan. When Reagan was elected, Armitage was appointed to the Department of Defense. In the 1990s, Armitage worked in the private sector before being confirmed as Deputy Secretary of State with the election of George W. Bush in 2001. He left the post in 2005.
Armitage was educated at the United States Naval Academy. He is an avid bodybuilder, and speaks many languages, including Vietnamese.
Question: Should the President have military experience?
Armitage: I don’t think it’s necessarily the case. Abraham Lincoln didn’t have military experience and he did a pretty good job as Commander-in-Chief. So . . . Franklin Delano Roosevelt the same. I’m not one who thinks that necessarily would be the judge of a good presidency. I’m more inclined to think that those presidents who have been judged great by history are primarily presidents who have suffered great hardship in their own lives. I mean George Washington lost more battles than he won. Abraham Lincoln – entirely self-made and failed politician. Theodore Roosevelt a weakly child who built himself up through intent of his own will. Franklin Roosevelt, who lost the use of his legs and simultaneously developed a spine. So I think that being in the military or from the military is not a prerequisite. Perhaps something more closely to look at is what hardships has one overcome in their life? And how does that shape you to be able to be both empathetic and steely when you need to be?