Robert Gates: The Texas A&M Years

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Robert Gates, Bush's recommended Rumsfeld replacement, has filled the shoes of a big-footed predecessor before. In October 2002, he replaced Ray Bowen as president of Texas A&M University, taking on not just the legacy of the eight-year-term president but also his Vision 2020 plan to make Texas A&M a top 10 public university by the year 2020. Not everyone has liked Gates's bold moves: One student argued Gates's pitch for change was "out of touch" with the student body in a 2004 opinion piece. But many have supported Gates. After holding listening sessions with students and appointing a student representative to a dean search committee, Gates was praised for his "commitment to students".

He's also pushed his students to experiment with "global interaction". He made the same pitch to U.S. government leaders in a December 2004 speech on Iran. "Washington should approach Iran with readiness to explore areas of common interest while continuing to contest objectionable policies," he said. "Even in the darkest days of the Cold War, we had a reliable channel of direct dialogue with both the Soviet Union and China. That channel played a key role at various times in preventing a cold conflict from turning hot".