|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks at the George C. Marshall Foundation Dinner
Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Marshall Plan
Washington, D.C., June 5, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman, June 6, 1997
U.S. Department of State
President Ford, thank you for that wonderful introduction. Excellencies, distinguished colleagues and guests, in the last few years, we seem to have observed the 50th anniversary of everything. Today, we have been brought together by a foundation dedicated to the memory of a man who made everything possible.
As much as anyone else, it was George Marshall who engineered our victory in the Second World War and who helped us prevent a third.
The United States entered World War II because we had to, because our immediate survival was at stake. The same cannot be said about the Marshall Plan.
In 1947, the American people were weary of war and wary of new commitments. They wanted nothing more than to come home, stay home and make the baby boom boom. It was not self evident that our nation would come together to support the act of unparalleled generosity which was the Marshall Plan. But we did. And we did it in a way that was uniquely inclusive in design, uniquely expansive in scope, and uniquely American in spirit.
We used Marshall aid to encourage the creation of a united Europe, which was an amazingly ambitious goal just a few years after the most terrible war in European history. We offered Marshall aid to the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, though the Iron Curtain had already begun to descend. Our vision specifically embraced our former adversaries, even though this was hard for many people to accept.
Soon, we would launch the Berlin airlift, though the experts said it was not possible to feed a whole city by air. We would pledge to defend Greece and Turkey, though many said that these nations were too distant and remote to be a part of our community.
Today people ask: How can we best live up to the spirit of the Marshall Plan? The answer is that we must do what is right, even though it is hard. That is the spirit in which our soldiers and diplomats are working in Bosnia. That is the spirit in which we are enlarging NATO, forging new ties with all of Europe's new democracies, and building a new partnership with Russia.
Each of these commitments entails risks and costs. But that just reminds me of something Senator Arthur Vandenberg said during a debate on the Marshall Plan 49 years ago. I quote, "The greatest nation on earth," he said, "either justifies or surrenders its leadership. I have no quarrel with those who disagree because we are dealing with imponderables." He said, "But I cannot say to those who disagree that they have escaped to safety by rejecting or subverting this plan. They have simply fled to other risks, and I fear far greater ones. For myself," Senator Vandenberg said, "I can only say that I prefer my choice of responsibilities."
In the letter that President Clinton asked me to deliver to all of you today, he writes that "our generation has been blessed with the chance to complete the great endeavor that Marshall's generation began -- to build a democratic, peaceful, undivided Europe for the first time in history." He reminds us that the Marshall Plan's success is evident not just in the recovery of Western Europe's economies, but in the process of European integration that it sparked; the reconciliation between old adversaries that it enabled; and America's lasting engagement in Europe, which it sealed. "No one better understands," the President continues, "all those transatlantic strands than your honoree tonight, my friend Helmut Kohl."
At the beginning of this miraculous decade of coming together, Chancellor Kohl engineered the unification of Germany within the NATO Alliance and the European Union. This was not an easy thing to do. It was an act of faith, requiring great sacrifice. But it was right. And today we look back upon it as the founding act of a Europe that is becoming whole and free.
Chancellor Kohl was a child of the Europe that the Marshall Plan rebuilt and transformed. All his life, he has been a champion of the kind of Europe that Marshall's generation envisioned -- a Europe where borders unite rather than divide.
Chancellor Kohl, we thank you for your many years of statesmanship, and we salute you for your leadership in the present. It is my great privilege to introduce you to this audience today. (Applause.)
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