Thank you all very much. Thank you. Well, thank you so much to Ambassador Kennedy who well deserves the introduction and accolade that Brian presented in calling him to the podium. I am delighted to welcome all of you to the Benjamin Franklin Room here on the 8th floor of the State Department. And it is a special privilege that we are engaged in not only honoring the legacy of George C. Marshall, but honoring the service of a present-day patriot, someone who carries on the ideals of a great leader of the past.
With all of its challenges, the world today is looking to our predecessors for instruction and inspiration. And more often than not, many of us find ourselves turning to George C. Marshall for both. General Marshall knew that our national interests are inseparable from the interests of people everywhere – that we best bolster our security by advancing our values and that we best protect ourselves by looking beyond ourselves.
When General Marshall first described the outlines of what would become the Marshall Plan in a speech at Harvard in 1947, he urged Americans to embrace a policy directed not against any country or doctrine, but against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos. He knew how much he was asking of a nation scarred and exhausted by years of war. The aid we gave to Europe under the Marshall Plan would, as a percentage of national income, amount to more than $500 billion today. As he said in closing that day, with “a willingness on the part of our people to face up to the vast responsibility which history has clearly placed upon our country, the difficulties I have outlined can and will be overcome.”
Thanks to George Marshall’s leadership, those challenges were overcome in that time. The Marshall Plan was as bold and visionary a demonstration of American leadership as any in our history. And it is a model today as we face up to our own vast responsibility.
I often think about what would have happened in today’s world if General Marshall and President Truman had said to a nation that was ready to turn from war and immerse itself in the day-to-day activities of just ordinary life, “Well, we know how much you’ve given and how much you’ve sacrificed, but we’re going to ask you to continue to do what must be done to protect and preserve the peace that you have won.” Just imagine the talk show hosts and cable TV and all the others rising up and declaiming in great passion that this is unbelievable, how can we be asked to do this? I somehow have a feeling that George Marshall would have figured out a way through even that. There didn’t seem to be a challenge that he ever faced that he couldn’t determine a way forward.
Well, today, we are remembering that at the end of the Harvard speech, the university’s president compared General Marshall to another great soldier and statesman, George Washington, looking to our past and perhaps presaging the future of the need to continually regenerate the source of leadership, the examples that mean so much as we now look our way toward meeting the challenges of today.
Well, I think we have such a leader in the man we honor, namely, Secretary Bob Gates, a public servant par excellence. He has humility and an aptitude for quiet but strong leadership. He has a devotion to the men and women of the United States Military. And he is a public servant with a Marshall view of the world, a Secretary of Defense committed to a brand of American leadership that draws on all the sources of our strength, fostering cooperation and spreading prosperity while keeping our military strong and ready.
I personally am very grateful to have a voice like Secretary Gates’s at the Pentagon calling for more support for the State Department, for strengthening our capacity for development and diplomacy. Bob is a statesman who shares General Marshall’s judgment that the only way to truly win a war is to prevent it in the first place.
So I am delighted that the Marshall Foundation – which has done such great work to keep the lessons and the spirit of General Marshall’s leadership alive – has chosen to honor Secretary Gates with this prestigious award. As the United States faces up to the responsibility history has placed upon us once again, I could ask for no better partner and America could ask for no better leader.
I’m now honored to introduce our next speaker, another one of our nation’s most respected public servants. Brent Scowcroft has had a distinguished career, serving our nation in the Air Force and as a national security advisor to both President Ford and the first President Bush. He remains a source of advice and counsel to many of us in government today. He works with us on foreign policy and defense matters, for which we are very grateful. He has also studied export control reforms, and we look forward to drawing on his ideas emanating from a study that he has just chaired on this important issue. And this is a job, by the way, that he inherited from Bob Gates. So we know that we’ve got two great minds at work on it.
It is now my great pleasure, both personally and on behalf of the State Department, to welcome our friend Brent Scowcroft. (Applause.)