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NBC RADIO SPEECH1
August 15, 1947
Two years ago the last shot sounded in the most destructive war in history. In the peace and plenty of America this may seem a long time—time enough to forget. But to millions of people of Europe and Asia the destructive effect of the war is still today a living and present and terrible thing. They live in a region of depopulated villages, demolished factories and homes, unfertile fields, destroyed herds, wrecked railroads, inflated economies, and demoralized people. —And of all these war-born troubles the worst is the evil of the empty plate. Hundreds of millions of men, women and children will go to bed hungry tonight, as they have for an endless procession of nights—some of them for eight long years.
Americans want a prosperous world. We want to see a world economy restored from the destruction of war and moving forward towards the higher levels of prosperity which science today makes possible. We know that the sooner the countries of Europe and Asia can get back on their feet, the sooner the need for special relief from the United States will cease. We must realize that the United Nations cannot hope to retain even the present level of prosperity in a degenerate world.
Rehabilitation demands intensive work over a long period on the part of every able-bodied person in the war-torn countries. It is physically impossible for this work to be performed with a deficiency of food. Food is the basis of all reconstruction. It is psychologically impossible for a hungry person to work with the drive, the vision and the cooperative spirit that will be necessary.
Americans want a free world. We want the people of every nation to be free to choose the form of government and economic organization which they desire. We know that hunger and insecurity are the worst enemies of freedom and democracy. Some of us do not yet realize that democracy is the most demanding of all forms of Government in terms of the energy, imagination and public spirit required of the individual. A hungry man cannot for long meet these demands. He is compelled to devote all of his attention to securing the next meal for himself and his family by fair means or foul. He will not resist, and indeed will often welcome, any system which he is told will relieve his desperate condition.
Americans want a peaceful world. We know the terrible human and economic cost of past wars. We know that any future war may mean the end of all we value. Here again hunger is a primary menace. Wars are bred by poverty and oppression. Continued peace is possible only in a relatively free and prosperous world.
All I have said in terms of generalizations about the close relationship between food and the possibility of building the kind of world we want is confirmed daily by detailed information I receive from all over the world. Cable after cable, despatch after despatch describe the little ways and the big ways in which lack of sufficient food is bringing misery to people, is slowing down reconstruction, is strengthening the hands of those opposed to the democracy of free governments.
Every humane, economic and world political interest of the United States indicates that we should do what is within our power to assist in overcoming this evil state of affairs. Our humanitarian instincts must not be thwarted by the fact that the hungry ones are separated from us by a thousand miles of water.
The Congress has appropriated monies for special foreign relief needs of certain countries. Other countries are in a position with their own financial resources to purchase foodstuffs, provided they are available. The responsibility of each one of us is to do our part in helping to make available from our bountiful supply the food required to meet these urgent demands. Farmers must continue high-level production. We must continue to exert every energy to move the foodstuffs to our ports. This opportunity for each of us to assist in the rehabilitation of the world must not be lost.
Let us, as Americans, be truly grateful to a bountiful providence which has blessed us with plenty for ourselves and given us the means of helping others. Let us never forget that all over the world today millions of our fellow men will be praying with desperate appeal— “Give us this day our daily bread . . .”
GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers (Secretary of State, Categorical, Invitations)
1. Marshall recorded this statement on August 8 to be replayed as the introduction to the National Broadcasting Company’s inaugural half-hour program on the world food problem entitled The Third Horseman, at 9:00 p.m., Washington time. Before broadcast, one sentence (presumably in the penultimate paragraph) was deleted from the recording: “We should limit our personal requirements.” There were a few minor changes in wording between the recording and the released transcript. (Marshall S. Carter to Michael J. McDermott, August 11, 1947, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Secretary of State, Categorical, Speeches and Statements].)
Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland, Mark A. Stoler, Sharon Ritenour Stevens and Daniel D. Holt (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 2013- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 6, “The Whole World Hangs in the Balance,” January 8, 1947-September 30, 1949 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013), pp. 195-197.
INTER-AMERICAN relations did not constitute a pressing issue for US foreign policy leaders in the two years following the war. Not only was the United States devoting its principal energies in foreign relations to the problems of peace and economic recovery in Europe and Asia, but poor relations between the United States and Argentina delayed the inter-American conference tentatively scheduled for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
On June 3, 1947, President Truman announced that the United States was ready to renew consultations with the other American republics, including Argentina, in preparation to the conclusion of a mutual defense pact. The opening date of the Rio Conference–officially known as the Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Continental Peace and Security–was set for August 15. The only important item on its agenda was the preparation of a treaty to give permanent form to the principles of the March 1945 Act of Chapultepec (adopted at the Inter-American conference in Mexico City) leading toward a hemispheric security system. By late June, President Truman was considering attending the conference. (Documents relating to the conference are in Foreign Relations, 1947, 8: 1–93.)
The meetings were held at the Hotel Quitandinha outside of Petrópolis, Brazil’s summer capital fifty-two miles north of Rio de Janeiro. Marshall’s party of eight (including the secretary and Mrs. Marshall, Senator and Mrs. Arthur H. Vandenberg, head of the US delegation to the UN and Mrs. Warren R. Austin, Brigadier General Marshall S. Carter, and Master Sergeant C. J. George (Marshall’s orderly) departed Washington National Airport aboard the Sacred Cow on the morning of August 13 and arrived in Rio the following afternoon. The Marshalls stayed at the Embassy residence with Ambassador and Mrs. William D. Pawley. (In addition to Marshall, Vandenberg, Austin, and the US ambassador to Brazil, the other official delegates were Tom Connally from the Senate and Sol Bloom from the House, who traveled in another plane.)
In the past, the inter-American system had operated as a matter of practice under the unanimity rule, but there was general recognition that no collective security system could be effective on that basis. Most Latin American States favored the adoption of binding decisions by a two-thirds vote. At the conference’s opening session on August 15, Marshall announced a modification of the US position on decisions for collective measures: the US would accept the proposition that sanctions such as those specifically mentioned in the Act of Chapultepec (i.e., breaking diplomatic relations, economic sanctions, use of force, etc.), when agreed to by a two-thirds vote, should be obligatory on all parties to the treaty, “with the sole exception that no state shall be required to furnish armed forces without its consent.” (Ibid., p. 34.) The conclusion of a continental defense pact seemed virtually assured.
Certainty of success did not assure Marshall of an easy eighteen days, however. In addition to the seven formal plenary sessions, there were numerous US delegation meetings and obligatory social occasions. The secretary also held private meetings with the representatives of nineteen Latin American states between August 18 and 27. (Memorandums of conversation for these are ibid., pp. 42–77 passim.) *