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Speech to the Committee on Community Chest
November 16, 1939 Washington, D.C.
The obligation to make a formal talk on an occasion of this kind, even on a military subject with which I am familiar is a very embarrassing one to me, but I find myself this morning in a different frame of mind, for a very excellent reason. Normally my discussions in public have relation to the national defense, as that is my occupation, and very active responsibility in the present world situation. I feel that it is my duty to discuss the various aspects of national defense in public, so far as practicable, for the general information of the citizens of the United States. But though that is my business and I am a soldier by profession, I am frank to confess to a decided reluctance to be forced invariably to a discussion of matters pertaining to the tragedies of war, not to mention the appalling expenditures necessarily involved.
But I have found comfort in the belief that what we are doing in the War Department and in the Army generally, will serve to make impossible the ghastly situation in which we found ourselves in 1917-18, with the attendant unnecessary wastage of young men to overcome the almost criminal lack of proper preparation. And there is the further very comforting belief that what we are doing now contributes in direct proportion to the soundness and extent of our preparation, towards rendering improbable the necessity for involving this country in war.
I seem to be involving myself in a discussion of matters pertaining to the national defense, but that is far from my purpose; I merely wish to emphasize the fact, or rather feeling on my part, that it is a gratifying experience to find my duty this morning pointing towards the humane and benevolent purposes of the local Community Chest.
With an assemblage of this particular character, it hardly seems necessary for me to dilate on the importance of the project now under way. I would suppose that no other group in Washington is as well aware of the necessities of the case,—the importance of this campaign, as the members of this gathering this morning.
It seems to me, however, that there is a phase to this matter which it might be well to mention. In this particular day and year, the success of the effort to raise the allotted sum of the Community Chest is of the utmost public importance. It is, in a large measure, a test of the attitude of the more fortunate of our people in meeting the problems of the less fortunate. It is in a measure a test of whether all the helpful measures are to be on a purely legislative basis rather than the personal and human obligation of the citizen in his community life.
There is another phase somewhat related to what I have just said which everyone I think recognizes as very important, and that is the matter of public morale. As a professional soldier, I know that high morale is the strongest and most powerful factor in the Army, just as lack of morale will bring about the defeat of almost any army however well armed. The morale of the people of this country, particularly at the present critical period in the world’s history, is of tremendous importance, I think, and certainly the purposes of the Community Chest operate directly to build up morale, at least to prevent its destruction.
I think the average citizen is in thorough sympathy with everything concerned in the Community Chest enterprise, but he merely requires personal attention to overcome the procrastination that dogs most of us in affairs not specifically pertaining to our daily business. Therefore, those who are working so hard to carry out a successful campaign with the Community Chest in the District of Columbia this fall are not only entitled to a great deal of credit, but are even more entitled to our strong, active support, and for that reason I was glad to accept the invitation to talk at this particular luncheon.
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Speeches, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed draft.
Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland, Sharon Ritenour Stevens, and Clarence E. Wunderlin, Jr. (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 2, “We Cannot Delay,” July 1, 1939-December 6, 1941 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), pp. 103-104.