Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A timely letter about leadership from General George C. Marshall

George Marshall, VMI Class of 1901
Martha note: As soon as I finish keeping Bob Leweke company during Morning Edition (asking you to call 1-800-677-9672), I am jumping into my car and heading to Lexington to spend the day at VMI talking with various groups about the National Day of Writing. Tonight, I will give a talk (open to the public)  in the Pogue Auditorium, which is part of the George C. Marshall Museum.

About General Marshall:
Referring to then Secretary of State Colin Powell, President George W. Bush said the following to the George C. Marshall ROTC Award Seminar on National Security at Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in April 2002:
“Only one other Army general has gone on to serve as Secretary of State, and that was George Marshall himself — VMI's highest-ranking cadet in the Class of 1901. As Army chief of staff, General Marshall became the architect of America's victory in the Second World War. He fought tenaciously against our enemies, and then worked just as hard to secure the peace.”

My beloved mother-in law died last year and so my husband and his family have been slowly clearing out her house so that it can be sold. Charlie recently brought home a box of his father's papers. Carroll Woodroof was a Captain in the Army Air Corps during World War II. Among his papers was a copy of a letter from Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall that accompanied his discharge.
To me, General Marshall's message about leadership is as relevant today as it was back in the mid-Forties. And I thought you'd enjoy reading it.

ON this occasion, in your last formation as members of the Armed Forces, it is fitting that you should receive the following message from the Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshal.

“You are being discharged from the Army today – from your Army. It is your Army because your skill and your patriotism, your labor and courage and devotion have been some of the factors which make it great. You have been a member of the finest military team in history. You have accomplished miracles in battle and supply. Your country is proud of you and you have every right to be proud of yourselves.

“You have seen, in the lands where you worked and fought and where many of your comrades died, what happens when the people of a nation lost interest in their government. You have seen what happens when they follow false leaders. You have seen what happens when a nation accepts hate and intolerance.

“We all are determined that what happened in Europe and in Asia must not happen to our country. Back in civilian life you will find that your generation will be called upon to guide our country’s destiny. Opportunity for leadership is yours. The responsibility is yours. The nations which depended on your courage and stamina to protect it from its enemies now expects you as individuals to claim your right of leadership, a right which you earned honorably and which is well deserved.

“Start being a leader as soon as you put on your civilian clothes. If you see intolerance and hate, speak out against them. Make your individual voices heard, not for selfish things, but for honor and decency among men, for the rights of all people.

“Remember, too, that NO American can afford to be disinterested in any part of his government, whether it is county, city, state, or nation.

“Choose your leaders wisely – that is the way to keep ours the country for which you fought. Make sure that those leaders are determined to maintain peace throughout the world. You know what war is. You know that we must not have another. As individuals you can prevent it if you give to the task which lies ahead the same spirit which you displayed in uniform.

“Accept that trust and the challenge which it carries. I know that the people of America are counting on you. I know that you will not let them down.

“Goodbye to each and every one of you and to each and every one of you good luck!”

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