Earlier this month, I had the distinct pleasure of speaking in Vancouver, Washington. This is this second year that I have attended the annual General George C. Marshall Public and Youth Leadership Awards conducted by the Fort Vancouver National Historic Trust. The Trust presents two leadership awards, in General Marshall’s name, to a senior and junior recipient. The Marshall Foundation, here in Lexington, has long supported these awards though offering speakers, and speaker suggestions. Each year, too, we host the senior award winner for two days as they visit Lexington and the Foundation.
It was a pleasure personally to visit again a beautiful part of the country and a place that exerted a considerable influence on General Marshall. As most of you are no doubt aware, General and Mrs. Marshall spent two years there between 1936-38. During his time there Marshall commanded the the 5th Brigade of the Third Division and also oversaw the array of activities and camps undertaken by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). His experiences with the CCC chimed well with his broader thoughts on universal military service (UMT) and, together with his time serving with the Illinois National Guard, helped shape his thoughts and latter decisions about how best to manage a ‘citizen soldier’ army. That, of course, would stand him in good stead when war broke out in Europe and Marshall, as Chief of Staff, was tasked with creating that type of Army almost overnight. The period he and Mrs. Marshall spent there was a good one. Indeed it was referred to as ‘two of the happiest years of our life’ by Katherine Marshall. Just as the Pacific Northwest made an impression on General Marshall so too did his presence there leave a mark on Vancouver.
The Fort Vancouver National Historic Trust oversees a raft of properties including Marshall’s former residence, and invites nominations for outstanding leaders within the local community. These awards, to an adult and a high schooler, go to those who best exemplify the spirit and personal attributes of General Marshall. They serve also to remind the wider world just who General Marshall was and why exactly he matters still, today.