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Remarks at the 2015 SEC Memorial Day Tribute and Presentation of the John P. Wheeler, III, Veterans Charity Award

Chair Mary Jo White

May 20, 2015

Good afternoon, thank you all for participating in this important occasion — both in-person and through our webcast. Thank you Susan, for that kind introduction, and thanks to Susan and the Veterans Committee for their hard work in putting this program together to remind all of us of the honor and respect our veterans have earned, and to share some of the shining examples of the men and women who risk everything on our behalf. Thanks very much to the U.S. Marine Corps Color Guard for their stirring kick off to today’s program. And thank you to my friend and colleague, Commissioner Daniel Gallagher, for his longtime support of the Veterans Committee.

We are especially honored to have with us today for the presentation of the first annual John P. Wheeler Veterans Charity Award: Jack’s widow, Kathy Klyce and her son-in-law Peter Chaskes; Jack’s son, John IV, Jack’s daughter Kate, her husband Scott Gastel and their daughter Grace Wheeler-Gastel, and Jack’s stepdaughter Meriwether Klyce Schas.

Welcome to the SEC. We are very pleased that you could be here to help us honor someone whom you know, better than anyone, is so richly deserving of our praise and recognition.

Each Memorial Day, we pause to honor the men and women who have served our country in wartime, and especially those who gave their lives in service to our nation and our liberties. Today, we celebrate a truly inspiring veteran who epitomizes the mission to honor his fellow veterans — a man who helped alter the way our country remembers perhaps our most divisive war; the way we view the men and women who served; and the way we honor those who died in the Vietnam War.

Some of you are too young to remember, while many of you will never forget, the way our Vietnam veterans quickly became a forgotten generation of military service members as America tried to put that war behind us.

Jack Wheeler was determined to end the apathy and ambivalence — to return the memory of those who served and died to their rightful place in our national hearts and minds, by honoring their service with respect, dignity and admiration on the National Mall.

Working against high odds and inertia, Jack and a small group of colleagues built support, raised funds, won official approval and got the Vietnam Veterans Memorial built — an extraordinarily impressive and moving monument. There were challenges and controversy every step of the way. But eventually there arose one point of strong consensus: whatever individual views there might be on the wisdom of the Vietnam War, the men and women who served in Vietnam with honor and courage deserved our deepest respect and gratitude. Through Jack Wheeler’s work and dedication, hopefully never again will we fail to appropriately honor those who answered and sacrificed when our country called.

As remarkable and impressive as his work on the Vietnam Memorial is, it is only one of Jack Wheeler’s achievements on behalf of veterans and others. He, for example, also:

  • Served as the first Chairman and CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving;
  • Created the Earth Conservation Corp, for at-risk youth under President George H.W. Bush;
  • Created the Vietnam Veterans Leadership Program — which helped match veterans with jobs — under President Reagan.

Jack held degrees from West Point, Harvard and Yale; and, closest to home, for almost a decade, he served as Assistant General Counsel, Special Counsel to the Chairman, and Secretary of the SEC. And that is just the short list of Jack Wheeler’s amazing accomplishments.

Today, we are honored to have with us a very distinguished panel of three guests who knew Jack and will talk about him and some of his achievements from up close.

Michael Wynne was a classmate of Jack Wheeler’s at West Point and, more recently, a colleague of Jack’s at the MITRE Corporation, a not-for-profit organization that operates research and development centers sponsored by the federal government. Like Jack, Michael enjoyed a long and successful career in private business and public service. Currently serving in a variety of senior capacities for several technical and aerospace companies, Michael is also a director on the Air Force Academy Endowment Board and served as the 21st Secretary of the Air Force.

Roberta Karmel is the Centennial Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Dennis J. Block Center for the Study of International Business Law at Brooklyn Law School. Roberta started her professional career at the SEC, working in the New York Regional Office after graduating from NYU Law School. After leaving the SEC, she became an associate and then the first woman partner and department head at the major New York firm of Rogers & Wells. And Roberta served as Jack Wheeler’s boss for awhile — when she returned to the SEC as the first woman to serve as a commissioner.

John Paul Ketels also worked with Jack Wheeler and Commissioner Karmel at the SEC, serving as Commissioner Karmel’s counsel after a year as a staff attorney in the Division of Trading and Markets. He went on to practice in the private sector for 30 years, ultimately heading Clifford Chance’s U.S. financial and regulatory/enforcement practice. John was a U.S. Navy Lieutenant, served in Vietnam and actively supports veterans’ causes. Most recently, he served as Counsel to the Arlington National Cemetery Commemorative Project which published the highly regarded photographic book, “Where Valor Rests,” which is now formally presented at funeral ceremonies to honor and comfort the families of our fallen service members. We are very honored to have all of you here today.

And now, let me step down and yield the stage so that we can learn more about this extraordinary public-minded citizen Jack Wheeler and the work he did. I hope you enjoy today’s program.

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