Remarks by Director David H. Petraeus at the Kuwait-America Foundation Gala Dinner
Remarks by Central Intelligence Agency Director David H. Petraeus as delivered at the Kuwait--America Foundation “Sowing the Future” Gala Dinner
March 11, 2012
Well, good evening to you all. Salam Alaykum, shukran jazeelan. Thank you, Shaykh Salem al-Sabah, for that great, gracious introduction. That’s one of those that you say you wish your parents had been here to hear it. I think my father would have enjoyed it, and my dear mother might have believed it! But I do appreciate the very warm welcome—especially because I’m just the warm-up act for Nicole Kidman and Lynda Carter! Talk about a tough assignment!
But it is great to be here. And, by the way, I share the Ambassador’s view on what can be achieved at dinner parties—especially if you can assemble the kind of dinner party that the Shaykh has assembled here. I also agree with the sentiment expressed by Somerset Maugham, one who had a particular love for such dinner parties as this. He famously said that “one should eat wisely but not too well, and talk well but not too wisely.” Given the delicious first course here, we are already not following that first bit of advice, as we are eating very well indeed—and as for my remarks, well, I’ll let you be the judge!
Well, it truly is a privilege and a pleasure to be here tonight to help celebrate a very worthy cause but also to celebrate an especially close relationship—indeed a special relationship—the bond of friendship between Kuwait and the United States. And we also are here to express our deep appreciation for the great work that you, Ambassador, and your wife, and the Kuwait-America Foundation have done for so many worthy causes. I offer these observations noting, as the Ambassador did, that I have been honored to have spent considerable time in Kuwait on innumerable occasions in various positions going back many years. I have, in fact, experienced the special relationship between our two countries during some particularly “sporty” times.
Now, in preparing for this evening, I learned that last year Ben Affleck delivered remarks at this event. As you know, he is committed to many important charitable causes. In fact, we had Ben at the CIA recently, with his wife, to help with the annual Combined Federal Campaign fundraising drive. And his visit reminded me of an experience I had in his hometown of Cambridge, Massachusetts, a few years ago. You see, my wife and I were there for our son’s graduation from MIT and his commissioning as a Second Lieutenant in the US Army. But we were also in the midst of buying a house near here, by the way, at the time. My wife, of course, had handled all of the process to that point, but I needed to sign some forms. So, en route to the ceremony, we stopped at the Boston branch of our bank for what we thought would be a handful of signatures.
At the time, I headed US Central Command and had a fairly high profile—and I was on certain hitlists—so I had a large detail of “Boston’s finest,” along with their motorcycles, squad cars, and SUVs. I also had my military personal security detail and the communications team and some aides. And while the heavily armed officers tried to blend in while milling around outside the bank, it just didn’t quite work. Somehow, as I was busy signing countless forms, the rumor began to spread outside that someone important was inside. In fact, the rumor was that none other than Ben Affleck himself was inside the bank. I am not making this up!
Meanwhile, the crowd grew…and grew...and grew. And my protective force started to become concerned that they might need protection. Anyway, when the paperwork was finally complete and we finally exited, the crowd let out the most dejected sigh imaginable—as if all the air had been sucked out of Boston.
Clearly, the crowd realized that I was not Ben Affleck. In fact, as I told Ben when he was at the CIA Headquarters two months