Sunday, December 31, 2017

George C. Marshall: A Model of Rectitude and Duty

George C. Marshall, the man Winston Churchill called “the organizer of victory” during World War II and the implementer of the profoundly important Marshall Plan after the war, was born on this day in 1880. Although a career military man who served as Army chief of staff, he is equally known for his commitment to peace.

Marshall was formal.  President Franklin Roosevelt made the mistake of calling him “George” one day during the war, but Marshall’s stiff response ensured that he would subsequently always address him as “General.”  Nevertheless, the Virginia Military Institute graduate was a model of rectitude and duty.  He is a good role model for today.  Indeed, after his death, among the tributes was one from actor Orson Welles, who characterized the general as “the greatest human being who was also a great man.”

The five-star general served as both secretary of state and secretary of defense.  He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953, six years before his death.  Because he was a Nobel laureate, he was posthumously honored along with forty-eight others at a dinner that President and Mrs. Kennedy gave in April 1962 (discussed in Dinner in Camelot, available April 3, 2018).

During the dinner, Marshall’s widow, Katherine Tupper Marshall, sat next to the president.  After dinner, actor Fredric March recited an excerpt from the general’s European Recovery Program (Marshall Plan) speech at Harvard University in 1947.  Mrs. Marshall--who was seventy-nine at the time of the dinner--said, “This is my last time out and it’s been a wonderful climax for me. Now I can go back to my briar patch.”  The briar patch was the Marshalls’ home, “Dodona Manor,” in Leesburg, Va., which remains open today for visitors and provides a fascinating insight into the life of General Marshall. 

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