The dialogue that occurred around the dining room table and in the backyard of George C. Marshall’s Leesburg home on Monday served as a validation of the visionary effort to preserve the property. It also is a testament to the role his legacy should continue to play on the world stage.
The program brought together diplomats, government leaders, foreign dignitaries, war veterans and others to reflect on the lasting impacts of the Marshall Plan, publicly presented 70 years ago this week. The discussion was the type of thoughtful and impactful policy review that B. Powell Harrison envisioned would play out on the property as he led the effort to buy it three decades ago. It also is inherent in the name of the resulting stewardship organization, the George C. Marshall International Center.
Marshall’s Dodona Manor along East Market Street was not preserved to be a historic house museum. It was to serve as the foundation to apply Marshall’s philosophies as a soldier, statesman and peacemaker to modern challenges, extending his brand of leadership to future generations—here and abroad.
Although most presenters were too polite, or too cautious, to state it outright, there was clear concern that the direction of today’s American leadership threatens to undermine the nation’s global standing. Isolationism and religious bigotry are unlikely to emerge as successful foreign policy planks in a world that is more connected than ever before.
With a politically fractured electorate, a gridlocked Congress and a White House struggling to set its direction, organizations like the George C. Marshall International Center may have a greater opportunity to define the path forward.
Here is a line from that speech 70 years ago: “Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine but against hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos. Its purpose should be the revival of a working economy in the world so as to permit the emergence of political and social conditions in which free institutions can exist.”
That still reads as a strongly sustainable American foreign policy today.