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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > Former Secretaries of State > Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell > Speeches and Remarks > 2003 > November

Remarks on Receiving the 2003 George C. Marshall Foundation Award

Secretary Colin L. Powell
National Building Museum
Washington, DC
November 12, 2003

2003/1155

(9:55 p.m. EST)

Thank you so very much, David, and thank you so very much, ladies and gentlemen, for making this a remarkable evening. I feel doubly blessed this week because two evenings ago I was in New York City at my alma mater, the City College of New York, a great public institution which gave me my education as it has given the children of so many immigrants--a quality education--over the years. But the reason I was there Monday night was in tribute to another Nobel Prize winner, Ralph Bunche, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950, a few years before George Marshall. And it was unique to give the Nobel Peace Prize to a soldier. It was also even more exceptional and unique to give the Nobel Peace Prize to a black man, the first black person to ever receive that prize.

And just to sit at the table this evening and reflect on Dr. Bunche and General Marshall, and how I could give an entire hour's lecture on what it says about our country and what it says about how far we have come, and what we have been able to contribute to the world through sacrifices of men like Dr. Bunche and General George C. Marshall. And to be honored this way is a most moving experience for me.

So I thank you, David, for your kind words. I thank you, Michael Beschloss, for so masterfully MC-ing the evening. I also extend my deepest appreciation to President Ciampi, my dear friend Vice President Cheney, Jan Peterson, Jack Straw, George Robertson, General Meyer, and especially to Cadet Munn, for their very touching tributes. And a special thanks to Ms. Simpson-Hoffman for her song of our Star Spangled Banner earlier this evening, and to Robert Duvall for lending the power of your art to this occasion.

In fact, I am so moved by all the tributes that I have already called to make an appointment at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center tomorrow, because in this town nobody pays tributes like this to anyone who is either still alive -- or still in office. (Laughter and applause.)

I am deeply grateful to the Marshall Foundation and President Warner, to the corporate sponsors Sir Charles as well as Stan O'Neal of Merrill Lynch, and to all of you who came to make this such a remarkable occasion.

George C. Marshall was a national treasure, and so is the George C. Marshall Foundation. The Foundation's impressive museum and library and its wonderful educational programs ensure that the Marshall legacy lives on to inspire new generations of leaders.

I still fondly remember addressing the Foundation's ROTC Seminar back in 1993 to see all these wonderful youngsters come together. That ROTC Seminar is only one of the many ways in which the Foundation is helping to instill values of excellence and leadership.

Each year at that Seminar, the outstanding ROTC cadets from around the nation are assembled, and I am proud to say that in 1985, Cadet Colonel Mike Powell from The College of William and Mary was given an ROTC Award. My son, Mike, went on to be a cavalry officer and is now Chairman Mike Powell of the Federal Communications Commission. (Applause.) And I am sure that his experience at VMI that day helped him along the way.

I am also privileged to have with me this evening my beloved wife, Alma Powell. Alma's great joy in life now is to wake up, open The Washington Post, and to see who is mentioned most in dispatches -- her son or her husband. And I get up hoping it is her son, and not her husband. (Laughter.)

But how appropriate it is to gather here at this majestic National Building Museum to honor General Marshall's contribution to our nation and to the world. Because George Catlett Marshall was after all the great architect of Allied Victory in the Second World War. He was one of the principal architects of the post-war structures that advance democracy, promote prosperity and ensure our security to this day.

George C. Marshall is a personal hero of mine, and so this Award will always mean a great deal to me. His portrait hangs in my office at the State Department. When I look out of my inner office to my outer office, I'm staring right at him, at a distance of about ten meters. To the right, I can't quite see it, but I see it when I go out, is a portrait of Thomas Jefferson, our first Secretary of State. When I sit in my office and I'm dealing with the most difficult problems, or I'm on the phone with somebody, I look straight ahead at George. And the picture is not unlike the pictures you have seen up all evening long. Whether as a young cadet on the football team or as Secretary of State or as General Marshall, that same visage looks back at me, looking squarely back at me in a blue-grey business suit, ramrod straight, the very embodiment of dignity and steely resolve.

My admiration for General Marshall as a soldier and a statesman grows deeper with each passing year. He truly was one of the greatest Americans who ever lived. George Marshall, as you have heard, did not crave power or glory. They meant nothing to him. He knew, as a great student of history, that the price of power and glory too often is paid for in human lives, the lives of young people.

General Marshall never confused Honor with Pride. Honor for George C. Marshall was that quiet thing at the very core of his being that he lived by every single day of his life.

We have so much still to learn from General Marshall -- from his character, from his courage, his compassion and his commitment to our nation and his commitment to all humankind.

Yesterday, in the United States and earlier in the week in many other countries around the globe we commemorated Veterans Day, or, as Jack Straw called it, Remembrance Day. And there are similar names shared by other countries around the world. November 11th, 1918 was the date on which the armistice ending the First World War was signed. On Veterans Day we paid our respect to those who fought and died in that terrible war and all the wars that have followed. They laid down their lives so that we might live in liberty, so that others might breathe free.

The horrors that George C. Marshall saw as a young soldier in World War One were seared into his soul, and the pyrrhic peace that followed that "War to End All Wars" made him think hard over the intervening years about how to construct the foundation for a peace that would last when his time came.

And when the time came for George Marshall to meet the superhuman challenge of organizing the allied victory over Fascism in World War Two, he was prepared. He knew what had to be done. He knew what had to be done to ready the country for war. He also knew what had to be done to secure the peace that would follow.

George Marshall understood that an enduring peace had to be built on more than military might or a traditional balance of power. A permanent peace could be achieved only in a world in which men and women everywhere could live in freedom, in dignity and in hope.

And so, when the victory over Fascism was complete, and he was called back to service by his President to help us face a new tyranny, Communism, George Marshall knew what to do. His first act as Secretary of State was to make one of the most remarkable humanitarian gestures, and the most far-reaching investment in democracy in all of history: The Marshall Plan.

The contribution to peace, as you have heard, was so extraordinary that the Nobel Committee awarded him the Peace Prize in 1953.

All of us heard earlier President Ciampi's heartfelt personal testament of what the Marshall Plan meant to him personally, and to the peoples of Europe.

Today's world is much changed. But the leading role of the United States and other democracies in combating the tyrannies of our own time are just as compelling as they were in Marshall's, perhaps more so.

I believe that General Marshall would be proud of the leadership that the United States has shown in rallying the world against terrorism, the greatest tyranny of our age.

I know that General Marshall would have been proud of our American forces and our coalition partners, so many of them represented here tonight, who came together and so swiftly put an end to the tyranny of the Taliban and of the terrorists in Afghanistan and to Saddam Hussein's regime of fear in Iraq. Never again will Afghanistan and Iraq become oppressors to their own citizens and threats to the world.

General Marshall also would be the first to salute our magnificent men and women who are putting their lives on the line in other strife-ridden places across the globe.

And Secretary of State Marshall would have been proud as I am to point out that not only our servicemen and women serve, but also the American men and women of our diplomatic corps who also serve and sacrifice on the frontlines of freedom.

I have no doubt, Jack, that General Marshall would have been proud and grateful, but not the least bit surprised, to know that once again our gallant ally the United Kingdom was first and foremost to stand by our side, joined by so many other allies and coalition partners who are here this evening. (Applause.)

I am confident, My Lord, that General Marshall would be gratified to see NATO rising to new, global challenges and leading the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

A confirmed transatlanticist, General Marshall would have regretted the disagreements among our European allies over the war in Iraq. But I doubt that he would have seen them in apocalyptic terms. He saw plenty of strong disagreements in his day. He always kept his perspective and kept on working through the problems, sure that the democratic values which hold us together would always be far stronger than any differences that might pull us apart for the moment.

And George, your receipt today of our Presidential Medal of Freedom is not only high recognition of the outstanding job you have done as Secretary General of NATO. Your Medal of Freedom also symbolizes the unbreakable bond that will forever exist between the United States and our transatlantic partners. And I warmly congratulate you for the Award we have presented to you. (Applause.)

And, my friends, I am also certain that General Marshall would be heartened by the efforts that we and scores of other nations are making tonight to help the Afghan and Iraqi people reconstruct their countries and build a secure, prosperous and democratic future.

My thoughts turn in sorrow to the Italian carabinieri, military police and civilians who were killed today in Nasiriya. They gave their lives helping the Iraqi people secure their path to a brighter future.

As President Bush presses forward with the worldwide campaign to keep the world safe from terror, he has also pledged to work in partnership with nations all across the globe to make the world a freer, better, more hopeful place for all peoples.

The push for democracy that we are witnessing all around the world today is the pulse of human liberty. This force for freedom is not a foreign import or imposition. It can be found in every culture, on every continent, in every region and religion.

The United States and other democratic nations must work across the globe to ensure that hope does not fail those who act on democracy's impulse.

General Marshall was right. He said: "Democratic principles do not flourish on empty stomachs." As General Marshall said, "There must be material effort."

We must work to strengthen civil societies and promote the rule of law. We must help citizens develop democratic institutions and independent media. And we must do all we can to encourage good government and sound economic management.

And this is exactly what President Bush is encouraging with his Millennium Challenge Account initiative. If fully funded by Congress, the Millennium Account would represent the most significant development assistance program since the Marshall Plan. Funds would be targeted only toward countries that open their economies, govern justly and invest in their people.

I think General Marshall would understand and be so supportive because he knew that new democracies conceived in hope must be able to count on something more concrete than hope. If they are to stay on democracy's course, ordinary citizens must see real improvements in their daily lives. And that's what we hope to achieve with this latter-day version of the Marshall Plan which we call the Millennium Challenge Account.

My friends, my dear friends, of all the challenges to peace in the world today, the one that should worry us most is the loss of hope.

We, the democratic nations that General Marshall did so much to defend, liberate, secure and prosper, can pay him no higher tribute than to continue to work in partnership to build a world of hope where terrorists and tyrants cannot thrive.

May all of us leave here tonight with a renewed commitment to the democratic values that George C. Marshall embodied and that unite us as free peoples. Like the wonderful George C. Marshall Foundation, may each of us find far-reaching ways to perpetuate General Marshall's legacy of service to all humankind.

I thank the George C. Marshall Foundation for this extraordinary honor. I am deeply grateful, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. God bless you all. (Applause.)



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