Marshall Plan 60th Anniversary Symposium: Introductory Remarks by Ambassador Constance A. Morella


 Back to The Marhsall Plan: Leassons Learned for the 21st Century


Good morning ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Marshall Plan 60th Anniversary Symposium. Today, we hope to review the lessons learned from the Marshall Plan and their applicability in the 21st century.

On 5 June 1947, speaking to the graduating class at Harvard University, Secretary of State George C. Marshall laid the foundation for a US program of assistance to the countries of Europe in the aftermath of World War II. It was just 10 minutes, 1,500 words or so, a short speech – but one that changed the world forever.

At a time when great cities lay in ruins and national economies were devastated, Marshall recognized that something had to be done and called on America to do whatever it could do to assist in the return of normal economic health in the world.

World War II was the bloodiest war in history. More than 70 nations were belligerents and over 60 million people were killed. The devastation included Europe’s great cities: in London, 30 000 people were killed, more than 50 000 seriously injured, hundreds of thousands made homeless and tens of thousands of buildings destroyed. In Berlin, 20 000 lives were lost, 750 000 were left homeless. And in Vienna, over 87 000 buildings and all of the bridges were destroyed. The Hapsburg capital was scarred with 3 000 bomb craters and only 41 vehicles remained in operation. As we know, the devastation was equally great in Paris.

Marshall’s Plan

Marshall aimed to get Europe working again. He instructed the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff and other agencies to report on Europe’s needs for economic assistance. At the same time, he urged Europeans to take the initiative and assume the responsibility of drafting a program of economic recovery. The willingness to help was there, but Marshall wanted the program to be based upon such principles as self-help, resource sharing and German reintegration.

In the spring of 1948 the US Congress passed Marshall’s far-sighted proposal as the “Economic Recovery Act”. By the program’s end in 1952, the United States had channeled to 16 European countries some USD 13 billion in economic aid and technical assistance, amounting to about 2% of our gross national product over the four-year period – today valued at over USD 100 billion.

One of the largest aid programs in America’s history and the most successful peacetime foreign policy launched by the United States in the 20th century, the Marshall Plan was praised by many. One of the most eloquent voices was Sir Winston Churchill’s, to whom it represented “the most unsordid act in history”. British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin, in turn, considered it an act of “generosity … beyond belief”.

Among the secrets for the success of the Marshall Plan, as the Economic Recovery Act came to be known, was the spirit of cooperation evidenced in its execution. The program was truly a joint European-American venture, one in which American resources were complemented with local resources and all the participants worked cooperatively toward the common goals of freedom and prosperity. The program also enlisted the private sector and recruited the “best brains” from the areas of business, labor, agriculture and other professions.

The Marshall Plan also mandated the creation of a regional authority that could represent Europe, leading to the creation of the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC), forerunner of today’s Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This emphasis on Europe as a region helped in turn lay the foundation for the integration of Western European economies and the creation of the institutions that would eventually become part of today’s European Union.

Thanks to the Marshall Plan, not only did the countries of Europe become closer together, but Europe and the United States also became inextricably linked. Today, this transatlantic partnership still exists and faces new global challenges that require us to work together as never before.

It was here in this historic building, the Hôtel de Talleyrand, that Marshall Planners were headquartered and worked together to fulfill the goals of the Marshall Plan. It was here that men such as Paul Hoffman, Averell Harriman, Robert Marjolin, and Jean Monnet met to plan and execute Marshall’s dream of a “family of nations”.

Europeans and Americans were linked by a set of common values. The effort to create economic and social stability was a shared goal. That dream has become a wonderful reality, a model of cooperation and partnership the world over.

As the world continues to deal with postwar reconstruction efforts and capacity building some 60 years later, cries for a 21st century Marshall Plan are often heard. Yet there are those who would argue that the Marshall Plan cannot be replicated, that it represented a specific place and time in history.

To be sure, there are many lessons to be learned from the success of an aid program whose effects are still with us today, some 60 years later. On the 60th anniversary of that famous Harvard address, today’s symposium will address these issues and what we can all learn from Marshall’s vision. It is important, indeed paramount, to remember the lessons of the Marshall Plan today. Simply put, the lesson is that when nations work together, they can overcome the gravest of challenges and build a better future based upon a set of core values.

The Marshall Plan Symposium – the program

We have assembled before you today a distinguished panel of speakers, some of the “best brains” as Marshall would have called them – scholars, historians and business leaders. During two plenary sessions that have been outlined in the symposium program, we will review the Marshall Plan, its lessons, and how we could apply them in today’s world.

Each plenary will have two speakers and a respondent, each followed by a “Question and Answer” session with you, our guests. We are hoping for a robust and meaningful exchange of views and opinions.

We will conclude the plenary sessions today at 1:00 pm when we will take a short walk to the Westin Hotel, where we will have lunch together. The luncheon will begin at 1:30 pm sharp and I would ask all of you to leave this building as soon as the symposium concludes at 1:00 pm and move as quickly as possible with us to the Westin Hotel. The hotel is literally just two blocks down the street, walking along rue de Rivoli – we have also provided maps to assist you.

There is one change in the program that I wish to note. Unfortunately our keynote speaker, Under Secretary Nick Burns, is unable to deliver his remarks during the luncheon as planned. In order to benefit from his remarks, we have accommodated him
here at the symposium at 12:15 pm, during which time we had originally planned the Q&A session for the second plenary. This Q&A will now take place at the luncheon. Our apologies for this change, but we are pleased that Under Secretary Burns will be able to address us despite his very hectic schedule while in Paris.

Partners and sponsors

This event would not have been possible today without the support of our partners and sponsors. I would like to give special thanks to our partners – the George C. Marshall Foundation, the George Washington University, the OECD and the Jean Monnet Foundation – for their tremendous help in planning this symposium, along with our three US Missions in France – the US Mission to the OECD, the US Embassy Paris and the US Mission to UNESCO.

I would also like to thank our sponsors for their generous contributions and for believing in the importance of continued shared values – the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation, Air France, Gaz de France, Schneider Electric, Renault and Dassault Aviation.


I am so pleased that I am once again involved with recognition of the Marshall Plan. In fact, it was just one year ago that the George C. Marshall Foundation conducted a study session at the George C. Marshall Center, here in the Hôtel de Talleyrand, with a panel of scholars who examined and critiqued the second draft of a study of the Marshall Plan and its potential applications in contemporary post-conflict situations. You will be happy to learn that the resulting monograph, In Search of a Usable Past: The Marshall Plan and Postwar Reconstruction Today, has just been published and is being made available to each member of this audience today. In addition, the Marshall Foundation brought the author, Dr. Barry Machado, back to Paris to bring his special insight to today’s symposium as one of our panelists.

With those remarks, I will turn the reigns over to Dr. Eliot Sorel, our partner at George Washington University, who will act as our moderator for this morning’s sessions and co-chair the first plenary.

Thank you all for accepting our invitation to be here today and we look forward to a fruitful discussion on this historic occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Marshall Plan.