Sometimes we get to make choices that shape our lives. Sometimes those kinds of life-directing choices are made by someone else.
On his 17th birthday, while he was still a student at Butler Senior High School in Vandergrift, Pennsylvania, William Perry chose to enroll in the Army Air Corps Cadet program, hoping to be a fighter pilot in World War 2.
But the war, and Cadet program ended before young Perry could graduate. So, he made a second choice, to enlist in the US Army. Shortly after that, the Army chose to send him to Japan.
There Perry learned to build his personality through the collaboration and discipline that define the life of a military grunt, and there, in Japan in 1946 and 47, Bill Perry had to confront the horrifying realities of nuclear warfare, the aftermath of the American A-bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Over the next 70 years, Dr. William Perry, he got his PhD in 1957, 10 years after leaving Japan, did many different things. He was an innovator and manager on both sides of the military-industrial complex. On the industrial side he is credited with helping develop signals intelligence monitoring capabilities; on the military side, he served President Jimmy Carter as Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, and President Bill Clinton as Deputy Secretary and then Secretary of Defense.
As Secretary, Perry reformed Pentagon procurement in 2 very important ways – he simplified procedures and he taught the military to shop for commercial off-the-shelf equipment rather than having everything built specially, to fit military specifications. In short, these Perry reforms saved the Pentagon a lot of time and a lot of money. He also fostered “stealth” technology, a key to air force tactics and strategies in the 21st century.
Secretary Perry dealt with a lot of global crises…NATO expansion, war in Bosnia, regime change in Haiti, and a nuclear threat from North Korea…all of them, more or less thrust upon him. But there were at least 3 areas of Defense Policy in which William Perry was proactive…one was in reintroducing Latin America to the front rank of American military concerns, and the other 2 derived directing from those experiences in Japan in 1946 and 7… Secretary Perry’s personal mission was to fulfill advice he had gotten on taking office from Sergeant Major Richard Kidd, one of the Army’s highest-ranking enlisted men – “take care of your troops and they will take care of you.”
And then there was Defense Secretary William Perry’s chief global mission…one he is still actively devoted to today…protecting the world from the menaces of nuclear weapons and nuclear war….what he calls in his latest auto-biographical book, My Journey at the Nuclear Brink, “the gravest security threat of our time.”
William James Perry (born October 11, 1927) is an American mathematician, engineer, and businessman who was the United States Secretary of Defense from February 3, 1994, to January 23, 1997, under President Bill Clinton. He also served as Deputy Secretary of Defense (1993–1994) and Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (1977–1981).
Perry is currently the Michael and Barbara Berberian Professor (emeritus) at Stanford University, with a joint appointment at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and the School of Engineering. He is also a senior fellow at Stanford University‘s Hoover Institution. He serves as director of the Preventive Defense Project. He is an expert in U.S. foreign policy, national security and arms control. In 2013 he founded the William J Perry Project (http://www.wjperryproject.org/), a non-profit effort to educate the public on the current dangers of nuclear weapons.
Former Secretary Perry also has extensive business experience and currently serves on the boards of several high-tech companies. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Among Perry’s numerous awards are the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1997), Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (1998) and the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun (2002), awarded by the Emperor of Japan.