|Remarks on the Award of the
Morris Janowitz Career Achievement Award
To Sam C. Sarkesian
45th Anniversary IUS International Biennial Conference
21 October 2005
by Robert A. Vitas
IUS Executive Director
If you were to “google” Sam Sarkesian, I would suggest wearing safety goggles, because the computer screen is likely to explode on you. As I was preparing my remarks, I reviewed my rather substantial “Sam” file and was, once again, astounded by the sheer volume of books, articles, chapters, and papers presented. This body of work is in addition to the various administrative positions that he has held while serving the profession. My intention this evening is not to recite a catalog of Sam’s achievements, but to review a theme of his life and professional work.
Please permit me to recount a minor achievement of my own and I promise that this will soon lead back to Sam. At one point in my life, I had the privilege to undergo training conducted by the United States Army Special Forces, or Green Berets. Now, I was far from a high-speed soldier or green beret, but I did have the opportunity to work with them (though I must say I cursed them one hot August day in North Carolina when enduring their confidence course at Fort Bragg).
They were rough and tough guys and you wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of a fight with them. But they also happened to speak German, French, Japanese, Korean, and Arabic among other languages. Quite a few of their non-commissioned officers held bachelor’s, if not master’s, degrees. They were, indeed, soldier-scholars. And when I saw them, I saw Sam. Sam was one of the original Special Forces officers recruited by Aaron Banks after World War II to operate behind the Iron Curtain. He served in many units, including the 11th Airborne and the 10th Special Forces. Sam saw duty – and combat – in Korea and Vietnam, and was posted in many places during peacetime, including the Pentagon. During his twenty-two years as an enlisted soldier and commissioned officer in the United States Army, Sam was a soldier-scholar as a member of the Special Forces, and also by participating in graduate study and academic affairs while still in uniform. The completion of his Ph.D. came about the same time as he retired as a lieutenant colonel of infantry.
I have noticed an overarching mission in Sam’s work as a soldier and as a scholar: The role of the armed forces in the defense of democracy. Sam has been cutting-edge in this regard. Consider that he was on the forefront of thought in civil-military relations with works such as:
The Case for Officer Graduate Education in 1975
Military Ethics and Professionalism in 1976
Revolution and the Limits of Military Power in 1976
Moral and Ethical Foundations of Military Professionalism in 1979
And a presentation at a conference on Human Rights and the Man in Uniform in 1970, several years before Jimmy Carter made “human rights” a household term.
By the way, we are still struggling with these issues that Sam brought to our attention and grappled with. We are fortunate to stand on his shoulders as we continue this scholarly enterprise.
Sam’s long-time colleague at Loyola University Chicago, Allan Larson, once wrote, “power without purpose is absurd.” For Sam, power – specifically military power – has always had one legitimate purpose: to fight against tyranny on behalf of democracy. It’s not really surprising when considering the motto of the US Army Special Forces: “De oppresso liber” (“To free the oppressed”). Sam has lived that motto as a soldier and he continues to live it as a scholar, teacher, and writer.
Sam’s work has taken him beyond the academy, once as a “Scholar-Diplomat” in African Affairs at the US State Department, and in many media appearances as an informal public education campaign. In fact, Sam appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show while she was still a local personality here in Chicago and long before she became a national celebrity. Sam helped Oprah get her start.
Sam’s role as a soldier-scholar is also visible in this room. All of you here, whether formally or not, are soldier-scholars, sailor-scholars, airmen-scholars, and marine-scholars. Sam worked with Morris Janowitz for many years as the IUS was expanding. Our founding chairman handpicked Sam – deservedly so – to succeed him as IUS Chairman. Quite a few colleagues, former students, friends, and those Sam has mentored are here this evening and on the conference program. Indeed, Sam’s son-in-law is on the program, so the tradition of soldier-scholar in defense of democracy continues, whether in Sam’s own family or in his larger IUS family. And speaking of family, all the pages of Sam’s Curriculum Vitae pale in comparison to his greatest achievements as husband, father, and grandfather.
Ladies and Gentlemen: It is my great privilege to invite Gayle Janowitz to present the Morris Janowitz Career Achievement Award and, as his former student, it is my humble honor to invite Sam C. Sarkesian to receive it.