Some memorable lines in the farewell tribute for Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

President Barack Obama said when he took office, Gates had already served seven presidents and when asked by a reporter whether he might stay on, Gates replied “inconceivable.” (Turned out to be a case of famous last words…)

Gates, true to his reputation as a plain-spoken guy, said his views about the State Department “evolved” over four decades. “For much of my professional life, the Secretaries of State and Defense were barely speaking to one another,” he said.

But that changed. “In the case of Secretaries Rice and Clinton, I’ve not only been on speaking terms with these two formidable women, we’ve also become cherished colleagues and good friends.”

Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen revealed this gem: “He can throw a barb with the best of them. Like the time he called Washington the only place in the world where someone can walk down lover’s lane holding their own hand.”