In honor and memory of General George Marshall1/1/1999
Few Americans in the Twentieth Century contributed as much to peace and freedom as General George Marshall. As Chief of Staff of the United States Army Marshall raised, trained and organized from the ground up an army of seven million men, dedicated to serve freedom and to resist totalitarianism. It was Marshall who directed military operations worldwide, it was he who chose the leaders of these operations, it was Marshall whom Churchill justly called "the true architect of the victory against fascism."
The history of Europe has linked this organizational genius and fighter for freedom with the so-called Marshall Plan. We all know that Europe was able to overcome the near total destruction of its productive capacity in World War II, thanks to this Plan. Few of us realize that we owe to the same Plan the concept of European unification, the foundation of the European Union.
In his celebrated speech given at Harvard, on June 5, 1947, General Marshall spoke of the surviving Europeans, who on the one hand had lost their morale, and on the other held on to the hope that they would be able to reconstruct their lives. He called the Americans to immediate and generous action, emphasizing that, "Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine but against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos." He noted that he did not propose a plan that would tell the Europeans what to do. "This is the business of the Europeans," he said in a manner which all of us must always remember. He closed his speech with the questions that must always be faced not only by politicians, but also by every Christian: "What are the sufferings? What is needed? What can best be done? What must be done?"
The Marshall Plan constituted the foundation of European unification because American aid (which totaled a remarkable 13 billion dollars) was not given to the various states, but was distributed directly to the Europeans themselves, through an entity founded for the purpose, the Organization for European Economic Cooperation. It was the first time in our history that the victors and the defeated came together immediately after a war with the purpose of reconstructing our lands, our societies, our civilization. It was this Organization for the realization of the Marshall Plan, which taught the Europeans to leave nationalist hatreds behind, to forget their rage, to forgive the rivers of blood that had flowed, and to work towards the building of a unified and powerful Europe.
One of the founding fathers of Europe, the distinguished Jean Monet, wrote: "Thus, the solidarity between Europe and the United States was fixed in the direction of, and supported by, the vigorous Marshall Plan consistent with the interests of free men."
In recognition of his great accomplishments General George Marshall was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1953. As we are humbly gathered here today in this ceremony, I propose that we have a minute of silence in the memory of the man who contributed as few did, to the freedom of our country, and to our common European homeland.