BOLIVAR, Mo. – Gen. Randolph “Tex” Alles, current director of the United States Secret Service and retired Major General of the U.S. Marine Corps, delivered the Constitution Day address during the Sept. 17 Chapel service in Pike Auditorium at Southwest Baptist University.
Constitution Day, which became a national observance in 2004, celebrates the date the U.S. Constitution was signed – Sept. 17, 1787.
“Today, we’re here to honor the wisdom and the foresight of the framers of the Constitution,” Alles said. “I think it’s a timeless document for our country.”
Gen. Alles focused on how the Secret Service fits into the Constitution structure, as well as its responsibilities as an agency of the U.S. government.
“Historically, we know this date, over 200 years ago, was the date delegates of the Constitution convention met to sign a document that would establish the foundation of government and laws for the United States of America,” Alles said. “Prior to the Constitution’s existence, the national government was weak and operated under the Articles of Confederation. It had little power and lacked any enforcement mechanisms as a federal government.”
Alles described the Constitution as “our ultimate and highest law of the land” – a specific and intentional framework by which the 13 states would be governed more as one nation, as opposed to 13 different countries. The Constitution allows the states rights, which play out in the federal arena.
“You see some of that today, whether you’re aware of it or not,” Alles said. “With the current hurricane that is occurring (Hurricane Florence), the federal government cannot come until they are asked by the states. So, we still are very much a country that recognizes the power of the states.”
Through the years, there have been changes in our society and our culture, involving major questions of the Supreme Court, which are answered and settled in the Constitution, Alles said.
“The Constitution is the foundation by which society stands and gives us our checks and balances,” Alles said.
The Constitution covers all aspects of the federal government, and the Secret Service operates under Article 2 of the Constitution, which covers the Executive Branch.
“Each time we graduate a class of agents and officers in the Secret Service, I remind them that they are sworn law enforcement officers and they don’t pledge an oath to any individual,” Alles said. “We swear an oath to the United States. We don’t swear to the President. We don’t swear to a political party. We don’t even swear to you, the people. We swear to the Constitution of the United States because that is the law, the document that enshrines our laws.
“Our law enforcement officers are making a solemn promise, or a vow that they will support the Constitution and defend it. It is a document that has stood for well over 200 years, so I think we can appreciate its standing of time. It’s a platform to build the nation’s laws.”
The Constitution gives the Secret Service power to investigate crimes, enforce certain laws and to provide protection for the nation’s highest elected officials. The Secret Service is authorized to protect the President and Vice President of the United States, their immediate families, former presidents and their spouses, children (under the age of 16) of former presidents, visiting heads of state, major presidential and vice presidential candidates within 120 days of the general presidential election and events of national significance – called National Specific Security Events – such as the State of the Union or the United Nations General Assembly (held every September in New York).
A recent sample of the crimes the Secret Service has investigated include counter-terrorism and cyber crimes, such as credit card fraud, identity theft, mortgage fraud, skimming at gas pumps, jackpotting, cashout, compromised business email and ransom ware.
“The writers (of the Constitution) left us a well-defined structure that can be built upon for future generations,” Alles said. “As we celebrate Constitution Day, we have a remarkable document. It’s taken the nation from a handful of colonies to be one of the greatest nations in the world in a fairly short timeframe.”
Gen. Alles, who lives in northern Virginia, served in the Marine Corps for 35 years, retiring in 2011 as a Major General. He was appointed as director of the U.S. Secret Service by President Donald Trump in April 2017.
“We are very grateful for Director Alles’ generosity in speaking, visiting with students and sharing his experiences in the military and in government,” said Dr. Coyle Neal, associate professor of political science. “We are blessed to have career civil servants with his integrity and competence in important positions.”
PHOTO 1: Gen. Randolph “Tex” Alles, director of the United States Secret Service, delivers his Constitution Day speech at SBU.
PHOTO 2: Gen. Randolph “Tex” Alles (left), director of the United States Secret Service, visits with SBU faculty, staff and students after delivering his Constitution Day speech.