It was on June 5th, 1947 when Secretary of State George Marshall took to the podium at Harvard University's graduation ceremonies. In his speech, Marshall proposed a European recovery program for nations lying in ruin from World War II.
He said, "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."
The speech was drafted by Chip Bohlen, a Russia specialist and interpreter. Bohlen especially benefited from Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs William Clayton’s graphic oral descriptions of Europe’s situation. In a memorandum Clayton wrote, “Millions of people in the cities are slowly starving,” and if the standard of living continued to deteriorate, “there will be revolution.” (Caption and video courtesy of the Marshall Foundation)
The summer of the Marshall Plan proposal was rough for Europe because of drought conditions, which followed a harsh winter. Crops failed. Food shortages were growing and President Truman had a Cabinet Committee on Food, which included Marshall, working on this crisis constantly.
Round one of the Marshall Plan had to be food, in the form of interim aid approved in 1947 by Congress. But it was also forthcoming from the public in the form of the Friendship Train, the Silent Guest program and CARE packages.
David Morris, author of A Gift from America, described boy scouts from Bethesda, Maryland having their own little Marshall Plan which they presented to Marshall himself. This plan consisted of hosting a fundraiser at a movie and buying CARE packages for five children in Europe.
Even 64 years later, the spirit of the Marshall Plan and the foreign policy ideal behind it is one we need to uphold. It starts with the foundation of food.
In Afghanistan the UN World Food Programme is facing funding shortages that are causing ration cuts for child feeding programs, all this taking place in a country with one of the highest child malnutrition rates in the world.