Mr. President, I greatly appreciate having this opportunity to share with my colleagues the presentation of an award that means a great deal to me for a number of reasons. It is the President’s Medal that will be presented by Steven Knapp, the president of The George Washington University (GW). Its recipient, Edward Gnehm, has been a friend of mine ever since we were college freshmen at GW.
When Edward Gnehm, Jr., or “Skip” as everyone came to know him, came to Washington, DC from rural Georgia, and I left rural Wyoming to tackle the challenge of my own college education at GW, I don’t think either one of us knew what a great impact those four years would have on us and how our college experience would change our lives forever. It was a purely random thing but when the administration of George Washington University decided which rooms we would use as freshman, they assigned Skip and me to the same dorm. We became friends pretty quickly. Then, when we pledged the same fraternity we became brothers as well. Skip is the only real brother I have ever had and I have relied on him and enjoyed that same kind of friendship and relationship ever since.
Our room was a pretty interesting place to be. I was a night person studying accounting and business issues that would become my first major career. Skip, on the other hand, was a morning person, interested in reading whatever he could to sharpen his knowledge and understanding of foreign relations. He had a dream even back then that he would someday be an ambassador for the United States.
As I watched him pursue his dream I learned that Skip was an interesting guy, very smart, dedicated and determined to be the best he could possibly be at his chosen field. He helped me learn to expect the same of myself.
Soon our college years were over and we each went our separate ways, keeping in contact, pursuing our life’s dreams and taking advantage of every opportunity that presented itself. Soon Skip was making his way through our nation’s diplomatic and foreign service system. For my part, what began as a small business soon had me working my way through Wyoming’s political system on the local, state and national levels.
As the years went quickly past, Skip and I continued to follow a similar path in life as we both met and married our special wives. Our kids were even born about the same times. Skip found in his wife Peggy and I found in my wife Diana the kind of support and assistance it was going to take if we were to achieve the kind of success we were both hoping for. For Skip, Peggy’s encouragement and guidance has helped him to be a force for the United States and to serve our country all over the world. For my part, Diana has been exactly what I needed to serve the people of Wyoming at every opportunity.
For Skip, one of the greatest moments of his career had to be his service as our Ambassador to Kuwait. He was nominated to that post when Saddam Hussein came calling with his army and attempted to set up shop there. Fortunately, Skip had what it takes to face up to a challenge like that with great courage, bravery and determination. Those who knew him weren’t surprised. We knew he had it in him and when our nation emerged from that challenge our President, George Bush, knew he had chosen wisely when he selected Skip Gnehm for that difficult post. I got to watch on television as Skip raised the American flag at the recaptured U.S. Embassy in Kuwait.
I could go on at length about some of his other posts and the places he has served to promote and protect U.S. interests. He has been our Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations. He has also served as our Ambassador to Australia and to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, presenting his credentials on 9/11 and then flying to peace meetings with the King of Jordan. He still has special contacts throughout the Middle East.
Over the years Skip received a number of awards for his work overseas including the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award for his service in Jordan and Superior Honor Awards for his service in Kuwait and Riyadh.
Skip has also been an active force for the betterment of The George Washington University in a number of different capacities. He has been a member of the Board of Trustees, the Vice President of the General Alumni Association and the faculty representative to the Board of Directors.
Skip is currently on the faculty of the Elliott School of International Affairs where he is inspiring our next generation of foreign policy advisers and experts by sharing his own experience borne from a lengthy career in our Foreign Service. Thanks to Skip we can rest assured that our future diplomatic efforts will be in good hands.
Looking back to those days years ago when Skip and I were spending another night hitting the books for the next day’s class or exam, I don’t think either one of us could have dreamed how well things would turn out for the two of us. I have been given an opportunity to represent the people of Wyoming as a Mayor, member of the State Legislature, and now as a United States Senator. I was always proud to work on Skip’s confirmation to these different postings. Skip has had an impact all over the world and touched more lives than we will ever be able to count.
Simply put, I couldn’t be more proud of Skip and all he has accomplished over the years. I don’t think anyone is more deserving of the President’s Medal that he will receive from The George Washington University’s President Steven Knapp. Steven is doing great work to promote GW and ensure its future will be even better than its past.
This is a great honor for Skip and I’m sure he couldn’t be more appreciative of this recognition. It represents a lifetime of achievements for him and an amazing list of accomplishments. As the title of the classic film reminds us, Skip has had a “Wonderful Life” of which both Skip and GW can be truly proud. He represents what a tremendous advantage an education at George Washington University can be when placed in the right hands.
Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.