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|The U.S. Postal Service marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Marshall Plan by issuing a stamp at a ceremony at the Kennedy School of Government on June 4, the third commemorative of special interest to Harvard (John Harvard, 56¢, and Alice Hamilton, 55¢, were the others).|
Since George Marshall's time, the United States has played the leading role within the international system, not as sole arbiter of right and wrong, for that is a responsibility widely shared, but as pathfinder--as the nation able to show the way when others cannot.
In the years immediately after World War II, America demonstrated that leadership not only through the Marshall Plan, but through the Truman Doctrine, the Berlin airlift, and the response to Communist aggression in Korea.
In this decade, America led in defeating Saddam Hussein, encouraging nuclear stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the former Soviet Union, restoring elected leaders to Haiti, negotiating the Dayton Accords, and supporting the peacemakers over the bombthrowers in the Middle East and other strategic regions.
We welcome this leadership role not, in Teddy Roosevelt's phrase, because we wish to be "an international Meddlesome Matty," but because we know from experience that our interests and those of our allies may be affected by regional or civil wars, power vacuums that create opportunities for criminals and terrorists, and threats to democracy.
But America cannot do the job alone. We can point the way and find the path, but others must be willing to come along and take responsibility for their own affairs. Others must be willing to act within the bounds of their own resources and capabilities to join in building a world in which shared economic growth is possible, violent conflicts are constrained, and those who abide by the law are progressively more secure.
While in Sarajevo, I visited a playground in the area once known as "Sniper's Alley," where many Bosnians had earlier been killed because of ethnic hate. But this past weekend, the children were playing there without regard to whether the child in the next swing was Muslim, Serb, or Croat. And they thanked America for helping to fix their swings and asked me to place in the soil a plant which they promised to nourish and tend.
It struck me then that this was an apt metaphor for America's role 50 years ago when we planted the seeds of renewed prosperity and true democracy in Europe. And a metaphor, as well, for America's role during the remaining years of this century and into the next.
s this great university has recognized in the foreign students it has attracted, the research it conducts, the courses it offers, and the sensibility it conveys, those of you who have graduated today will live global lives. You will compete in a world marketplace; travel further and more often than any previous generation; share ideas, tastes, and experiences with counterparts from every culture; and recognize that to have a full and rewarding future, you will have to look outwards.
As you do, and as our country does, we must aspire to the high standard set by Marshall, using means adapted to our time based on values that endure for all time, and never forgetting that America belongs on the side of freedom.
I say this to you as Secretary of State. I say it also as one of the many people whose lives have been shaped by the turbulence of Europe during the middle of this century and by the leadership of America throughout this century.
I can still remember, in England during the war, sitting in the bomb shelter, singing away the fear, thanking God for American help.
I can still remember, after the war and after the Communist takeover in Prague, arriving here in the United States where I wanted only to be accepted and to make my parents and my new country proud.
Because my parents fled in time, I escaped Hitler. To our shared and constant sorrow, millions did not.
Because of America's generosity, I escaped Stalin. Millions did not.
Because of the vision of the Truman-Marshall generation, I have been privileged to live my life in freedom. Millions have still never had that opportunity.
It may be hard for you, who have no memory of that time 50 years ago, to understand. But it is necessary that you try to understand.
Over the years, many have come to think of World War II as the last "good war"; for, if ever a cause was just, that was it; and if ever the future of humanity stood in the balance, it was then.
Two full generations of Americans have grown up since that war; first mine, now yours; two generations of boys and girls who have seen the veterans at picnics and parades and fireworks, saluting, with medals and ribbons on their chests; seeing the pride in their bearing and thinking perhaps: "What a fine thing it must have been--to be tested in a great cause and to have prevailed."
But today of all days, let us not forget that behind each medal and ribbon, there is a story--of heroism, yes, but also profound sadness; for World War II was not a good war.
From North Africa to Salerno, from Normandy to the Bulge to Berlin, an entire continent lost to Fascism had to be taken back village by village, hill by hill. And further eastward, from Tarawa to Okinawa, the death-struggle for Asia was an assault against dug-in positions, surmounted only by unbelievable courage at unbearable loss.
Today, the greatest danger to America is not some foreign enemy; it is the possibility that we will fail to heed the example of that generation; that we will allow the momentum toward democracy to stall, take for granted the institutions and principles upon which our own freedom is based, and forget what the history of this century reminds us, that problems abroad, if left unattended, will all too often come home to America.
A decade or two from now, we will be known as the neo-isolationists who allowed tyranny and lawlessness to rise again, or as the generation that solidified the global triumph of democratic principles.
We will be known as the neo-protectionists whose lack of vision produced financial meltdown, or as the generation that laid the groundwork for rising prosperity around the world.
We will be known as the world-class ditherers who stood by while the seeds of renewed global conflict were sown, or as the generation that took strong measures to forge alliances, deter aggression, and keep the peace.
There is no certain roadmap to success, either for individuals or for generations. Ultimately, it is a matter of judgment, a question of choice.
In making that choice, let us remember that there is not a page of American history of which we are proud that was authored by a chronic complainer or prophet of despair. We are doers.
We have a responsibility in our time, as others have had in theirs, not to be prisoners of history, but to shape history; a responsibility to fill the role of pathfinder, and to build with others a global network of purpose and law that will protect our citizens, defend our interests, preserve our values, and bequeath to future generations a legacy as proud as the one we honor today.
To that mission, I pledge my own best efforts and summon yours.
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