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EDITORIAL: A commencement address for our place in the world

“We are doers.”

That was Madeleine Albright, the first female secretary of state and a proud Loudouner, talking about Americans.

Seventy years ago, another secretary of state and proud Loudouner delivered similar words about America’s legacy in the world. His name was George C. Marshall. In a commencement address at Harvard on June 5, 1947, Marshall laid out a framework for U.S. investment in the reconstruction of Europe after World War II.

The Marshall Plan became more than a commencement speech. Approved by Congress, it stopped humanitarian disaster and helped secure long-term economic recovery. It has stood as example of American leadership ever since.

“We are doers.”

Madeleine Albright was unapologetic about Marshall’s legacy as she addressed the current state of world affairs at The Marshall House in Leesburg on Monday. America can't “ignore its responsibilities” around the world, she said.

“There's been a backlash against globalization, a backlash against immigrants and a fear of outsiders,” Albright maintained. “Here in America we are facing a crisis of our own. We are not speaking out against violations of human rights, we are cutting environment protection … America is turning inwards.”

She did not mention President Donald Trump or the foreign policy fiascos of recent weeks, but her message was clear.

So was the message from Danielle Allen, a political theorist at Harvard and a contributing columnist for The Washington Post.

“Current circumstances might incline some to think that the time has arrived not to celebrate the Marshall legacy but to bury it,” Allen wrote from the anniversary celebration for the Marshall Scholarship last weekend at Harvard. “Seventy years after Marshall’s compelling articulation of a vision for American involvement in the world, we find ourselves in an America full of fog and confusion — beset by a whirlwind of fictions bruited about as facts — and as distant in our sympathies from the troubled areas of the earth as most of us have seen in our lifetimes.”

This week and next, more than 5,000 students graduate from Loudoun’s 17 high schools. Their families made their way to an opportunistic county just outside the nation’s capital from Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, the Pacific Rim and beyond. Like Madeleine Albright, many fled oppression following these words to Loudoun County: “We are doers.”

For them, there can be no more meaningful commencement address today than the ones delivered 70 years apart by two secretaries of state from Loudoun County.


Trumps fiascos?  Really, after 8 years of Obama and Clinton where LTM was silent.  This is more FAKE news.

Albright is as confused about the Marshall Plan as she was about North Korea and every other international engagement she entered.

From the beginning of history, world GDP grew by about .1% per year on average.  From 1800 (industrial revolution) to 1945, it grew at 1% per year.  Then, after this little thing called the GATT was passed and became effective on Jan 1, 1948, the world GDP grew by 4% per year.

It was the establishment of a world market with low trade barriers that unleashed the private sector on the world.  Trade as a % of GDP went from 10% in 1945 to 22% by 1951.  Albright and others would have you believe a little bit of cash investment or some diplomatic small talk was the major player.  Nonsense.  Capitalism and the free flow of goods brought about prosperity not just to Europe but to countries around the world.  If the Marshall Plan was really so central, why did the economic explosion happen simultaneously around the globe in all countries that participated in GATT?

Politics and history is about story telling, not careful experimentation and falsifiable hypotheses like science brings to the table.  As long as you can weave a good tale, other liberal arts majors will echo your story and bring fantasy to life.  I have nothing against Marshall or the plan, but let’s not pretend that a few $B had anywhere near the effect as that of the global trade treaty.

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