Truth to Power: Meet Gen. John Kelly, Donald Trump’s Pick for DHS Secretary

U.S. Marine General John F. Kelly November 19, 2012 in Doral, Florida.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Four-star Gen. John Kelly had a 45-year career in the Marines which included three tours in Iraq and leading the United States Southern Command before he retired in January 2016.

Kelly also served as the assistant commander of the 1st Marine Division under Gen. James Mattis during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Here are some quotes and facts about Donald Trump’s choice to head to lead the Department of Homeland Security.

Kelly on Speaking Truth to Power:

“The one thing I was always told is you absolutely have to tell truth to power … the decision makers have got to have ground truth,” he told the Military Times. “Otherwise, the decisions they make could be flawed — and that can be dangerous.”

On women serving in combat roles in the Marines:

“My greatest fear — and we see this happen a lot over the 45 years I’ve been in the Armed Forces is, right now they’re saying we are not going to change any standards,” he said during a press conference. “There will be great pressure, whether it’s 12 months from now, four years from now. … It will be the pressure for not probably the generals that are here now, but for the generals to come, and admirals, to lower standards because that’s the only way it’ll work in the way that I hear some people, particularly, the agenda-driven people here in Washington — or in the land, the way they want it to work.”


“Bombing the living shit out of ISIS in Iraq and Afghanistan, Syria, that would maybe irritate them more than the fact we have Guantanamo open,” he said to Defense One about terrorist groups and activists who believed that keeping the prison open was a propaganda tool for terrorists and a threat to national security.

On the Obama “no boots on the ground” talking point:

“If there’s a country and it’s dangerous and we deploy a U.S. military man or woman, if there’s only one there, and they never leave the capital, that is ‘boots on the ground,’” Kelly said to Defense One. “We do a disservice to the sacrifice of these people, particularly if they are killed, when we say there’s no boots on the ground.”

Kelly lost his 29-year-old son, Marine 1st Lt. Robert Michael Kelly, killed while serving in Afghanistan. Four days later he gave a speech about those who serve our country.

“Like my own two sons who are Marines and have fought in Iraq, and until this week, Afghanistan, they are also the same kids that drove their cars too fast for your liking and played the god-awful music of their generation too loud,” he said. “But have no doubt they are the finest of their generation.”

Watch his amazing speech below:

Kelly on working in Washington D.C.

In 2016, the retiring Gen. Kelly expressed fears about being appointed to work in Washington D.C.

“My fear was of being offered a job that would be kind of a full-time position at a veterans organization or even in the government … I’d prefer to not be that, to come up the Beltway every day.”


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.