Marshall and Rockefeller

On Monday March 20th David Rockefeller, banking executive and philanthropist, died at his home at the age of 101. David Rockefeller was a generous supporter of the George C. Marshall Foundation, as was his father, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who was one of the first major donors to the Marshall Foundation in 1955. David Rockefeller was the last surviving grandson of John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil Company and the nation’s first billionaire.

David Rockefeller received the Marshall Foundation Award at the May 17, 1999 gala held at the New York Public Library in New York City, presided over by Master of Ceremonies Tom Brokaw. In excerpts from his acceptance speech, Rockefeller reflected on what George C. Marshall meant to him:

I can’t think of any honor that I would value more greatly than having my name associated with that of General Marshall. General Marshall was truly one of the very great men of this world, and in fact, has always been a very special hero of mine. He was a man of impeccable character and the highest principles, who dedicated his life selflessly to the country that he loved. During World War II his role may have been less visible than that of some field commanders, but as Chief of Staff he played a critical role in the Allied victory. The breadth of his vision emerged even more clearly, though, in the immediate post-war years. The principal lesson that General Marshall learned from the First World War was that humiliating and impoverishing a defeated enemy can only lead to further disaster. The even greater devastation experienced by all the European nations during World War II, and the slow process of recovery afterwards convinced General Marshall that a dramatic intervention was needed.

In my judgment, the vision that General Marshall offered, and the courage that he demonstrated, is desperately needed once again. We’ve emerged from the Cold War with the United States now standing alone as a world power. The rest of the world, experiencing endless new troubles and conflicts, looks to us for leadership, but thus far, no General Marshall has emerged to show us the way. May this happen soon, for time grows short and the crises grow.

It was my great good fortune to have known General Marshall during the time he served as Chairman of the Board of International House in New York in the late 1940s, when I was chairman of its executive committee. On one occasion the General spent the night at our home in New York, where we were bringing up our family of six children and I’m very happy that three of them are with us tonight. It was then that I saw a very different side of an awesome military leader. He showed us what a warm and engaging person he could be, instantly winning the hearts of our young ones who climbed on his lap while he told stories at the breakfast table. It was a measure of General Marshall’s greatness that he could be a strong leader in war, and a merciful victor, while retaining an engaging simplicity, courtesy, and kindness in his personal life. It’s little wonder, I think, that I take enormous pride in being given a second George C. Marshall Award, and I am deeply grateful for having been selected. Thank you all very much.