On June 5, the George C. Marshall International Center will celebrate the 70th anniversary of The Marshall Plan. About 300 people will gather at The Marshall House in Leesburg for a day-long symposium, featuring former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright as the keynote speaker. The evening will feature a free public concert performed by the U.S. Army Brass Quintet of the U.S. Army Band at the Marshall House. Find details at georgecmarshall.org.
70 Years Ago
It was on June 5, 1947, that Gen. George C. Marshall made a speech at Harvard University that resulted in one of the most significant and generous efforts by the U.S. government to help the nations of Europe recover from six years of devastation during World War II.
Marshall, who had been a crucial voice for the Allies as U.S. Army Chief of Staff to President Franklin Roosevelt, spoke of the urgent need to help European countries get back on their feet through a far-reaching economic stimulus plan.
In speaking of the remedies he sought to effect, Marshall said, “With foresight, and 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.”
And they were. As Secretary of State after the war, Marshall campaigned for and carried out the aid plan. President Harry Truman signed the European Recovery Act on April 3, 1948, channeling $13 billion toward 18 countries in Europe. Great Britain received the most—26 percent, followed by France at 18 percent and Germany at 11 percent. Ever since, it has been known as The Marshall Plan.
And it’s the relevance of Marshall’s historic initiative to modern times that the George C. Marshall International Center seeks to champion and explore in a day-long symposium on Monday, June 5 at Marshall’s Leesburg home on East Market Street. The event has been named “The Relevance of George C. Marshall’s Vision to Transatlantic Relations Today.”
It is a collaboration between the George C. Marshall International Center, the George C. Marshall Foundation in Lexington, and the Virginia Military Institute.
Marshall Center President and CEO Patricia Magee Daly said the response to the program has been overwhelming. The event has attracted interest across a wide spectrum—from Washington think tanks to ambassadors, government representatives and area residents—as well as from a range of major sponsors. As of this week, her office is running a wait list to attend the symposium. An evening concert that begins at 6 p.m. that day is designed to be for the community at large.
The symposium is the brainchild of foreign affairs specialist Les Janka, who serves on the Marshall International Center board of directors, and Laurie Van Hook, who is the center’s vice president for history programs and museum operations.
The duo packs a formidable intellectual punch. Janka has deep experience of government and foreign affairs. He held high-level positions in the White House, on the National Security Council, and in the Department of Defense under three presidents. He lectures frequently on the Middle East.
Van Hook worked for several years as a historian with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the US. Department of State. She has also taught history at the George Washington University and The University of Virginia.
Janka, who with his wife has volunteered at the center since 2014, said, “I remember that Laurie and I mentioned at a board meeting in the fall of 2015 that the 70th anniversary of [the plan] was coming up—the idea gelled with them.”
With that backing, the two set about thinking how best to transform it into reality. “We exchanged various ideas, and it evolved into holding a conference at the house—and the board that liked that idea.”
The two went public with the plan, and it caught the attention of other organizations that wanted to know more about the Marshall Center and its work.
The Marshall Center board supported the idea of introducing the work of the center and the Marshall House to a wider public.
Both Janka and Van Hook emphasized the importance of applying what Marshall said then to help solve the problems of today.
“It’s his spirit and magnanimity we would think of,” Janka said.
The June 5 symposium would have made the late B. Powell Harrison proud. It represents the kind of high-level interaction envisioned by Harrison, a preservationist and civic activist, when he and a group of area residents made their push to acquire Marshall’s Leesburg home, Dodona Manor, in 1988. That quest ultimately took until 1995 to achieve.
For those with a taste for international diplomacy, there are opportunities to be immersed in talks given by top foreign affairs experts, including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, touching on various aspects of the Marshall Plan and its consequences.
The day kicks off at 9:30 a.m. when Daly will introduce George C. Marshall International Center Board Chairwoman Susan Lawrence, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general who now serves as a senior vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton. She will be joined by David O’Sullivan, European Union ambassador to the United States.
The morning session will explore the history and origins of The Marshall Plan as well as new findings during a panel discussion moderated by Steve Clemons, Washington editor-at-large at The Atlantic. Panelists include Barry Machado, retired history professor at Washington & Lee University; Nico Lange, director of Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung USA; and Günter Bischof, history professor at University New Orleans.
During lunch, Dirk Wouters, Belgium’s ambassador to the United States, and John B. Adams Jr., chairman of the George C. Marshall Foundation board, will introduce keynote speaker Madeleine Albright.
The afternoon panel session will explore the relevance of The Marshall Plan, moderated by Washington Post author and columnist David Ignatius. The panelists include Derek Chollet, with the German Marshall Fund of the United States; Eliot Sorel, clinical professor at George Washington University; and Stephen Gannon, independent food security consultant.
Closing remarks will be given by retired U.S. Army Col. David Gray, director of the Center for Leadership and Ethics at Virginia Military Institute; and Dr. Heinz Fischer, immediate past president of Austria.
After a reception for participants on the Marshall House patio, the day will close with a public concert by the U.S. Army Brass Quintet from The U.S. Army Band.
For the Marshall Center’s board of directors and small staff, the symposium will be a validation of the organization’s push to be more than a house museum.
For the past 11 years, it’s run a flourishing international high school student exchange program, Student Partnership Exchange Program, and more recently launched an exchange geared toward students interested in STEM fields. Daly said the aim is now to reach out to middle school students.
Run by Van Hook, the center’s “brown bag” monthly luncheon discussions—noon on the third Thursdays of each month—and speakers’ program are finding a growing audience in the county. “They want to know more about both past and contemporary history,” she said.
The sessions have spawned the idea of a foreign affairs book club, and has the support of Loudoun County Library Administration Director Chang Liu, who helps provide books.
There is also an evening formal speakers program, that is well regarded by attendees.
“We’re trying very hard to show the underlying purpose—that Leesburg, and the Marshall House, is a place for serious discussion,” Janka said.
The organization has seen some rough patches since the struggle to acquire Dodona Manor began in 1988. It has overseen a meticulous restoration to return its appearance to when Marshalls lived there, survived a name, and adopted a comprehensive reorganization plan in 2012 that has whittled down its crushing debt service from more than $4 million to $1.9 million on the way to eliminating it and putting the organization on a sound financial footing for the future.
The Marshall Center leaders now see a future that seeks to forge international cooperation through its public education and student exchange programs, community events and the continuing restoration and preservation of the Marshall House.
Above else, the center seeks to “advance the enduring legacy of General George Catlett Marshall by interpreting and propagating its relevance to our time.”
More information on speakers and sponsors is available at georgecmarshall.org under Events & News/70th Anniversary Celebration. Contact information: firstname.lastname@example.org.