Each year Time magazine publishes a celebratory first issue recognizing a person, movement, or organization that, for better or for worse, has done the most to influence the events of the previous year.
In January 1948, Time gave the honor of “Man of Year” to George C. Marshall for giving “hope for those who needed it” through the Marshall Plan.
When he visited Europe in 1947, Marshall saw a continent crushed by economic despair. The war had destroyed beautiful cities, factories were in ruins, jobs were scarce and there was not enough food to go around. He realized then that unless the U.S. acted decisively then the fruits of victory, for which the U.S. had paid in blood, would soon be dissipated and result in the “whole front of Western democracy” collapsing. As General Lucius Clay noted at the time “There is no choice between being a communist on 1,500 calories a day and a believer in democracy on a thousand.”
This year, Time is once again honoring a group of people who saw a global need and acted on it, the Ebola fighters. Ebola fighters refers to health care workers who helped fight the spread of ebola virus disease during the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa. Included in that group is Dr. Kent Brantly, a physician with the charity organization, Samaritan’s Purse.
In a recent interview Dr. Brantly was asked why he volunteered. He said that, “we live in a global community. We need to recognize that people on the other side of the world are our neighbors . . . It is imperative that the U.S. take the lead.”
Brantly’s words are reminiscent of Marshall’s insistence on June 5, 1947 at Harvard that the “United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health in the world.”
The United States was “not exactly loved the world over, but had, in 1947, at least gained a greater measure of respect than they had before. They were presenting a different face to the peoples of the world.” And the world wondered, “Would the U.S. stick to their course?” (Time, 1/5/1948, p. 19)
Sixty-six years later, Brantly’s sentiments about facing a challenging situation, “You can either flee or stay and help” would have resonated with Marshall.