October 19th, 2009 16:04 EST
Robert Gates Receives Marshall Foundation Award
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 16, 2009 " Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates accepted the prestigious Marshall Foundation Award today, calling George C. Marshall his hero and inspiration as defense secretary.
Gates said he was humbled to accept the award that memorializes his personal hero at a State Department event celebrating Marshall`s life and legacy on the 50th anniversary of his death.
Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr., all currently serving in posts Marshall once held, participated in the ceremony, along with Brent Scowcroft, national security advisor for Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush.
Clinton praised Gates for applying the same principles and ideals Marshall embodied to face modern-day challenges.
"General Marshall knew that our national interests are inseparable from the interests of people everywhere, that we best bolster our security by advancing our values, and that we best protect ourselves by looking beyond ourselves," she said.
Marshall`s ideals are perhaps best exemplified in the European Recovery Program, a plan that restored the economy of war-ravaged Europe after World War II and is better known as the "Marshall Plan."
"The Marshall Plan was as bold and visionary a demonstration of American leadership as any in our history," Clinton said. "And it is a model today, as we face up to our own vast responsibility."
Clinton praised Gates for demonstrating "a Marshall view of the world" at the Defense Department. Gates is committed to "a brand of American leadership that draws on all sources of our strength, fostering cooperation and spreading prosperity, while keeping our military strong and ready," she said.
She called Gates "a statesman who shares General Marshall`s judgment that the only way to truly win a war is to prevent it in the first place."
Scowcroft said he could think of few people who so closely emulate Marshall. He cited Gates` "quiet, but determined, and nonpartisan dedication to country, " and his deeply analytical approach to problem-solving" and advancement of U.S. interests above all else.
Citing Gates` history of performance and dedication throughout his public service career, Scowcroft said Marshall "would look down with pleasure" in seeing Gates honored with the Marshall Foundation Award.
Gates said he felt honored to have his name tied to Marshall`s, noting that Marshall`s portrait hangs behind his Pentagon desk.
In talks to students at U.S. war colleges and military academies, Gates said he invokes Marshall as "an example of the kind of leader everyone should aspire to be: the apotheosis of unshakeable loyalty, combined with the courage and the integrity to tell superiors things they didn`t always want to hear."
Along with his skills as secretary of state, Marshall demonstrated as defense secretary an ability to get the two departments to work together more closely toward common goals, Gates said.
"Marshall`s strategic vision yielded profound wisdom -- about his country, about the world and about the nature of man," Gates said.
His call to adopt a sense of responsibility for world order and security remains as valid today as when Marshall first issued it to Princeton University students in 1948, he said.
Marshall`s service to his country and the world in some of its most challenging days "affirmed the worth of these musts and the purposes to which he devoted his life," Gates concluded. "He made of himself an ideal that we should all aspire to emulate."
Marshall served as Army chief of staff during World War II, then as secretary of state when he became the architect of the Allied victory, then the Marshall Plan. President Harry Truman coaxed him out of retirement to become special envoy to China, after which Marshall served as defense secretary during the Korean War, then president of the American Red Cross.
Gates joked that he and Marshall share at least one trait: "our repeated failures to retire from public service." When Marshall agreed to take on the job of defense secretary, "it was pitched as a six-month deal," Gates said. "He stayed twice as long, and it sounds familiar."
Marshall died Oct. 16, 1959, and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.