This I Believe

Leland (Lee) - Terrace Park (Cincinnati), Ohio
Entered on March 27, 2007
Age Group: 65+
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This I Believe

I believe that most people simply want to have enough to eat and a reasonable place to live, and to feel safe. When they do, they have little need to fight each other.

Once you look at the world situation this way, a lot becomes clear. If underdeveloped economies became developed, wouldn’t their people have full stomachs, adequate homes, and security? Wouldn’t they stop fighting? Taking away other people’s land? Torturing and killing?

Sixty years ago, in June 1947, Secretary of State George Marshall proposed an idea that became the Marshall Plan. He saw that the countries of Western Europe – those that fought World War II with us and those that fought against us – needed to rebuild, to get their factories going, to make the workforce more productive. He also saw that without America’s help, these countries could go communist.

Mostly, Americans are familiar with the dollars his Marshall Plan showered on Europe. People are less familiar with the Technical Assistance Project of the Marshall Plan. With only 1½ percent of the Marshall Plan’s budget, it raised Europe’s standard of living as much as the dollars portion.

Several times a week, I speak with James Silberman, who’s 94. But he was in his 30s when he came up with the Technical Assistance Project for the Marshall Plan. For 12 years, he used his budget – your tax dollars – to bring Europeans to the United States to see how our industry works, which showed them how to get their factories going. Their economies bloomed, and we see today that Western Europeans have democracy and a high standard of living. Importantly, they co-exist peacefully with each other and with us.

The reason I speak with James Silberman several times a week is that we’re working on applying the Marshall Plan’s ideas to today’s world, to see about helping people in other places improve their standard of living. We’ve been doing this in Ukraine, bringing business people to the United States to see how business works here. They’ve gone home with knowledge to improve technology and productivity and quality, to start new businesses in their new free-enterprise economy. Need a refresher on where Ukraine is? It used to be part of the Soviet Union, and a lot of nuclear warheads got left there when the Soviet Union broke up. Now the nukes are gone. Ukrainians are becoming more prosperous, and they’ve developed some great friendships with us Americans.

I believe there’s a strong link between the economic health of other countries and our own national security. I believe that the United States could be more secure if we put more effort into helping countries build their economies. Only 15 % of our foreign assistance budget goes to economic development. In Iraq, it would cost $100 million to restart most of the state industries that got closed in the war, and create jobs. The U.S. military in Iraq spends that in 12 hours.

I believe that when people in the Middle East and Central Asia and Africa feel more secure about their lives, we here in the United States will feel more secure about ours.