Earlier this week the National Defense University hosted a public conversation with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, moderated by Frank Sesno, Director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University.
Secretaries Clinton and Panetta are two of America’s most thoughtful, effective, and accomplished public servants. Having them together in a town hall environment — talking about foreign policy, national security, budgets, and the issues of the day — is a special treat worth sharing:
I have always believed that time spent studying history should be a required stop on the road to forming an opinion, so I was particularly drawn to Secretary Clinton’s historical reference:
“One of my favorite predecessors is George Marshall, who held both Leon’s position and my position, most uniquely in our history. At the end of World War II, President Truman and George Marshall looked around the world and said, ‘You know what’s in America’s long-term interests? Rebuilding our enemies, creating stable democracies, creating free-market economies.’
“And what did they do? Well, they said to people like my father, who had spent five years in the Navy, ‘Look, we know all you want to do is go home, raise a family, start your business, make some money, have a normal life. Guess what? We’re going to continue to tax you to rebuild places like Germany.’
“It was a hard sell. It didn’t happen automatically. Truman, Marshall, and others went across the country making that case, and we invested those dollars — $13 billion in four years, which would be about $150 billion in our own currency right now. And we helped to make the world stable and safe and open for all the post-war decades.”
I think it’s important that everyone, Americans and non-Americans alike, remember that history and recognize what it produced. And, of course, I very much agree with Secretary Clinton and with my grandfather — whom I remember making the point many times as I was growing up — that the healthiest and most productive outlook is certainly not to know the cost of everything yet the value of nothing.